Archive of UAA Development Conversations

The UAA offers a series of interactive conversations on a broad range of topics relevant to the interests of international development professionals. These are presented under the heading of UAA/DACOR Development Dialogues. Almost all sessions are available in audio form which can be accessed through the links provided below.

– UAA/DACOR Development Dialogues:

Afghanistan Lessons Learned Panel

On Monday morning, February 10, a large crowd of UAA and DACOR members were treated to an unusual and highly interesting panel discussion entitled “Afghanistan: Lessons Learned for America’s Future – Insights of USAID Mission Directors to Kabul”.  This panel, moderated by  Bambi Arellano,  was comprised of Craig Buck, Alonzo Fulgham, Bill Hammink and Skip Waskin, each of whom has had long USAID service elsewhere in addition to their assignments in widely differing circumstances in Afghanistan.  The focus of their comments was on lessons learned and their advice for others going into similar settings in the future.  Among their many suggestions, they noted how important it is, in conflict situations, for key staff to be able to work well in a complex, high profile inter-agency environment, including the ability t o make clear how USAID can contribute to U.S. policy objectives, what the Agency can do – and what expectations it cannot meet. They also stressed how critical it will be, before reaching their post, that future officers assigned to such environments spend some time to learn from the experience of their predecessors. [Note – To promote an open discussion this session was not recorded.]

Eric Rubin

Before a full-to-capacity crowd at lunch at DACOR on Wednesday, January 29, 2020, Ambassador Eric Rubin, President of the American Foreign Service Association (AFSA), gave a wide-ranging talk entitled “The State of the Foreign Service and its Future”.  He detailed the many steps that AFSA has taken to improve services for FSOs while at the same time reflecting on the many problems and challenges the Foreign Service face and what needs to be done to address them. Listen to Ambassador Rubin’s talk and the discussion that followed by clicking here.

David Beckmann

On Monday, October 7, David Beckmann, long-time head of Bread for the World, led a lively discussion exploring the reasons for the great progress made in recent decades, both in the U.S. and abroad, in reducing poverty and how we can help to insure that these advances are sustained. Hear David’s comments and the discussion that followed here.

Rafe Pomerance

To an overflow DACOR luncheon crowd on Friday, September 6, climate pioneer Rafe Pomerance described with great clarity – based on his more than forty years of leadership on this issue – the nature of the global climate crisis and the essential steps required to address it. Listen to the audio of his talk and the Q&A period here.

Liz Schrayer

Before a capacity crowd at a luncheon meeting at DACOR on Friday, July 12, Liz Schrayer, President of the US Global Leadership Coalition, gave a spirited overview of her long experience leading the bipartisan efforts of the USGLC – a broad-based coalition of over 500 businesses and NGOs – to educate political candidates around the country and in the Congress about the importance of foreign assistance and US global engagement.   This UAA/DACOR Development Dialogue event drew many State Department retirees as well as UAA members, and we were also delighted to have the next generation of a USAID Foreign Service Officers, represented by the 2019 Payne Fellows, attend the event as well. To permit her candid commentary, Ms. Schrayer’s presentation and the Q&A period was not recorded.

William “Bill” Reese

On June 3, at DACOR, William “Bill” Reese, CEO Emeritus of the International Youth Foundation USA, engaged with an appreciative audience  on  “Addressing the Youth Bulge – Is it all about Youth?”  Reese, a very experienced NGO leader who was for nine years also head of USAID’s voluntary foreign aid advisory committee, emphasized why it was so important for the development community to help countries deal within this enormous challenge.  Listen to his talk and the discussion that followed here.

Kristin Lord/George Ingram

On Monday, May 20, before a large crowd at DACOR, Kristin Lord (CEO of IREX) and George Ingram (Brookings Senior Fellow) engaged in a wide-ranging discussion of “Where is Global Development  Headed?” based on their recent interviews with 94 of the sector’s leaders.  Their report – entitled “Global Development Disrupted” – contains lots of different answers and very little consensus, which made the session particularly interesting and thought-provoking.  Listen to the presentation and the Q&As and take a look at their slides.

