Project Catalyst visits the Gates Foundation


Yesterday, day 3 of Project Catalyst, Jolkona’s Indonesian social entrepreneurs went on a tour of Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation: its campus and museum.

Our guide, Gillian LaFond, began the tour with a presentation about the Foundation’s beginnings and goals. In 1998, she said, Bill and Melinda were on the road when they heard about rotavirus–a virus neither of them had heard of before–and it was killing 500 million people in Africa. Two years later, the married couple began the Foundation to tackle largely neglected challenges that impact the most people in the world. In 2008, Bill Gates resigned from Microsoft and joined Melinda as full-time co-chairs at the Foundation.

Mirah Mahaswari, one of our Project Catalyst participants, said of the message from Bill and Melinda Gates: “They told us not just to be great businessmen, but to be people who care about others. Whoever and wherever we are, we can work together to help our communities and be impactful to our surroundings.” Mirah’s organization in Indonesia, Pack Your Spirit, collects children’s used-books for villages of east Borneo.


Gillian then walked us around one of the most sustainable campuses in the Seattle. Built in 2011, the Foundation’s campus boasts an outdoor sitting area, countless species of plants, living roofs, ample natural light, and solar panels. Our Project Catalyst participant, Nadine Zamira, was impressed: “I was AMAZED at the building structure. When she said it was lead platinum certified, I wasn’t surprised. It is the greenest of the green and has an extremely low impact on the environment.”

In Indonesia, Nadine’s communications agency, LeafPlus, has sustainability at the heart of their work. She works with government agencies, businesses, NGO’s, schools and communities to identify their sustainability objectives and translate complex concepts into creative, engaging and easily shared stories. She delivers messages about environment issues. She said, “We don’t have buildings like that in Indonesia. We’re working on it, but we don’t have buildings that’re the best of the best. It’s nice to see that it is possible.”

IMG_2483Afterwards, the Project Catalyst cohort spent an hour in the informational and interactive visitor center, where they tried to carry 16 pounds of water (the amount people in many parts of the world must carry for three miles). They read about the projects happening all over the world, and joined the conversations with the countless do-gooders that have visited the museum.

Dino Fitriza, whose social enterprise Vertesac reduces the number of plastic bags used in Indonesia, said, “It is very inspiring, because you can see a lot of people’s projects in countries all over the world.”

What impressed Nadya Saib, the founder of Wangsa Jelita, was the toilets. On the doors of the stalls were photographs of the various unsanitary “toilets” across the world. Once visitors to the museum open its doors, they are relieved to find a clean latrine. Of the whole visitor center, Nadya said, “I like how they present the stories.”

Finally, Hendriyadi Bahtiar, whose Healthy Shredded Fish not only promotes a healthy national snack but provides job opportunities for fishermen’s wives, said of the entire visit: “It inspired me to take action to change the world and to influence the people all around us.”


Project Catalyst is an accelerator for international social ventures. This 2-week intensive workshop brings social entrepreneurs from developing countries to Seattle, where they can hone their business plans, gain valuable insights, and meet prospective investors and funders.

Keep up with everything Jolkona by following us on Facebook and Twitter


Share it on