Thursday, January 31, 2013

Bill's Letter (Cause)

"Without feedback from precise measurement... invention is 'doomed to be rare and erratic.' With it, invention becomes 'commonplace.'"

Bill Gates' annual letter was published yesterday with some tips on how to save the world. Or, at least, become better stewards of it. Now, unlike most world-saver wanna-be's out there, Bill is a man with a plan. And, a man with the funds to support his plan. He has both the business background and the people skills to get things done.

I haven't even got to the best part yet. Bill, isn't distracted by gas prices, tree killing, or even global warming. He is focused on one thing, and one thing alone, how to better mankind. He's focused on helping people... just as we have always been called to do.

"But in the past year I have been struck again and again by how important measurement is to improving the human condition [everything from helping developing countries to supporting education in the United States]. You can achieve amazing progress if you set a clear goal and find a measure that will drive progress toward that goal-in a feedback loop..."

"Unlike business, where profit is the 'bottom line,' foundations and government programs pick their own goals. In the United States our foundation focuses mostly on improving education, so our goals include reducing the number of kids who drop out of high school. In poor countries we focus on health, agriculture, and family planning. Given a goal, you decide on what key variable you need to change to achieve it...

You use the measurement as feedback to make adjustments. I think a lot of efforts fail because they don't focus on the right measure or they don't invest enough in doing it accurately."

He uses an example to explain that clear and concrete goals bring focus to the effort's highest priority. This is why businesses and causes such as Kony 2012 succeed. They are organized. They know what they want to achieve. They strive to reach their goal.

Here are Bill's active goals for the near future:

"As 2015 approaches, the world is taking a hard look at how it is doing on the goals. Although we won't achieve them all, we've made amazing progress, and the goals have become a report card for how the world is performing against major problems...

I remember the disturbing images from Ethiopia of the 1980s when more than one million people died in a famine that swept through the Horn of Africa. It was a tragedy brought to the world's attention by the 1985 Live Aid concert and part of a long period of war, political unrest, and instability for Ethiopians. Their country ranked near the bottom on nearly every key health indicator, including child mortality.

About a decade ago that picture started to change...

Where health services were once nonexistent, rural areas had health clinics stocked with vaccines and medicine. Where once there was little local health expertise... health workers delivered babies, administered vaccines, and supported family planning.

I got the chance to see that progress on my first trip to Ethiopia last March. Driving through the countryside, I felt the challenge Ethiopia faces in connecting its people to health care. Rural Ethiopia is composed of vast tracts of farm land-85 percent of the population survives on farm plots of less than two acres-connected by sometimes very rough roads... I saw people walking everywhere. There were few other vehicles, even few bicycles...

Interventions are quite basic, yet they've dramatically improved the lives of people in this country. Childhood death has decreased. So has the number of women dying in childbirth...

Yet while measurement is critical to making progress in global health, it's very hard to do well. You have to measure accurately, as well as create an environment where problems can be discussed openly so you can effectively evaluate what's working and what's not."

Imagine what this sort of goal-planning and determination could do in your life, not to mention the lives of those around you, your school, and your church. How do you save the world? 

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