Anthony “Bud” Rock

On Wednesday, April 24,  at a UAA/DACOR Development Dialogue lunch, Anthony “Bud” Rock gave a highly informative and realistic presentation entitled  “Gaza from Within: The Challenges of Humanitarian Relief Efforts for Palestinians Today.”  Rock, a retired senior State Department officer and now the leader of  Global Water 2020, described NGO efforts to bring clean water to the people of Gaza and West Bank in  exceedingly difficult circumstances compounded by rapidly diminishing resources and the near elimination of U.S. aid.  Hear Bud’s talk.

Alex Dehgan

At DACOR on April 1, Alex Dehgan took his audience on a fabulous tour of beautiful and isolated parts of Afghanistan as he described how he and his colleagues worked with Afghans at the local level to establish a national park and to preserve many different exotic species of animals and birds.  Deghan, formerly USAID’s Chief Scientist, has told many of these fascinating stories in his book “The Snow Leopard Project and other Adventures in War Zone Conservation.” Hear the audio of Alex’s talk and the Q&A here.

Tony Barclay

Tony Barclay

On March 11, Tony Barclay (inter alia, former CEO of DAI) provided a wide-ranging   and   highly   perceptive assessment of the evolution of the  USAID – contractor relationships  in  his UAA/ DACOR  Development   Dialogue talk entitled “How  USAID   and  the Contractor Community Should Adapt to a Changing Development Ecosystem”.  Listen to Tony’s talk and the Q&A’s here.

Andrew Herscowitz and the Power Africa Team

Sammie Winner Herscowitz

At a sold-out lunch on Tuesday, March 5, 2019, the UAA and DACOR honored Andy Herscowitz and the USAID Power Africa Team, 2018 winner of the prestigious Service to America Medal (Sammies) for National Security and International Affairs.  Joined by USAID Counselor Chris Milligan and other guests, DACOR President Jim Benson and UAA Co-Chair Chris Crowley expressed members’ great appreciation  for the team and our delight that its work had been recognized through this US government-wide award. Hear Andy’s talk about Power Africa and the Q&As here.

Andrew Natsios (before a meeting of the UAA Development Initiatives Committee)

On January 31, Andrew Natsios, USAID Administrator from 2001-2006, shared his views with a group of about 60 USAID alumni in a wide-ranging, candid, off-the-record discussion. This exchange took place at a special UAA meeting organized by the Development Issues Committee at Arizona State University’s Washington, D.C. headquarters. Over the course of two hours, Andrew led a dialogue with former USAID colleagues covering USAID’s role in global development, Congressional earmarks, the present state of the international system and global politics, migration and fragility, the emerging role of China, climate change, and more. Click here to read notes on the presentation.


Ken Wollack

On February 4, 2019, at a UAA Development Dialogue at DACOR, recently retired long-time President of the National Democratic Institute Ken Wollack gave a wide-ranging review of the state of democracy across the globe in his talk on “U.S. Foreign Policy and Assistance: Interests and Values”. Hear the audio of his presentation and the Q&A here and read the text of his remarks here.

Larry Garber

On Monday, December 3, 2018, at a UAA Development Dialogue at DACOR, former senior USAID staff member Larry Garber offered a presentation on Zimbabwe Deja Vu: An International Observer Returns after 33 Years. Garber was the co-leader of the International Republican Institute/National Democratic Institute Zimbabwe International Election Observer Mission.  Hear the audio of his presentation and the Q&A.

Larry Cooley

On November 5, 2018, Larry Cooley, highly respected long-time leader of the development community, founder and emeritus president of the consulting firm MSI and also current President of the Society for International Development, spoke about The Changing Role of International Development in Achieving Sustainable Outcomes at Scale.  Hear the presentation and the following discussion here.

Rick Barton and Aaron Williams 

On September 14, 2018Ambassador Rick Barton and former Peace Corps Director Aaron Williams led a conversation with a very large and appreciative audience at DACOR focused on Rick’s stimulating new book Peace Works – America’s Unifying Role in a Turbulent  World.   Click here for the audio of this event.

Axel van Trotsenburg

On June 11, 2018, World Bank Vice-President for Development Finance Axel van Trotsenburg shared a fascinating analysis of how the recent World Bank Capital Increase and 18th IDA Replenishment negotiations were successfully negotiatedThese important agreements represent major accomplishments for multilateral cooperation and greatly strengthen the Bank Group’s catalytic role. Listen to the audio of his presentation and the Q&A period.

