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: http://elephantstory.wcs.org/ 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.
UAA/DACOR Development Dialogues
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, Gates Foundation
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.