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.
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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.