Larry Heilman

On Monday, May 21, 2018 retired USAID FSO Larry Heilman engaged in a lively two hour Development Dialogue session at DACOR about his recently published book USAID in Bolivia: Partner or Patron? Listen to Larry’s presentation and the Q&A period here and view his slides

Nancy Wilson

On March 28, 2018, Relief International’s CEO Nancy Wilson focused a highly appreciative UAA/DACOR Development Dialogue audience on the challenges of working on relief and development efforts at the ground level in some of the world’s most fragile settings.  Listen to the audio of her presentation and the Q&A period and see her slides

Jim Michel

On April 16, 2018, Ambassador Jim Michel, former USAID Counselor and Assistant Administrator for Latin America (and much more), discussed “Fragility – Implications for Peace, Security and Sustainable Development”, based on his recent report prepared for CSIS. He stressed the importance of not defining states simply as “fragile” or “non-fragile”, instead highlighting the importance of assessing the priority needs of countries individually, arrayed on a broad continuum. Hear the full audio of Jim’s talk here and see his slides here.  

John Mellor

On Monday, February 12, 2018, John Mellor, former USAID Chief Economist, Director-General of IFPRI and Emeritus Professor at Cornell, spoke to a large and appreciative UAA/DACOR Development Dialogue audience about key themes in his new book  Agricultural Development and Economic Transformation: Promoting Growth with Poverty Reduction. Hear the audio of John’s talk and the Q&As here and see his slides here.

Stephen Young

On December 15, Steve Young, who worked for USAID in the CORDS program in Vietnam, presented some of his related experiences and thoughts that are included in his recently published book: The Theory and Practice of Associative Power: CORDS in the Villages of Vietnam 1967-72. Through this experience, he has developed a concept called “Associative Power,” which mobilizes military and civilian resources for collaborative application in limited wars, state building, and, now, in sustainable development. Listen to his presentation here.

Jerry Wolgin 

At DACOR on December 4, 2017 Jerry Wolgin, a highly experienced senior USAID and World Bank economist who spent most of his career working on Africa, kept an overflow crowd of his former colleagues and other admirers thoroughly engaged  as he explored the complex issues of African Economic Growth: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow. Listen to the audio here and see his fascinating collection of slides here.

Inder Sud

Inder Sud, highly experienced former World Bank official and currently consultant to many developing country governments, gave a spirited presentation of the highlights of his new book Reforming Foreign Aid: Reinvent the World BankLessons in Global Poverty Alleviation from 40 Years of Adventures (and Misadventures) in International Development. Listen to it here and see his slides here.

Ambassador Robin Renee Sanders

On October 17, 2017 Former US Ambassador to Nigeria and the Congo Robin Renee Sanders spoke at DACOR about her new book The Rise of African Enterprises: Spurring Development and Growing the Middle Class. She described how vibrant African small businesses are a key to Africa’s progress on job creation, trade, manufacturing, and expanding the middle class.

David Steinberg

On September 18, David Steinberg, Emeritus Distinguished Professor of Asian Studies at Georgetown University and USAID Alumnus, offered an engrossing account (drawing on his long and deep experience in both countries) of “How Myanmar and South Korea Upended Early Development Expectations.”  Listen to it here.

James Foster

On May 22, Professor James Foster from the George Washington University’s Elliott School provided a clear and persuasive description of how traditional income-related measures of poverty should be complemented by use of multi-dimensional methods he and a colleague have developed.   He reported on the increased adoption of such approaches by governments and international development agencies and their important impact on facilitating more targeted policy and budgetary choices.  Hear the audio of his talk and the Q&A’s and see the PowerPoint of his presentation.

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

On Monday, April 24, UAA and DACOR members were treated to a marvelous conversation between two distinguished and outstanding leaders of the international community, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, former finance minister of Nigeria, and  Princeton Lyman, a leading American diplomat who was, inter alia, American Ambassador to Nigeria and to South Africa (and before that USAID staff).  They – and subsequently the audience – discussed the current state of African development, obstacles to growth in African economies (including armed conflicts throughout the region), the impact of severe youth unemployment, creative ideas for funding major infrastructure in Africa, the corrosive effects of entrenched corruption and many other salient topics.  Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala’s intelligence, skill, spirit, drive and great personal courage that have made her one of the world’s most admired and honored leaders were evident to all. Unfortunately, no audio recording is available for this session.

