A conversation with Jeff
Raikes, CEO of the Bill &
Melinda Gates Foundation
Scan or click page 28
to watch a video about
the Bill & Melinda Gates
Foundation, and page 29
for a video about polio
eradication. (See page 5
for scanning details.)
dation has paid a total of $25 billion in grants
to partners who work in more than 100 countries around the world.
The Costco Connection recently met with
Jeff Raikes, CEO of the Bill & Melinda Gates
Foundation (he is also a member of Costco’s
board of directors), at the foundation’s headquarters in Seattle to discuss his work in philanthropy.
The Costco Connection: It must be
gratifying to see the difference that the Bill &
Melinda Gates Foundation helps effect in the
Jeff Raikes: Yes. A great example in
agriculture is the work we’ve done with the
International Rice Research Institute, sometimes known as IRRI. We helped fund the
creation of what is known as submergence-tolerant rice, or Sub1 rice. This variety of rice
can withstand being under water for a long
period of time, sometimes 17 to 21 days. It
has now been adopted by thousands of farmers. It’s estimated in India alone to be able to
help feed 30 million more people through
improved yield in flooding situations.
Also, our work in U.S. education, and in
particular supporting teaching excellence
through stronger standards and professional
development, has been successful. We’ve
worked with some organizations and other
partners to help create the common core standards for math and English/language arts,
which have now been adopted by 45 states.
Another example is our Meningitis
Vaccine Project. The foundation helped fund
this project, in conjunction with a partner
here locally [in Seattle] called PATH [Program
for Appropriate Technology in Health], and a
private-sector company in India called [the]
Serum [Institute of India], and the World
Health Organization. We helped create a vaccine for meningitis, which is now rolling out
in sub-Saharan Africa, and [which] will prob-
ably save more than 150,000 lives in the next
CC: The foundation develops and implements solutions to health and agriculture problems in developing nations with scientists, social
scientists and government agencies. What have
you learned in the process?
JR: I think it’s very important to understand our role. While we’re a large foundation,
our resources are a small percentage of what’s
needed to address the problems we aspire to
solve. We view our role as that of catalyst for
change. Let me explain.
We’re big believers in the private sector,
because we recognize the private sector has a
CONTINUED ON PAGE 30
particular role. We’re also big supporters of
the public sector, governments. Governments
produce goods and services to improve the
quality of life, whether it’s supporting education or building infrastructure. But governments tend not to take risks because, after all,
it’s tax dollars. So the third leg of the stool, if
you will, is what I would call catalytic philanthropy, where we can identify those areas of
market failure and/or those areas where governments may be unwilling to risk investing
in an innovative intervention. If we can prove
a solution’s success, then it can be scaled up
and sustained by the private sector and/or
the public sector.
I’ll give you an example. I was in Kenya
last week, and I met with a very small private-sector start-up called Sidai. They’re starting
up a franchise retail system that provides agricultural supplies, especially livestock supplies,
to small-scale farmers—farmers who live on
five acres or less. Sidai probably wouldn’t have
been able to get going without our support.
But if we can help them get going, then they
can create a sustainable business that helps
Jeff Raikes: life and leadership
RAISED ON HIS family’s farm in Ashland, Nebraska, Jeff Raikes intended to
pursue a career in agriculture when he enrolled in Stanford University. But
while working toward this goal, he was exposed to computing, learning
Pascal on an early computing system. This changed the course of his life.
Instead of working in agriculture, Raikes began a business career at Apple
Computer in 1980 before moving to Microsoft as a product manager in 1981.
He rose through the ranks during his 27 years at Microsoft, eventually serving
on the company’s senior leadership team before joining the Bill & Melinda
Gates Foundation, as well as joining Costco's board of directors, in 2008.
Raikes and his wife, Tricia, have three children and live in Seattle, near
the headquarters of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.—WF