Reinventing USAID to Meet the 21st Century Development and Security Challenges

Reinventing USAID to Meet the 21st Century Development and Security Challenges

On Friday, June 18th  USAID Administrator, Dr. Rajiv Shah spoke at the National Press Club in Washington, DC about the role USAID must play in the future of development. “President Obama and Secretary Clinton have made it my mission to remake USAID into the world’s premier development agency, to meet the security and development needs of the 21st Century,” said Dr. Shah.  In his presentation he laid out four elements for action to revitalize USAID

First, the formation of the Bureau of Policy Planning and Learning (PPL) to focus the organization on becoming more evidence based and more impact oriented.  Among one of their fist actions, the PPL will host a conference of scientific leaders to identify how to best support innovation. “In addition, we will rebuild USAID’s budget accountability with a strong focus on getting better results for U.S. taxpayers. We will pursue a development strategy that is based on focus, scale, and impact. We will focus in fewer sectors in each of the countries that we work. We will pursue those efforts at much greater scale and will pursue those interventions that have the cost attributes and the scalability to reach a very large percentage of the population in need. And we will assess missions, our country missions, based on their achievements, not the process indicators that often substitute for real results,” said Dr. Shah. 

Second, USAID will in source program design and evaluation to save money on contracts and build internal capacity.  The third element is to focus on reforming personal policies to get more people hired and to get the best out of each employee.  Some of those reforms include offering more opportunities to the foreign nationals who are from the communities where USAID works. 

There will be an increased focus on monitoring and evaluation to identify what works and doesn't work and why.  USAID is more than tripling investments in baseline information collection. We are requiring rigorous impact evaluation of crucial programs right from their very inception, and we’re creating incentives for knowledge sharing to recognize the best evidence-based decision-making in our agency.  Dr. Shah went on to explain that, "to do this, we will begin hosting a regular series of summits that we’re calling evidence summits, to study our own actions and explore real ideas for improvement. This will start next week with our after action review on Haiti being held at the National Defense University."

Finally, USAID will embrace the concept of extreme transparency by making more information available to the American taxpayers with evidence of the impact their money is making. 

Dr. Shah's leadership represents a new day at USAID and Management Sciences for Health is excited to continue working with them.

 Crystal Lander is the Senior Policy officer at Management Sciences for Health.

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