Frank Vogl

 On March 10, Frank Vogl, co-founder and a leader of the pioneering anti-corruption organization Transparency International, assessed the interwoven Challenges of Corruption, Foreign Aid and Security. He strongly encouraged the large audience at DACOR to join the fight against corruption and its devastating impact on development progress and human rights.  Hear the audio or see the video of his talk and the Q&As and/or read the text.

Jonathan Addleton

At a UAA Development Dialogue at DACOR on February 10, five-time USAID Mission Director and Ambassador Jonathan Addleton described in very moving terms the story of his period as the Senior Civilian Representative for Southern Afghanistan in Kandahar.  He has compiled these experiences in his latest book The Dust of Kandahar: A Diplomat Among Warriors in Afghanistan (six of his books are in the USAID Authors Bibliography).  Hear the audio of his talk and the Q&As.

Ishrat Husain

In a Development Dialogue at DACOR on January 25, 2017Ishrat Husain, formerly Pakistan’s Central Bank Governor, made a masterful presentation describing how and why governance weaknesses lie at the root of his country’s economic malaise. Hear the audio of his talk and the extensive Q and A session that followed here.

Kathleen and Paul Vitale

On October 24, Kathleen and Paul Vitale (retired Peace Corps and USAID FSO) fascinated their large DACOR audience with a vivid description of their retirement work in difficult-to-reach parts of Guatemala and Mexico in a determined effort to help save the Maya textile tradition through creation of their Endangered Threads Documentaries.  The UAA recognized their special contributions by selecting them for the 2016 Alumni of the Year Award. Hear their presentation and the discussion here.

Sir Gordon Conway

On September 20, Sir Gordon Conway, Former President of the Rockefeller Foundation and Chief Scientist for the UK aid program, spoke at the International Food Policy Research Institute in a program jointly sponsored by the UAA and IFPRI.  At this first such collaboration between IFPRI and the UAA, Sir Gordon laid out a comprehensive case for whySustainable Intensification is the Answer to Global Food Insecurity“. See his presentation here.

Sam Worthington

On August 1, Sam Worthington, CEO of InterAction, the largest US alliance of international NGOs, gave a far-reaching presentation about “The Change We Seek: The Evolving Role of U.S. NGOs in a Shifting AID Landscape”, bringing his audience up to date on major changes affecting this ever more important and diverse group of development partners. Hear Sam’s talk and Q&As here and read his talking points here.

Alex Thier

On June 29, former USAID head of PPL Alex Thier gave a sweeping, optimistic and insightful presentation at DACOR on “The US Development Agenda 2020: What the Next Four Years Could (Should) Bring” with strong emphasis on, inter alia, inclusive economic growth.   Hear Alex’s full talk here.

Daniel Miller

On June 6, USAID Philippines FSO Dan Miller, the third speaker in the USAID Authors series, gave a delightful and wide-ranging talk entitled Photos and Tales of Asian Nomads: The Experience of a USAID Author/Photographer”, Dan told many entertaining stories, illustrated his comments with beautiful photographs and also gave many tips on how best to design and publish photography books. Hear Dan’s presentation and see his slides.

Don Steinberg

On May 9, former USAID Deputy Administrator and current President and CEO of World Learning Don Steinberg, spoke on “Trading Places: USAID Forward and the Global Development Environment: A Partner’s Perspective”. From his unique vantage point he described the USAID he and Raj Shah found when they began their tenure, what was accomplished and how the agency looks now to the head of a mid-size NGO. Listen to Don’s talk here or read a text version.

Alan Bjerga

On March 23, Bloomberg News global food correspondent Alan Bjerga gave a wide-ranging talk entitled To Feed Everyone, We Need Everyone: Food Security in the 21st Century”. At this latest UAA/DACOR Development Dialogue, he addressed the question – “How can the poor world be fed while the rich world maintains a healthy diet?” Hear Alan’s talk and the follow-up Q&A’s here and see the associated slides here.

Jim Michel

On March 7, 2016, our own Jim Michel spoke to a large crowd at DACOR on “Beyond Aid: The Integration of Sustainable Development in a Coherent International Agenda”. Based on his recently published CSIS book of the same title, Jim’s presentation wove together the many themes reflected in the Sustainable Development Goals and highlighted how due weight for development in coherent policy decisions and realistic implementation approaches can best achieve results.   Hear Jim’s talk and the follow-up Q&As here and see the associated charts here.

