Shah Charting a New Course at USAID

In a recent blog post by MFAN Partner the Center for Global Development (CGD), Connie Veillette, Director of Rethinking U.S. Foreign Assistance Program, emphasized the need to highlight the positive changes that have occurred recently at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) thanks to Administrator Rajiv Shah’s leadership.   While it is easy to get caught up in big picture reforms, she argues that now is an important time to look at some of the positive, incremental changes underway.  Administrator Shah has been taking concrete actions to reinvigorate USAID that could transform the agency into a “game-changing leader”.  Some changes being instituted at USAID that Veillette highlights in her recent post on Rethinking U.S. Foreign Assistance:

  • Policy and Planning Capabilities: The (re)creation of the Policy, Planning, and Learning Bureau will help the agency design country strategies and integrate sectoral approaches around clearly defined objectives, such as food security
  • Learning Culture: The (re)creation of Office of Learning, Evaluation, and Research, to  learn what works, what doesn’t, and make adjustments in policy and programming accordingly
  • Innovation: Initiatives that seek to harness science and technology, such as

-Designing a center for advanced research

-New Development Innovation Ventures (DIV) awards, partners with private research organizations

On the joint Brookings and CGD Quality of Official Development Assistance (QuODA) project, USAID received mixed scores.  Veillette calls attention to the fact that QuODA uses the most recent data available, which is from 2008, and looks forward to seeing if scores improve when updated information comes out.  She closes by commending the efforts of Shah saying, “All this is to say, let’s give credit where credit is due.  Administrator Shah’s confirmation occurred in the midst of two formidable policy reviews.  It was followed within days by the devastating earthquake in Haiti.  Shah has had to build the ship at sea without a full crew amidst turbulent waters while naysayers expected rearranged deck chairs rather than transformative change.  There are still many challenges ahead, but Shah is taking important steps to steer the agency in the right direction.”

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