Our friend and co-trustee Warren Buffett once gave us some great advice about philanthropy: “Don’t just go for safe projects,” he said. “Take on the really tough problems.”
We couldn’t agree more. Our foundation is teaming up with partners around the world to take on some tough challenges: extreme poverty and poor health in developing countries, and the failures of America’s education system. We focus on only a few issues because we think that’s the best way to have great impact, and we focus on these issues in particular because we think they are the biggest barriers that prevent people from making the most of their lives.
For each issue we work on, we fund innovative ideas that could help remove these barriers: new techniques to help farmers in developing countries grow more food and earn more money; new tools to prevent and treat deadly diseases; new methods to help students and teachers in the classroom. Some of the projects we fund will fail. We not only accept that, we expect it—because we think an essential role of philanthropy is to make bets on promising solutions that governments and businesses can’t afford to make. As we learn which bets pay off, we have to adjust our strategies and share the results so everyone can benefit.
We’re both optimists. We believe by doing these things—focusing on a few big goals and working with our partners on innovative solutions—we can help every person get the chance to live a healthy, productive life.