Amar Battacharya

On January 29, 2016, Mr. Amar Bhattacharya, Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution, gave a masterful presentation  on “The Road from the Paris Climate Summit: The Critical Role of Sustainable Infrastructure”. He described how investment in developing countries’ immense needs for infrastructure can be met, consistent with the objective of protecting the climate, if the right policy choices are made and the critical role multilateral development banks must play is recognized. Hear the full audio of his presentation and the discussion here. 

Steven Radelet

On December 4, 2015 Professor Steven Radelet of Georgetown University (and former Chief Economist of USAID) spoke about his new book – The Great Surge: The Ascent of Developing Countries. He spelled out with great clarity, eloquence and hard data the progress made by many developing countries in the past two decades. He expressed optimism that if the right policy decisions are made this progress could continue. Hear the full audio of his presentation and the discussion here and see his slides here

Ambassador Jonathan Addleton

On December 2, 2015, Ambassador Jonathan Addleton kicked off what we hope will be a series of talks by USAID authors who are featured in the newly issued Bibliography of USAID Authors with a marvelous talk at the USAID Learning Center. He vividly described the joys and struggles of writing books while serving as a USAID Foreign Service Officer in several difficult and challenging posts. Hear the audio of his presentation here.

Ed Abel and Suneeta Sharma

On November 9, 2015, Mr. Ed Abel and Dr. Suneeta Sharma, leading figures in Palladium (formerly The Futures Group), spoke at a UAA/DACOR Development Dialogue. They addressed the question “Is Family Planning Assistance Still Needed in the 21st Century?” and described the impact of innovative software and computer models (including RAPID) they use in advising government leaders around the world about setting priorities and addressing trade-offs in development investments. See the PowerPoint presentation the speakers used (click here) and hear the audio here.

Lester Brown

On October 9, 2015, distinguished environmental pioneer Lester Brown spoke to the largest ever crowd at a UAA/DACOR Development Dialogue about his newest book The Great Transition: Shifting from Fossil Fuels to Solar and Wind Energy. To learn why Brown is so optimistic that solar and wind will soon be the dominant source for the globe’s energy needs, click here for Brown’s talk and the Q&A with the audience.

Emmy Simmons

On September 14, 2015, former USAID Assistant Administrator Emmy Simmons led a large group of alumni and other friends at a UAA/DACOR Development Dialogue in a spirited discussion of why US food and agriculture policy needs to be transformed into a national priority. The often dramatic slides she used to tell the story may be found here. Listen to her talk and the subsequent interaction with the audience here.

Masood Ahmed

On July 24, 2015, Masood Ahmed, IMF Director for the Middle East and Central Asia, spoke at a UAA/DACOR Development Dialogue on The Arab Spring Four Years On: Has the Bloom Faded? Before a very large and enthusiastic audience at DACOR, Ahmed described the current situation in the region, the likely economic impact of the spread of conflict and violence, a few signs of optimism and the role outsiders, including the IMF and other international institutions, can do to help. Listen to it here.

Bill Hammink

On July 6, 2015, Bill Hammink, USAID Mission Director in Afghanistan, provided a fascinating account of how USAID is managing a very large program in a very difficult security environment where the population has suffered from decades of war. USAID is focused increasingly on strengthening local institutions and on sustainable progress rather than quick impact. Its increased reliance on local systems and local partners is accompanied by intensive, multi-tiered oversight to assure both effectiveness and accountability. Listen to it here.

Shahid Javed Burki

On May 15, 2015, Shahid Javed Burki spoke on “Reassessing United States’ Leadership of the Global Economy”. Burki – retired vice president of the World Bank, former finance minister of Pakistan and now a widely published author and columnist – presented a largely optimistic view of the future of the US economy and its positive impact on the rest of the world. Listen here to Mr Burki’s encouraging presentation and the exchange with audience members.*

Lilian Pintea

On May 11, 2015, Dr. Lilian Pintea, Vice President for Conservation Science at the Jane Goodall Institute, spoke on “Adapting to Climate Change at the Community Level”. He provided a vivid description of the striking progress local communities have made – in part through the use of very accessible and effective geospatial technology- in areas around Gombe National Park in western Tanzania. Listen here to UAA member David Shear’s introduction, Dr. Pintea’s presentation and the Q&A with the audience. His highly informative and impressive slides may be seen here.

