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iO Must-Reads: Our Top 10 Posts of 2012

December 26, 2012

2012 has been a big year for the Gates Foundation and, more broadly, for the work done every day to increase equity and opportunity around the globe. 

India stopped the spread of a paralyzing disease for the first time ever. Family planning came back to the global agenda. The world convened to take a sober look at the state of ending AIDS. 

For those not able to closely follow the progress day-to-day, it can be easy to lose track. Below are our top ten most popular posts of the year, an end of year cheat sheet for some of the biggest stories in social good throughout 2012. 

1. Hearing From Students on World-Pressing Issues Each year, Bill Gates writes an annual letter to share his candid thoughts about his work at the foundation and what he hopes to see in the year ahead. This past January, he invited students to share their thoughts as well. In this post, Bill shares some of his favorite thoughts from students, including Kimberly Abbott of Australia, who boldly stated that "Women are the single most valuable economic resource in the world." 

2. Indian Sex Worker Speaks and Acts Against AIDS As the 22nd International AIDS Conference was convening in Washington D.C. we shared this powerful story of Anu, an Indian woman who had been forced into the sex worker trade since she was 13. Anu's story shows the ability of one woman to affect positive change in her community once she's provided with a support network and the knowledge she needs to lead a healthy and productive life.

3. Where's the Controversy In Saving Lives? Beginning with her speech at TEDxChange, Melinda Gates used her voice throughout 2012 to help advocate for the benefits of family planning. Why? She always says it best: "The simple answer is that it can mean everything to so many of the women and families I meet. It means the difference between being empowered and feeling powerless. It means the difference between celebrating a daughter’s graduation and watching her drop out of school. It even means the difference between life and death."

4. Inventing a Toilet for the 21st Century In August, the foundation hosted "what has to be one of the oddest summer fairs ever", according to Bill Gates. The Reinvent The Toilet Fair brought together inventors, designers, investors, advocates, academics, and others to think about how sanitation can be inexpensively re-imagined for the more than 2 billion people who still don't have access to flush toilets. If you haven't seen the winner of the fair yet, you must check out the Cal Tech solar-powered toilet that generates hydrogen and electricity. 

5. India Marks a Milestone In Child Health On Friday, January 13, 2012, India celebrated a major milestone: one year without a case of polio. As Bill Gates notes in this post, India's road to ending polio transmission is truly worth celebrating. Twice a year, millions of volunteers scour the country to immunize more than 170 million children, one by one. As the world comes together to try and end polio once and for all in the three remaining countries, this incredible effort is a powerful reminder that "Together, we can accomplish something amazing."

6. Leadership Series: Vulnerability and Inspired Leadership Dr. Brené Brown joined Melinda Gates and Sheryl Sandberg in sharing her thoughts as part of Melinda's ongoing curated leadership series. Brené's words went straight to the heart of what inspires people to achieve great things and how to weigh the risks versus rewards in trying to make change in the world. In Brené's words: "The equation is simple: Invulnerability in leadership breeds disengagement in culture. Re-humanizing work and education requires courageous leadership. It requires leaders who are willing to take risks, embrace vulnerabilities, and show up as imperfect, real people. That’s what truly, deeply inspires us."

7. 10 Thank You Messages for Teachers  To mark National Teachers Day back in May, we asked readers to share some a message of thanks for their favorite teacher. The response was overwhelming as dozens of people across our Facebook, Twitter, and iO couldn't wait to pay gratitude to some very special educators! This post captured ten of the most touching stories.

8. Making the Most of Your Holiday Giving Just a few weeks ago, Bill and Melinda Gates shared some of their thoughts on giving and an answer to a question they get quite often: "How can I help?" This holiday season, they decided to offer a list of charities that sparked their interest over the course of the year, including Catapult, CARE, and DonorsChoose. If you're still looking for some end of year giving options, this is a great place to start!

9. Five Reasons for Hope for AIDS, Polio, and More in 2012 Progress, technology, partnership--these bold predictions for optimism rang true again and again throughout 2012, showing the amazing progress that is possible when the world comes together to tackle health and poverty issues. Ending polio in India is but one example of this from the past year.

10. A T-Shirt for Mothers and Daughters On International Women's Day in March, we kicked off a t-shirt design contest on the theme of "empowering women to change the world". More than 100 fantastic designs came in and the winner was put on sale via with 100 percent of proceeds benefiting CARE, dedicated to improving the health and education of women and children in developing countries. As Melinda said in this post announcing the winner, "Our community never disappoints."

Thanks to all of our iO readers and supporters for a great year!

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