Public-private partnering as a modus operandi: Explaining the Gates Foundation’s approach to global health governance

Michael Stevenson, Jeremy Youde

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


In its first decade, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) focused much of its efforts on enabling the establishment of transnational public-private partnerships (PPPs) oriented towards increasing low-income country (LIC) access to essential health technologies. Critics have argued these efforts further enriched already profitable firms which long ignored the needs of populations with limited purchasing power, while lessening political will to invest in urgently needed public sector capacity to produce essential health technologies independently of market pressures. Missing from these critical analyses were the perspectives of those shaping BMGF’s global health programming. Drawing on interviews with senior BMGF staff and external affiliates undertaken between 2010 and 2012, this article seeks to address this gap. We argue that BMGF’s embrace of PPPs was adopted out of the belief that neither public agencies nor industry were capable of providing LICs with essential health technologies autonomously, and that their conflicting mandates required an honest broker to initiate and sustain collaboration between the two sectors. The Foundation’s comparative advantage in global health governance was thus seen by those informing its work, as its capacity to negotiate such partnerships, which we argue has also been the basis of its agenda-setting influence in this domain.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)401-414
Number of pages14
JournalGlobal Public Health
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
  • global health
  • global health governance
  • private actors
  • public-private partnerships


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