optimistic that we can do this, but I talk to skeptics who claim there is no
hope. They say: "Inequity has been with us since the beginning, and will
be with us till the end - because people just ... don't ... care." I
I believe we have more caring than we know what to do with.
All of us here in this Yard, at one time or another, have seen human tragedies
that broke our hearts, and yet we did nothing - not because we didn't care,
but because we didn't know what to do. If we had known how to help, we
would have acted.
Even with the advent of the Internet and 24-hour news, it is still a complex
enterprise to get people to truly see the problems. When an airplane crashes,
officials immediately call a press conference. They promise to investigate,
determine the cause, and prevent similar crashes in the future.
But if the officials were brutally honest, they would say: "Of all
the people in the world who died today from preventable causes, one half
of one percent of them were on this plane. We're determined to do everything
possible to solve the problem that took the lives of the one half of one
The bigger problem is not the plane crash, but the millions of preventable
We don't read much about these deaths. The media covers what's new - and
millions of people dying is nothing new. So it stays in the background,
where it's easier to ignore. But even when we do see it or read about it,
it's difficult to keep our eyes on the problem. It's hard to look at suffering
if the situation is so complex that we don't know how to help. And so we
Finding solutions is essential if we want to make the most of our caring.
If we have clear and proven answers anytime an organization or individual
asks "How can I help?," then we can get action - and we can make
sure that none of the caring in the world is wasted. But complexity makes
it hard to mark a path of action for everyone who cares - and that makes
it hard for their caring to matter.
Cutting through complexity to find a solution runs through four predictable stages: determine a goal, find the highest-leverage approach, discover the ideal technology for that approach, and in the meantime, make the smartest application of the technology that you already have - whether it's something sophisticated, like a drug, or something simpler, like a bed net.
epidemic offers an example. The broad goal, of course, is to end the disease.
The highest-leverage approach is prevention. The ideal technology would be a
vaccine that gives lifetime immunity with a single dose. So governments, drug
companies, and foundations fund vaccine research. But their work is likely to
take more than a decade, so in the meantime, we have to work with what we have
in hand - and the best prevention approach we have now is getting people to
avoid risky behaviour.
that goal starts the four-step cycle again. This is the pattern. The crucial
thing is to never stop thinking and working - and never do what we did with
malaria and tuberculosis in the 20th century - which is to surrender to
complexity and quit.
to have the statistics, of course. You have to be able to show that a program
is vaccinating millions more children. You have to be able to show a decline in
the number of children dying from these diseases. This is essential not just to
improve the program, but also to help draw more investment from business and
But if you
want to inspire people to participate, you have to show more than numbers; you
have to convey the human impact of the work - so people can feel what saving a
life means to the families affected.