Exclusive: Gates Foundation's chief strategy officer pulls back the curtain

Mark Suzman, chief strategy officer and president of global policy and advocacy at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Photo by: ONE

WASHINGTON — Next week is a big one for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and it highlights the growing role of the world’s largest private philanthropy on the world stage. The foundation will give an award to India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his toilet campaign — a decision that has already garnered international controversy and attention.

Listen in on the conversation

A conversation with Raj Kumar and Mark Suzman on SoundCloud and YouTube.

Such attention is standard fare these days for Bill and Melinda Gates and the foundation that bears their names. It sits at the center of many of the biggest issues and debates of our time, from the promise of disease eradication to growing wealth inequality.

The man who wrestles with these issues and debates, and ultimately tries to turn them into a coherent strategy for a foundation with a fast-growing $50 billion endowment, is Mark Suzman. A South African journalist who, as he tells it, somewhat randomly landed a job at the foundation in its early days, is now the chief strategy officer and president of global policy and advocacy there.

“In the end, philanthropy is all about allocating scarce resources — primarily dollars but also voice, convening power, and other tools — to their most impactful outcomes. So that’s what I try to help the foundation do every day,” Suzman told me.

Listen to the rest of my wide-ranging conversation with Suzman on the future of philanthropy, where the foundation is heading, and the evolution of Suzman’s own role and career.

Via YouTube

About the author

  • Raj Kumar

    Raj Kumar is the Founding President and Editor-in-Chief at Devex, the media platform for the global development community. He is a media leader and former humanitarian council chair for the World Economic Forum and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. His work has led him to more than 50 countries, where he has had the honor to meet many of the aid workers and development professionals who make up the Devex community. He is the author of the book "The Business of Changing the World," a go-to primer on the ideas, people, and technology disrupting the aid industry.