The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has become an influential development actor, spending billions of dollars on international health and agricultural development. While scholars commonly assert that the foundation is part of a new breed of “philanthrocapitalists” who apply business principles to their philanthropic activities, little is known about what this really means or how the Gates Foundation works on the inside. This article seeks to deepen our understanding of this new development actor by examining its organizational culture.
The article highlights that :
- The “culture of smartness” that characterizes the Gates Foundation distances and insulates its staff from the field.
- Relying on strategic planning abstracts away from farmers’ sociocultural worlds and yields universal development solutions.
- The BMGF treats farmers as passive objects of development rather than as complex social actors.
- Through its norms, interactions, and demands, the BMGF shapes other development organizations’ priorities and practices.
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