The Hewlett Foundation’s Global Development and Population program recently released our new strategy on how transparency, participation and accountability can (hopefully) improve the lives of poor communities that have the most to gain from functional public services — hospitals with doctors and medicine, schools that teach basic education, and consistent access to clean water, electricity and sanitation. I can take no credit — the strategy was fully baked by the time I transitioned from Gates Foundation last November. But I do sure like it.

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It’s a foundation strategy, which means it was drafted though a consulatitive process by a lot of over-educated, workaholic, highly analytical individuals. There are indicators, ecosystem maps, explicit and implicit assumptions, hypotheses to be tested, contextual factors to consider. But there aren’t any stories.


It’s extremely gratifying to see a so-called “theory of change” come alive in concrete language, narrated by a reporter and with videos that feature the voices and opinions of the people who are actually affected and do the affecting. Thank you Margarita Vega for you excellent reporting at Animal Politico, and thank you Kelly Garrett for translating the series into English. Here’s the series:

  1. Mexican health care: Inefficient, inequitable, fragmented: “Complaining about public health care is a national pastime in Mexico, and for good reason. A new OECD report confirms that the system is fragmented, inefficient and wasteful. The result is an unhealthy country.”
  2. The sad state of health care for Mexico’s indigenous people: “Altos de Chiapas, overwhelmingly indigenous, serves as a disturbing example of all these drastic shortcomings. Here, a common sight is a health centers with no doctors or medicines. What typical clinics have instead are attractive façades with shiny new plaques adorned with the logos of the local and federal governments.”
  3. Is culture to blame for indigenous Mexico’s health care problem?: “The government sees the inferior medical attention plaguing Mexico’s indigenous communities as a result of cultural factors, not discrimination. Critics wonder why those cultural factors aren’t taken into consideration to provide the right kind of health care, instead of being blamed for not providing enough of it.”
  4. Organized, Mexico’s indigenous can force health care to exist: “At least one Chiapas community has found a way to begin to overcome the notorious lack of adequate health care in Mexico’s indigenous communities. With the help of an advocacy group, it has organized and demanded a functioning clinic, doctors who show up to work, a laboratory and a supply of medications. The strategy is working.”