I recently started working on a poverty-alleviation project with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation—a volunteer opportunity which I've been looking forward to for a while and which I hope to continue over the next few years as a deep-level project alongside my business. While we're just getting started, I am already excited to engage with this team and this project. A big part of what lights me up about this type of work is that it's an opportunity for me to fulfill on one of my callings in life—to leverage my own social privilege and skills to lessen global inequalities and suffering. It sounds a bit lofty, but the work is very real and so is the need for it.
What kind of project is this, anyway? The Foundation summarizes it like this:
"The program aims to play a catalytic role in broadening the reach of digital payment systems, particularly in poor and rural areas, and expanding the range of services available on these platforms. Until the infrastructure and customer base are well established, this might involve a combination of mobile banking services that are accessible via cell phones and brick-and-mortar stores where subscribers can convert cash they earn into digital money (and vice-versa).
Our approach has three mutually reinforcing objectives:
• Reducing the amount of time and money that poor people must spend to conduct financial transactions
• Increasing poor people’s capacity to weather financial shocks and capture income-generating opportunities
• Generating economy-wide efficiencies by digitally connecting large numbers of poor people to one another, financial services providers, government services, and businesses"
As a member of the project's advisory council, I'm bringing a pretty full toolbox—anthropology, global travel, financial services ecosystem literacy, entrepreneurship and diversity, equality and access perspective—all in service to the human and technical pieces of this project where I get to collaborate with an inspiring group of thinkers and leaders.
Does this kind of work light you up too?
Of course, I am not a representative of the Gates Foundation or its partners. But our team has been encouraged to look in our networks and ecosystems for potential collaborators and ideas that can accelerate design, development and adoption/integration of this project so that it begins to show traction in the first few years, not just decades from now.
Do you have insights or resources you feel called to offer to this project? Let's talk.