We are living through extraordinary times. The world is slowly—and unsteadily—emerging from the worst financial and economic crisis since the Great Depression. The fiscal contractions and challenges that have followed in its wake have serious and lasting implications for the poorest people whom the foundation and our partners around the globe seek to help. With resources as scarce as they have been in decades, nearly every challenge that our work seeks to address looks less soluble than it did even a few short years ago.
Since the foundation began its work over a decade ago, advocacy has been an important part of our strategy. To reach our ambitious goals, it is essential to engage a broad range of stakeholders and communities in discussion and debate on the issues we feel passionate about, and to garner wide buy-in from these communities about how to help ensure that every individual is able to realize her potential to live a healthy productive life.
When we talk about advocacy, we aren’t talking about influencing legislators and politicians, or grassroots organizing and campaigning. Rather, we advocate by seeking to build a strong knowledge base upon which to act and create support for our issues, engage others to join the cause, and lend our unique voice to aid and advance the work of our partners in the field.
We work with grantees and partners who have the capability to work with their own communities and stakeholders, whether it’s agricultural research in Africa, public health in Asia, or public education in the United States. We seek to make sure policy- and decision-makers are well-informed about issues that may be different from what they are accustomed to dealing with day to day. We also seek to advance research in tough development and health issues for which the global community doesn’t yet have good answers, and make sure the product of all of this activity—research, discussion, debate—is widely and creatively disseminated into the hands of people who need to know.
Within this wide portfolio of activities, evaluating the effectiveness and impact is an admittedly difficult challenge. We can measure audiences reached and movement in public opinion. But the impact we seek is sometimes indirect, cultural, or downstream—and ultimately about changes in public policy and resources that lead to improvements in people’s lives.