Ronit asks for “Posts on EphBlog that aren’t about EphBlog every once in a while.” Agreed! And the amazing resources that Ronit (with some help from others) has built (Eph Planet, Eph Twitter and so on) make it easy to come up with non-EphBlog content. Consider Ethan Zuckerman ’93:

Here’s a fun game to play with friends, particularly friends who work on social ventures or other world-changing projects. Ask each person what issues they’d work on if they were given $500 million, $50 million or $5 million dollars to spend. With thoughtful friends, you’ll get different answers for different funding levels. It’s not realistic to tackle huge global problems – curing malaria, building sewage and fresh water systems for villages worldwide – at the $5m level, but you often learn about fascinating problems that might be solvable with a small amount of concerted effort.

Read the whole thing, not the least for the mention of The Dogs of War by Frederick Forsyth. My answer: Teach sub-Sahara Africa English. Now, to convince the Gates Foundation, you would probably pick one very poor country and then randomize the districts/towns/counties into a control and treatment group. The control group gets nothing. People in the treatment areas get free English-immersion childcare from ages 1 to 6. Add all the feel good early childhood development stuff you want, but the key is that these children become fluent in English because their teachers (songs, videos, et cetera) are all in English.

As the call-center and back-office out-sourcing movement to India has demonstrated, their are huge returns to English fluency, whether you move to a first world country or stay in your own. Anyway, given that almost all other foreign aid programs in Africa have been failing over the last 50 years (see here and here), this plan could do no worse!

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