I had an experience a few weeks ago in Tanzania’s Ministry of Agriculture, which reinforced my longstanding belief that an ongoing, candid conversation amongst foundation partners is one of the most important ingredients in successful projects. While meeting with the Minister and his senior staff, I was touched by their sincere amazement as they discovered how closely the Gates Foundation’s agriculture development priorities paralleled their own. This led me to realize, though the foundation may have a large presence in development work, many of our partners know our projects only in the most general terms and are often left wondering about the details of our priorities and decision-making processes.
My colleagues and I are learning this is a challenge across all of the foundation’s work—a challenge we are working hard to address.
With this fresh in my mind, I was deeply excited when asked to help pilot a new tool for outreach: a podcast for grantees and partners called Inside the Gates Foundation. We’re experimenting with this channel to give listeners an intimate look at how the Gates Foundation thinks and operates, keep partners up-to-date on all of our priorities, and build on our commitment to grantees.
Listen to the pilot episode and tell us what you think at email@example.com.
In the podcast I will assume the role of “Auntie Agony,” a straight-talking advice-columnist, who answers questions our partners (and the public) may have about the foundation. You are encouraged to give us your feedback and ask us any and all questions about how we work and how we work together. But—more than just provide answers—I hope to use Auntie Agony to foster a strong dialogue between the foundation and its partners. I want to talk through assumptions, hear your concerns and suggestions, and bring even more clarity to how and why we at the Gates Foundation do what we do.
I can’t promise I will have an answer to each and every question. But, I think we can all recognize that sometimes the boldest and wisest words are simply: “I don’t know, but together we can figure it out.”
Having worked for many years in donor relations as a grant-seeker, I really empathize with the curiosity and tension many organizations experience with regards to donors’ grant processes. Too often in development work, the voice of the donor reigns supreme and grantee’s invaluable insights are never heard. I am afraid grantees bite their tongues and stay silent for fear of losing a grant, in spite of the important questions or comments they might have.
At the foundation and in the podcast, we hope to break this inhibiting dynamic and create a culture of partnership in which everyone works together toward common goals. To do this, we must work hard to maintain strong, open dialogue in which all parties engage, speak directly, and share as candidly possible. I can tell you firsthand, we are most effective when we communicate clearly and work together to achieve the shared impact we all desire.