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Building global commitment to fight poverty and disease

 

In the fight against extreme poverty, hunger, and preventable disease around the globe, ONE plays a unique role. It uses its resources to make human crises and their solutions matter—to leaders, funders, private and public institutions, and millions of people worldwide.

ONE pursues its goals through policy advocacy, grassroots mobilization, communications, and creative campaigning. Among its more visible efforts are direct personal appeals by high-profile individuals—including ONE co-founder Bono—to world leaders to address urgent development issues and follow through on their aid commitments. ONE also mobilizes its 3.2 million members to pressure policymakers to increase their effort, accountability, and transparency in the fight against disease and poverty, particularly in Africa. By making the most of technology and social media, ONE has also become a leading force in educating the public about global health and development and in changing perceptions about aid and its impact.

ONE’s Roots

ONE originated in conversations between Bill Gates and Bono in the early 2000s about the need to better inform Americans about extreme poverty around the world. Together with Melinda Gates, Bobby Shriver, George Soros, Ed Scott, Bob Geldof, and Jamie Drummond, they created an anti-poverty advocacy organization called DATA that focused on deploying celebrities and other influential individuals to urge world leaders to take action on specific development issues. Within a few years, DATA had joined with several other organizations to form ONE, with major backing from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The goal was to create a political constituency for development priorities—particularly the UN Millennium Development Goals, which in 2000 set specific global targets to address disease, poverty, and other pressing development issues.

ONE’s Work

ONE’s campaigns are multifaceted and combine mass grassroots mobilization with targeted insider advocacy. ONE members around the globe call, write, rally, and raise their voices to push for progress while teams in Washington, D.C., London, Johannesburg, Brussels, Berlin, and Paris educate, advocate, lobby, and collaborate to shape solutions. For example, to spread global awareness of the 2011 famine in the Horn of Africa, ONE created a provocative video called “The F Word: Famine is the Real Obscenity” that featured Bono, George Clooney, Idris Elba, Jessica Alba, and Michael Bloomberg, among others. The video generated more than 400 media stories and over 1 million online views, along with 411,000 petition signatures. ONE leaders made prominent appearances at meetings of world leaders, and ONE’s annual accountability report on how G8 countries are measuring up to their development commitments added to the international pressure. Overall, ONE works to ensure that aid programs support effective investments such as the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and the GAVI Alliance.

ONE is using similar approaches in its Thrive campaign to combat hunger, which includes seed-sowing events at major landmarks in the United States, France, Germany, and the UK as well as a report on agricultural investment in low-income countries. An equally multifaceted effort is ONE’s Beginning of the End of AIDS campaign, which launched in 2011 at a high-profile World AIDS Day event in Washington, D.C., and features new-media innovations such as a digital AIDS quilt that has drawn hundreds of thousands of photos and personal tributes from around the world.

ONE and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Given its beginnings and the longstanding friendship between Bono and Bill Gates, collaboration between ONE and the Gates Foundation is unusually close. “It’s not a bureaucratic grant-management relationship,” says Carol Welch, a senior program officer at the foundation who manages the ONE grants, which to date have totaled more than US$135 million. “ONE is a strong cross-cutting advocacy partner, in terms of both geographies and issues. We have a high level of strategic overlap and coordination.” That coordination includes sharing intelligence, aligning messages, collaborating on events, and frequent conversations between ONE and the foundation’s Global Policy & Advocacy staff.

 

ONE’s successes in raising public awareness have been instructive to the entire development community. “ONE has done a very good job of converting anonymous action”—such as people clicking to sign a petition—“into people becoming activists,” says Welch. “That sort of boldness and new approach is cutting-edge for our field.”

At the same time, ONE is benefiting from the Gates Foundation’s vast network of global partners, as well as the foundation’s experience in the areas of monitoring, evaluation, and effective use of data. “Our internal business processes have evolved to become more data-informed and analytical,” says Luis Guardia, ONE’s chief operating officer. “Our business environment is constantly changing. With better systems for internal monitoring and evaluation, we are reaching a new level of maturity.”

Welch expects the partnership to become even closer in the future. “Going forward,” she says, “it’s about a continual deepening of the relationship, and getting smarter together about how we do advocacy and help sell our issues to the general public.”

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