How We Work

How We Develop Strategy


How We Develop Strategy

Regularly reviewing our strategies is our best chance to apply the lessons learned from our past work.

Jeff Raikes, ceo

Strategy is ultimately about the tradeoffs and choices we face as a foundation. How can we best use our resources to improve people’s lives? What are the tradeoffs associated with different strategic options? How do we collaborate with partners to create lasting change for people?

Strategies are the building blocks of the foundation’s work. They guide the selection of foundation partners and grantees, and the allocation of financial, human, and leadership resources. We use a rigorous process to define and refine strategies—one that includes feedback and focuses on results.

Strategy development is a process of analysis and planning which requires:

  • Thinking through the problem and context to define what the world needs to do.
  • Identifying the options and making choices to define what the foundation will do.
  • Planning what resources are needed to execute given our priorities and the constraints we face.
  • Understanding the expertise of our grantees and partners to identify a path to impact. 
  • Defining an ambitious long-term goal and specific results so we can measure progress and adjust our plans along the way.

How Our Strategies Align

Our strategies share common characteristics:

  • All strategies seek to achieve catalytic change. The foundation does not invest in delivering health or education services.  Instead, we identify ways to leverage systems and innovate so these services achieve better outcomes for people.
  • All strategies leverage our partnerships to achieve impact. Nothing happens in the field without our grantees and partners.
  • All strategies underscore the role oftechnology. Technology has a role to play in different contexts—from online learning models in US education, to new seed varieties in agriculture, or innovative delivery mechanisms for vaccines.

The Strategy Lifecycle

The strategy lifecycle is a framework that guides our work.  We develop strategy, allocate resources, make grants, capture and share data on progress, reflect on lessons learned, and course-correct, as necessary. Essential to this process is ongoing dialogue with our grantees and partners, early in the planning process and throughout the strategy lifecycle.

Develop:  Although not common at this stage of the foundation’s growth, new strategies may be developed when a major external change requires a fundamentally different approach. Occasionally, we also refresh our strategies.  In a strategy refresh, we take a step back to thoroughly examine an existing strategy.  It is an opportunity to reflect on progress made, define goals, and agree on a new path forward.

Execute: Each strategy includes a plan for execution—the investments, partner relationships and resources needed to achieve intended results.  We work hard to move quickly through strategy development and focus on our core business of execution.

Measure: In order to learn and adjust along the way, we use scorecards and relevant data to track progress against our strategic outcomes. We also use evaluation to understand how we can support our partners’ execution and create actionable evidence about what works best to achieve programmatic outcomes.

Review: Strategy reviews allow us to reflect on progress, priorities, and problems that need to be resolved.  Teams review strategies and execution annually with leadership—these reviews give us the chance to make adjustments based on what’s happening on the ground and what we’ve learned.

Adjust: Strategic adjustment and fine-tuning informed by results, evidence and grantee feedback is critical to ensuring that our view of the world accurately reflects changes in the environment and evolution of our partners.

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