On May 25th, 2020 George Floyd was murdered in the streets of Minneapolis. His murder affected us deeply, both because it occurred in the very community where Medtronic LABS was born, and also because it laid bare the persistent suffering that we have failed to change as a nation and as a global community. A shockwave reverberated across the entire world. In big cities and small towns, in New York City, in Nairobi, in London, in Accra, in Delhi, peaceful protesters underscored the truth: that racism and the systems of power that keep it intact have persisted for over four centuries and affect every region on Earth.
While our work does not specifically address police brutality in the United States, the need to view global health and development through the lens of race is clearer than ever. The legacy of colonialism and the reality of systemic racism is everywhere. It is bound up in the inequality between countries, where the gains of Western imperialism and exploitation have compounded over centuries. It is bound up in the inequality within countries, where non-white citizens are worse off on every metric of human development due to state-sanctioned oppression over generations. And it is bound up in the way bilateral donors, multilateral agencies, NGOs, foundations, philanthropists, and social enterprises deploy capital to support economic development and create social good.
Although the unifying mission of organizations working in global health and international development is to end poverty and improve lives, structural racism persists. Leadership and influence at our most powerful institutions skew white and male. Funding for social enterprises and non-profits skews white and male. As a result, decisions and the lens through which decisions are made, skew white and male. Organizations, including Medtronic LABS, must examine our own place in the story and do more to turn our current outrage into action.
While we don’t have answers, we do have a commitment to be part of the long-overdue change in our field. We promise to continue to promote diversity at every level. Currently over 90% of our employees and 50% of our leadership are people of color, and we can do even better. We promise to invest in educating all of our employees on issues of diversity and inclusion. We promise to listen to and promote diverse thought leadership and diverse voices. In our work at Medtronic LABS, we will continue to align to local government priorities. We will build an even deeper focus on the social determinants of health, including race, into the core of all of our programs. Ultimately, we will remember that our mission to expand access to healthcare for the underserved is also a mission to dismantle the systems of power that created the underserved in the first place.
By Anne Stake