Bill Gates has released his 2010 annual letter as co-chairman of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and there's some interesting stuff, even to someone like me who is a bit of a skeptic of non-profits and of development aid. Some highlights:
On foreign aid to India: "I also got to meet with Rahul Gandhi, who is part of a new generation of political leaders focused on making sure these investments are well spent. The foundation is considering funding measurement systems to help improve these programs. Rahul was very frank in saying that right now a lot of the money is not getting to the intended recipients and that it won't be easy to fix. His openness was refreshing, since many politicians won't say anything that might discourage a donor from giving more."
On partnership : Melinda has a particular interest in this area and has several trips planned for 2010 to see these projects. Our working partnership makes it very comfortable for one of us to focus more intently on a particular area but always share what is being learned so we can work together in figuring out how it should fit into the overall strategy. I've always had a strong partner in the work I have done. In the early days of Microsoft it was Paul Allen, and in the later days it was Steve Ballmer. Although some people don't need this kind of partnership, I have found that only when I have a partner who knows my strengths and weaknesses can we together have the confidence to take on projects that take a long time and are high risk. When one of us is being overly pessimistic or optimistic, the other can provide a balanced view.
On education: The filmmaker Davis Guggenheim, who directed An Inconvenient Truth, has a new documentary about American education coming out this year. Waiting for Superman tells the story of several kids trying to get into schools with high-quality teaching—it's literally a lottery that will decide the fate of these young people. Although I may be biased because I appear in the movie, I think it is fantastic and hope it will galvanize a lot more political will to improve teaching effectiveness….Some of the best interactive software for K–8 learning is being done by startups using interactivity in innovative ways. These companies are licensing the software on a per-classroom and/or per-student basis. Ideally we would get market forces and nonprofit work to complement each other, but given that schools budget very little for software, it isn't clear whether the marketplace will be large enough for the for-profit model to make a large contribution.