Rolf Anderson and Andrew Steer

In an April 13 presentation on “Climate Change and Development,” Rolf Anderson, USAID’s Director of Global Climate Change Office, described the Agency’s three priorities, adaptation, clean energy, and sustainable landscapes, and provided a number of examples. Then, Andrew Steer, President/CEO of the World Resources Institute, offered a thoughtful and realistic analysis of how the national and international institutes are addressing the balance between growth and climate change. Click here to listen to both presentations.

Scott Radloff

On March 06, Dr. Scott Radloff, Project Director of PMA2020 at the Gates Institute, Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, led a UAA/DACOR Development Dialogue discussion on “50 Years of US International Family Planning Assistance – Where Have We Been & Where Are We Going?” He illustrated how the US has led worldwide assistance in this field, arguably the most successful sector in USAID’s history. You can listen to the full discussion here and see his PowerPoint slides here.

George Ingram

On January 16, George Ingram led a discussion on “The Priorities for US Foreign Aid Reform for 2017 and Beyond” at a UAA/DACOR Development Dialogue. Now a senior fellow at Brookings, George has long been a leader in the foreign assistance community. He asked participants to vote for the reforms of highest priority. You can see and vote on his list here and hear the discussion in full here.

Ambassador Carlos Pascual

On December 17, Ambassador Carlos Pascual spoke on “The New Geopolitics of Energy” before a large and attentive group at a UAA/DACOR Development Dialogue. His most recent assignment in a distinguished and diverse career in government was as the senior advisor to the Secretary of State on global energy diplomacy. His presentation wove together with great clarity the complex interrelationships of energy to many pressing global foreign policy and economic issues. You can see his slides here and hear the discussion in full here.  

Ambassador Frederick “Rick” Barton

On November 25, Ambassador Frederick “Rick” Barton spoke at a UAA/DACOR Development Dialogue on “Managing Foreign Policy in a Messy World”. Barton retired on October 3, 2014 after 30 months as the State Department’s Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations; he was also the founding director of USAID’s Office of Transition Initiatives in the 1990s. In a wide-ranging discussion with a big crowd of USAID and State retirees, Barton noted the challenges of starting a new office with such a cross-cutting mandate in State and the importance of reaching a better balance in US foreign policy between “American ingenuity” and “natural caution”, the latter being far more dominant today. You can hear the discussion in full here.

Dr. Ibrahim Assane Mayaki

On Friday, August 1, Dr. Mayaki, Chief Executive Officer of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) spoke to a full house at the DACOR-Bacon House on “Development in Africa – Whose Agenda?” This Development Dialogue talk was a key feature of the series of meetings organized by the Africa Development Forum initiated by the UAA’s Development Assistance Committee to take advantage of President Obama’s August 6-7 Summit with nearly 50 African heads of state. Dr. Mayaki’s much appreciated talk highlighted the important positive changes taking place in Africa as well as the significant challenges created by, inter alia, a population whose average age is only 19. Hear the entire 45 minutes of his talk and answers to questions here.

Senator Tim Wirth

On Friday, June 13, Senator Tim Wirth spoke to over fifty members at the most recent UAA/DACOR Development Dialogue on the topic of “The Politics of Climate Change”. Uniquely qualified to address this issue given his long experience as a Member of the US Congress and Senate, as Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs and as the Founding President of the United Nations Foundation, Wirth kept the audience highly engaged as he spelled out the urgency of confronting the growing global climate crisis as well as the challenging political constraints to making the necessary tough decisions. The new, more interactive arrangements for the lunch permitted about 75 minutes for Wirth’s presentation and the question period. Hear the full discussion here.

Charles Kenny

On Tuesday, May 13, Charles Kenny inaugurated an experimental format for the Development Dialogue series at DACOR. Kenny, a Senior Fellow at the Center for Global Development, spoke eloquently about his optimistic view that “the rise of the rest is good for the west”, which is also the sub-title of his latest book The Upside of Down. The new format featured a buffet lunch followed by 90 minutes for presentation and discussion, doubling the usual time available for this purpose. Here the full audio here.

