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Big Bets: How Large-Scale Change Really Happens

Big Bets: How Large-Scale Change Really Happens

Rajiv Shah, President, The Rockefeller Foundation with special guest Karen Bass, Mayor of Los Angeles

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Duration: 1:30:41


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Raj Shah has written a practical guide to making the world a better place. He knows what he’s talking about, because he’s done it himself. Anyone who wants to make a change in the world, or their own lives, will benefit from this book.” —Bill Gates, Cochair, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation 

Rajiv J. Shah, president of The Rockefeller Foundation and former administrator of President Barack Obama’s United States Agency for International Development, shares a dynamic new model for creating large scale change, inspired by his own involvements with some of the largest humanitarian projects of our time.

Rajiv J. Shah is no stranger to pulling off the impossible, from helping vaccinate 900 million children at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to a high-pressure race against the clock to stop the spread of Ebola. His secret? A big bets philosophy—the idea that seeking to solve problems rather than make incremental improvements can attract the unlikely partners with the power and know-how to achieve transformational change. Part career sweeping memoir, part inspirational playbook, Big Bets offers a master class in decision-making, leadership, and changing the world one bet at a time.

Shah animates his strategic insights with vivid behind-the-scenes stories, memorable conversations with household names that helped shape his approach to creating change, and his own personal growth as an Indian-American from an immigrant family looking for a way to belong. He distills his battle-tested strategies for creating change, arguing that big bets have a surprising advantage over cautious ones: a bold vision can attract support, collaborations, and fresh ideas from key players who might otherwise be resistant. Throughout the book, Shah traces his unlikely path to the Rockefeller Foundation across a changing world and through some of the most ambitious, dramatic global efforts to create a better world.


Order Big Bets: How Large-Scale Change Really Happens from Simon & Schuster.

UCLA student offer: The first 30 UCLA students will receive a free copy.



Dr. Shah serves as President of The Rockefeller Foundation, a global institution with a mission to promote the well-being of humanity around the world. The Foundation applies data, science, and innovation to improve health for women and children, create nutritious and sustainable food systems, end energy poverty for more than a billion people worldwide, and enable meaningful economic mobility in the United States and around the world.

In 2009, he was appointed USAID Administrator by President Obama and unanimously confirmed by the U.S. Senate. Dr. Shah reshaped the $20 billion agency’s operations in more than 70 countries around the world by elevating the role of innovation, creating high-impact public-private partnerships, and focusing U.S. investments to deliver stronger results. Shah secured bipartisan support that included the passage of two significant laws – the Global Food Security Act and the Electrify Africa Act. He led the U.S. response to the Haiti earthquake and the West African Ebola pandemic, served on the National Security Council, and elevated the role of development as part of our nation’s foreign policy. Prior to his appointment at USAID, Shah served as Chief Scientist and Undersecretary for Research, Education, and Economics at the United States Department of Agriculture where he created the National Institute for Food and Agriculture.

In October 2023, Dr. Shah published Big Bets: How Large-Scale Change Really Happens with Simon & Schuster’s Simon Element imprint. In the book, Dr. Shah shares a dynamic new model for realizing transformative change, inspired by his own work and that of The Foundation on some of the biggest humanitarian efforts of the 21st century.

He has received several honorary degrees, the Secretary of State’s Distinguished Service Award, and the U.S. Global Leadership Award.

Shah founded Latitude Capital, a private equity firm focused on power and infrastructure projects in Africa and Asia and served as a Distinguished Fellow in Residence at Georgetown University. Previously, he served at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, where he created the International Financing Facility for Immunization which helped reshape the global vaccine industry and save millions of lives.


  • Karen Bass, Mayor of Los Angeles
  • Robert Fairlie, Chair, Department of Public Policy, UCLA; Professor of Public Policy, UCLA
  • Jody Heymann, Distinguished Professor of Public Health, UCLA; Founding Director, WORLD Policy Analysis Center, UCLA
  • Ninez Ponce, Director, Center for Health Policy Research, UCLA; Professor and Fred W. & Pamela K. Wasserman Endowed Chair, Department of Health Policy and Management, UCLA


For information on where Parking Lot 8 is and for how to pay for parking, please click the links above.


This event is sponsored by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research and co-sponsored by the Burkle Center for International Relations, the Department of Public Policy, the UCLA Fielding Department of Health Policy and Management, WORLD Policy Analysis Center, and the UCLA Center for Healthcare Management.