In the midst of a frenetic week of meetings, including bilaterals with heads of state, the Clinton Global Initiative and media interviews, the new World Bank president Jim Yong Kim stepped into the calm of the Ford Foundation’s beautiful 1960s building, renowned for its spectacular tree-filled atrium. There he sat down with a group of leaders of some of the most influential global foundations.
The atmosphere was relaxed and casual, and the participants took no time in speaking candidly. Many expressed their commitment to finding ways to share their passion and expertise in partnership.
After three months at the helm of the bank, Dr Kim was clear about the mission: ending poverty at a much faster rate than imagined. With poverty rates going down by about 1 per cent a year on the current trajectory, Kim spoke passionately about the need to push more aggressively and intensify efforts to end poverty and promote shared prosperity. ‘What would it take,’ he asked, ‘to bend the arc of history?’
One part of the answer is partnership, he said – with foundations and with other development organizations, such as the United Nations. Several potential areas of partnership emerged in the discussion. On climate change, referred to by one participant as ‘the major issue of our time’, Dr Kim said that, as a father of two young children, he was extremely concerned at what the vast majority of scientists were projecting. He said the bank would play a major role in addressing the issue. One participant told me the next morning: ‘What Dr Kim said at the meeting on climate change has created a buzz – the word is that we have a new ally at the World Bank.’
Others seemed excited by Dr Kim’s call for a new ‘science of delivery’, centering on how better to capture knowledge, measure it and share results. He called this ‘the next revolution’ in development, in which ‘master clinicians of development’ apply the science of delivery to areas such as education and health.
Kim also shared his commitment to expanding the ‘results culture’ throughout the bank. He spoke of the need to create what one participant referred to as a more ‘practical Bank’ – one that can move more quickly and decisively, and which rewards impact and development outcome.
As the meeting closed, one participant reminded the group of the essential ingredients of good partnership: trust, conviction and a sense of common responsibility for shared impact. As the group dispersed, there was a sense of optimism for what we can achieve together.
Penelope Lewis is Head of the Global Foundations Program at the World Bank