Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

Where does our foundation fit among the other institutions trying to improve the world?

We typically hear about two sectors, the public and the private. The private sector—business—is good at developing products and services, while the public sector—government—is good at delivering solutions to all the people who need them.

In many cases, the private and public sectors, acting either separately or together, meet people’s needs. But there are gaps, spaces where some people don’t get what they need to live healthy, productive lives.

Here’s an example: A generation ago, the market for vaccines worked well in wealthy countries—if you wanted to be immunized against a whole range of diseases, you could—but the system did not work for other parts of the world. Certain vaccines just weren’t available for most people. The private sector didn’t sell them in low-income countries because it wasn’t clear there would be buyers. Governments tried to step in, but they weren’t in a position to bring all the pieces—the funding, the partnerships, the logistics—together to make it work. Tragically, millions of children were dying of preventable diseases each year.

This is the kind of problem that philanthropies can help solve, and it’s how we define our foundation’s role. How do we actually help solve problems? What does our foundation do specifically?

What we do

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