HG: Well, I started out with a focus on health because I thought it was a tangible way to contribute to society. I evolved from looking at individual patients to thinking about, “How do you apply those same principles to whole populations?”
And then I moved on to global poverty, where health is a factor, but where a lot of the issues have a huge amount to do with what actually drives poor health—lack of access to safe drinking water, inadequate nutrition, inability to feed one’s family.
I see my work with CARE as a continuum of looking at ways in which you can use health—a concrete, basic need—to look at issues more broadly. And I do sometimes use my medical diagnostics skills to look at a problem. So generally speaking, the tools that medicine gave me still offer me ways to solve all kinds of problems.
CR: At WWF we’re interested in “disruptive ideas”—things other organizations or individuals are doing to solve critical problems in unusually creative ways—as a means of getting beyond business as usual. Could you talk about disruptive ideas you’ve seen and why you think they’re important?
HG: Something I think that is really disruptive, if you will, in the development landscape is the engagement of the private sector. Engaging private-sector investment and renewable sources of capital as part of the development landscape has made a big difference. Social enterprises have also been a big boost—the development of businesses that have both a social and an economic good. We’ve started a for-profit arm of CARE, specifically to engage more in the area of social enterprise.
CR: You, World Bank President Jim Kim and USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah have all talked about ending extreme poverty in the next few decades: it’s within our grasp, we know what needs to be done and we ought to get after it. But you’ve also questioned whether the will exists in the global community to actually make it happen. What’s your vision for ending extreme poverty?
HG: First, I think it’s important for people to realize that ending extreme poverty is possible, and to believe it will happen in their lifetime. It’s easy to look around the world at all the challenges we face and get discouraged. But there have been real successes in just the past 10 years. Fewer children are dying from malnourishment; the number of people living in poverty is declining.
Will we ever have a world where there are no poor people? I don’t think that’s realistic. But within the next few decades, given the tools we have—along with the right political will and setting the right targets—I believe we can end the most abject poverty.
CR: Our partnership, the CARE-WWF Alliance, was created to address the root causes of poverty and environmental degradation in Coastal East Africa. Talk about the promise and the challenge of our work together.