Maria Otero

On Wednesday, February 26, 2014, Maria Otero, founder of Accion and former USAID staffer and mostly recent Under Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy and Human Rights, spoke eloquently to an admiring audience at DACOR about the structural challenges that make collaboration between State and USAID difficult”.  She offered a number of lessons from her own experience that would enhance opportunities for collaboration – strengthening  “mutual respect, common understanding, communication and appreciation for value added”.  You can read the full text of her presentation here or listen to the audio here.

Geoffrey Lamb

On Monday, November 18, the UAA/DACOR Development Dialogue lunch featured   Geoffrey Lamb of the Gates Foundation.  Lamb is chief adviser on economic and policy matters to Bill and Melinda Gates and to the Gates Foundation’s CEO, and is a member of the Foundation’s management committee.  His topic – “Rethinking Development Assistance for the “Post-Aid” World” provocatively suggested that development aid was rapidly becoming “basically irrelevant.”  He proceeded to explain in detail what he meant and why, and to suggest what the big development challenges were likely to be in the next decade.  Hear Lamb’s talk and the Q&A session that followed by clicking here.

– UAA Friday Mornings

As many will have noted, there is a new excitement to Friday mornings. Taking advantage of USAID’s generous offer of its new Crystal City Training Center, UAA been able to offer presentations and dialogues of interest to its member alumni.  In this space, will provide summaries of our speakers have presented so that a broader audience may share in them.

Do you have an idea for a person or topic that you believe would be of interest to your alumni colleagues? If so, please send them to Alex Shakow at

Overview of Events With Available Audio or Video:

On February 19, 2015, Pauline Baker, President Emeritus of The Fund for Peace, led a discussion on assessing the potential for resiliency in fragile states. Fragile states pose difficult development challenges that require particular attention to overcoming the causes of fragility. Dr. Baker shared her approach to analyzing the related concepts of fragility and resilience. Research drawn from more than 90 countries was used to identify the main drivers of fragility and routes of recovery. To see slides of an outline of her presentation, click here. For audio of the entire session, click here.

On January 23, 2015, John Sanbrailo, Executive Director of the Pan American Development Foundation, regaled a large UAA group with his “History of US Foreign Assistance:1950 – 2015”. (In January 2014 John had led a UAA discussion on the 1789-1950 period.) John has over 40 years of experience managing international development programs. His talk was based on that extensive experience and additional research he has been doing for nearly two decades on the history of US foreign assistance. To see slides of an outline of his presentation, click here. For audio of the entire session, click here.

On December 5, alumni met at the USAID Learning Center for a discussion of Local Capacity Development: Is It Local Enough”. The session on a fundamental tenet of USAID policy was moderated by UAA member Diane Ponasik, and featured a presentation by Tom Dichter, the leader of a recently completed nine-country study for USAID that examined donor progress in implementing the “Paris Declaration” and its successors, especially country ownership and local capacity development. Liz Warfield, USAID’s first Local Solutions Coordinator and advisor to Counselor Susan Reichle, responded and, inter alia, described the array of actions underway to try to strengthen the capacity of USAID staff to address the sorts of concerns Tom flagged. You can hear the whole conversation by clicking here, and also read the full text of Dichter’s talk by clicking here.

On  September 26, Eric Postel, USAID Assistant Administrator for E3 (Economic Growth, Education and Environment) spoke on “So What is USAID Doing These Days on Economic Growth?” He noted that USAID field missions had identified five key economic growth issues of highest priority – enabling environment, SMEs/entrepreneurship, value chains, access to finance and private sector/public private partnerships – illustrating important USAID initiatives in several of these areas. However, he also noted that due to scarce budgetary resources, a number of important areas – e.g. trade assistance – have had to be cut back sharply. This broad-ranging presentation was highly informative and very interesting. You can hear it in full here.

On September 15, a group of alumni were treated to a very thoughtful talk by John Norris from the Center for American Progress on “Grading the Administrators: A Look Back at USAID’s Leadership over the Years.” Norris has written a fascinating, well-researched series for Devex on this topic (See The ensuing discussion elicited many interesting points and personal reflections from the appreciative audience along with high praise for Norris’ judgment in his overall ratings. You can hear this discussion here.

