The 365 Ways Blog

Michael Norton is author of "365 Ways to Change the World", which provides an issue for each day of the year, interesting facts, inspiring case studies of people doing things to address the issue and ideas for action. Originally published in the UK, versions with local content have been published in Australia, Canada, India, South Africa and the USA. To find out more visit our website:

27 January 2007

Advice from Bill Gates

Bill Gates is not only the world’s richest man, he is also the world’s biggest philanthropist. He has funded the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation with part of his fortune from Microsoft, and this has been supplemented with a huge gift from Warren Buffett, the “Sage of Omaha” whose own fortune came from investment management. One of the Gates Foundation’s big successes was its investment in the GAVI Alliance (the Global Alliance for Vaccination and Immunisation) to make a significant impact on child mortality.

One fear is that individuals can do very little alongside the likes of Bill Gates and his multi-billion dollar philanthropy or governments and their aid contributions. Not so says Gates, who makes two suggestions:

“I’d love for people to pick a cause that helps poor people around the world. They can pick vaccination [like I have done]; or they can pick something they feel passionate about”.

Even a small contribution can make a difference to somebody’s life. And lots of people doing this can make a huge difference. Arguably tens of millions of people contributing smaller amounts can make an even bigger difference than the Gates Foundation and start to build a popular movement for greater economic justice in the world.

“As a voter, people can make sure they are thinking about these issued when they are electing politicians, who both in terms of scale and cleverness can make sure that government aid is given in the most effective way.”

The G8 Summit in 2005 committed member states to move towards giving 0.5% of their gross national income to aid the poorest countries. The challenge now is to make sure this happens, and to put pressure on governments and politicians to ensure that aid is spent effectively.

One challenge that Bill gates could take up is to bring together his leadership in IT and philanthropy to develop mechanisms that enable people to engage more closely with the issues and problems that they want to put their money towards and to see the impact they are having on the beneficiaries they are supporting. IT has the potential to create new and more exciting alternatives than simply giving to a big international aid agency.

If you want to write to Bill Gates about this, then contact him at: or

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation:

The GAVI Alliance:


Post a Comment

<< Home