Dimagi’s Big Break: Receiving Instrumental Core Funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation with Tim Wood, Former Senior Program Officer

Episode 11  |  53 minutes

Tim Wood has been at the forefront of building and investing in technology to improve health outcomes in low-and-middle-income countries over the last 3 decades - including work at the Grameen Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) where he served as a Senior Program Officer. During his time at BMGF he led a transformative, platform-level investment in Dimagi and its technology that breaks the mold of the industry’s tendency to invest in projects rather than core technology. In this episode, Jonathan Jackson and Tim Wood tell the story of how that investment happened, why it was so important, and their reflections on the challenges and opportunities in global health and development today. In the course of the conversation, you’ll also hear advice for getting funding from a funder like BMGF. This is part 2 in a 5 part series highlighting pivotal moments in Dimagi's history in honor of Dimagi's 20th anniversary.

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Episode Highlights:

3:01 - Making the move from for-profit to impact-driven work and how Tim Wood made the decision to leave Microsoft to work in global health
4:36 - Why the global health and development industry needs people from the private and government sectors
7:22 - What made the BMGF grant to Dimagi unique
9:10 - The challenge of creating organizational sustainability when projects scale and the surprising disconnect between scale and revenue in digital health
10:20 - How core funding from BMGF supported achieving national scale projects at Dimagi
11:15 - The challenge of developing robust and impactful technology in global development
12:07 - "Pilotitis" in digital health: What is it? Why does it happen?
13:20 - How Tim Wood made the case to BMGF to invest in Dimagi at a platform level
16:50 - Turning the corner on sustainability at Dimagi and speaking to health impact
21:13 - Tim Wood’s advice for social entrepreneurs seeking funding from BMGF or other foundations
25:20 - A trend of increased collaboration across funders in global health to help address country priorities
29:00 -  The challenge of rolling out horizontal technology within a ministry of health and the need ensure you’re working with stakeholders with a broad enough mandate to make your vision a reality
32:50 - What’s concerning to Tim Wood and Jonathan Jackson when it comes to the use of technology to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals
37:30 - How might we create a common language and ways to measure success of technology implementation to make better decisions and make investments in global health more effective?
40:00 - The tax on users of digital health pilots
41:00 - The need to have a plan for moving from paper to digital
42:40 - What is most exciting looking ahead in digital health?
43:40 - Co-investing across donors
47:30 - How can other Digital Public Goods be successful? What is the role of Digital Square?

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