On April 25, Beth Cole, USAID’s Director of the Office of Civilian-Military Cooperation, opened what we hope will be a series of discussions focused on the ever-growing links between USAID and the military.  Her talk – “Two to Tango: USAID – DOD Cooperation in a Complex World” – outlined the various ways in which USAID staff seek to “….leverage the unique capabilities of USAID and DOD to achieve better development outcomes in pursuit of national security goals and national values.”  Her office leads efforts to align policies, plans and programs to this end while strengthening the military’s understanding of USAID’s development role and responsibilities. Ms. Cole was accompanied by her colleagues Navy Capt. Colleen Gallagher and Dale Skoric who also described their respective coordination responsibilities.  Hear the full discussion by clicking here.

Re-inventing Science and Technology at USAID. On April 3, 2014 USAID formally launched its Global Development Lab, but before that, on Thursday, March 28, former USAID Chief Scientist Alex Dehgan treated USAID alumni to a fascinating description of the background to the Lab’s creation.  At this session at the USAID Learning Center they were also given an early view on what the Lab is expected to do and how it will do it by Andy Sisson, USAID Mission Director in Indonesia, who is currently in Washington for six months to get the Lab set up while the search is on for its ultimate leader.  Click here to listen to the full discussion.

On March 7, a large group of alumni and others gathered at the USAID Learning Center for a wide-ranging review of the current state of evaluation in the State Department and USAID.  USAID alumnus Peter Davis described the involved process of developing and implementing State’s first evaluation policy. Cindy Clapp-Wincek, Director of USAID’s Office of Learning, Evaluation and Research, reflected on the progress made – and the long distance left to go –  in rebuilding evaluation capacity in USAID and in carrying out its Evaluation Policy issued in 2011.  UAA member and long-time evaluator Richard Blue moderated this discussion. The speakers’ PowerPoint presentations can be found here (Davis) and here (Clapp-Wincek). Click here to listen to the audio of this presentation.

On January 30, 2014, John Sanbrailo, currently Executive Director of the Pan American Development Foundation, spoke to the UAA on the topic of “Extending the American Revolution Overseas: Little-Known Origins of U.S. Foreign Assistance and Their Lessons for Today.” Prior to joining PADF, John served as USAID Mission Director in Ecuador, Peru, Honduras and El Salvador. An active UAA member, John has over 40 years of experience managing international development programs and disaster assistance. His talk was based on that extensive experience and additional research he has been doing for his book on the history of US assistance in Latin America.  At this very stimulating session, John made a very powerful case for a much broader understanding of the roots of American aid.  Building on the works of leading historians, John argues persuasively that the origins of foreign aid can be traced back to the American Revolution. To see a video of his presentation, click here. For a view of his power point presentation, click here.


On Friday, November 15, David Shear (USAID 1961-83) led a group of AID alumni in a fascinating and wide-ranging discussion of the rapidly growing crisis facing African elephants and rhinos.  While localized poaching of these animals is not new, it is now a major commercial enterprise where poachers hunt with sophisticated equipment and slaughter vast numbers every year to meet a growing demand for tusks and horns, particularly in Asia.   David described efforts being made to mobilize international public opinion and action to fight this destruction, as well as the many steps being taken to protect the animals’ habitats.  For further background and photos, see: and here.

On Friday, December 13, 2013, USAID Counselor Susan Reichle spoke before an enthusiastic and engaged audience of USAID alumni.  She welcomed reactions and suggestions to a draft USAID mission statement designed to reflect the Presidential commitment to help end extreme poverty around the world by 2030. She also described USAID progress in implementing priorities in the science and technology area, and the challenges associated with incorporating 900 new Foreign Service Officers into the fabric of the agency.  She expressed particular gratitude for alumni support on mentoring and for advice provided on various recent policy and guidance papers. See her full presentation here.

On Wednesday, January 15, 2014, Brookings Institution development expert Homi Kharas described to a rapt group of USAID alumni and others the highlights of his High Level Panel’s report to the UN Secretary General on the post-2015 development agenda.  He illustrated the complex process of putting together, in a UN setting, a report built upon very extensive consultations with multiple constituencies  – including special interest from the business community.  He noted the differences with the MDGs and focused on the five transformational shifts reflected in the report’s recommendations.  See and hear his presentation here.