In Case You Missed It: Innovative Efforts in the Fight Against Global Poverty

Global Washington convened more than 200 people at Microsoft’s Redmond campus Thursday evening for a panel discussion centering around innovative solutions to global health problems. The two panelists—Dr. Helene Gayle, president and CEO of CARE and Steve Davis, president and CEO of PATH—engaged in a wide-ranging discussion of global health challenges, solutions, and new resources for aid and nonprofits.

Bookda Gheisar, Global Washington’s Executive Director, moderated the panel. The discussion focused around two main themes: educating and empowering women and girls, and forming strong and strategic public-private partnerships.

Both Gayle and Davis repeatedly emphasized the importance of providing access to education, economic opportunities, and health resources to women and girls across the globe. “If you’re trying to solve a problem, go where the problem is largest,” Gayle said of selecting projects and countries for CARE’s programming. Access to healthcare, especially prenatal and maternal care, is one of the most important stepping stones out of poverty; Davis noted that PATH’s primary focus is now reducing mortality of women and girls, and managing access to care in “environment[s] of extreme disparity.” This includes HIV/AIDS education and prevention, and work on gender-based violence. Any society, Gayle said, “is going to do better if you’re not leaving 50% of the population behind.”

Gheisar then asked about forming and maintaining public-private partnerships; CARE and PATH have both been extremely successful in finding long-term, productive relationships with a wide spectrum of private companies. Davis characterized this as an “evolving shift in thinking about addressing equality and inequality.” While the corporate sector has, in many ways, been involved in health and development work for years, the last 10-15 years have seen a major shift in the kind of companies involved and the roles they choose to play. Nonprofits and corporations look to convene interested parties from all sides to take part in a particular project or issue area. Gayle agreed, noting that she is encouraged by the shift towards working together instead of in parallel. “Our impact is greatly enhanced by working with organizations that are less like us,” she said, because those partnerships result in synergy and innovative ideas to effect change. One example of an unlikely-sounding partnership is CARE’s work with General Mills in Madagascar. Since 80% of the world’s vanilla comes from Madagascar, General Mills is working with local farmers to find sustainable ways to grow and process the beans, raising their own and the farmers’ profits by extension. “This is an area where we’re able to see the scale, the scope, and the different types of expertise that the corporate sector has,” Gayle explained.

The last segment of the discussion focused on the importance of advocacy and citizens’ engagement in international policy—something Global Washington has been working on for several years. We as a community have a responsibility to be engaged and work together to bring about change. Working at the policy level, Gayle said, will “amplify” the work that’s being done on the ground, and that work in turn will “have a greater impact on even more people.” Writing letters to the editor, lobbying Congressional representatives, and staying informed is a “huge power, and we don’t utilize that power enough.”

Davis took this a step further, and noted that PATH is working to train citizen advocates in its partner countries (in addition to its extensive advocacy work in the United States). The most important trend, he said, “is what’s going on geopolitically,” so it is increasingly important for young people across the globe to work to change policies on development, global health, and economic opportunities. By driving advocacy at the country level, Davis said, PATH is supporting these countries in taking ownership of their own development policies.

Both Gayle and Davis took questions from the audience; topics ranged from climate change to food security to the tragic factory collapse in Bangladesh earlier this year. The event took place at the Microsoft Commons on the Redmond campus, and Global Washington would like to thank Microsoft for its hospitality and generosity in welcoming the guests and attendees to campus.