In FY 2010, USAID launched USAID FORWARD, an integrated package of operational reforms to modernize the Agency and strengthen its capacity to achieve high-impact development. Each of the reforms supports the Agency’s capacity to make difficult but vital tradeoffs and set priorities. The result will be greater value-for-money in the development programs managed by the Agency. Following are specific areas of reform and some accomplishments to date.
Procurement: USAID is strengthening partnerships with host-country institutions to create sustainable development conditions. This year, the Agency piloted a process to assess risk and identify risk mitigation measures for partner country financial management and procurement systems for delivering foreign assistance. The Agency also revised policy on the use of Fixed Obligation Grants to include new eligibility requirements and corresponding pre-award survey checklists to facilitate the use of direct awards to local organizations.
Talent Management: USAID is improving its human resource functions to meet the development challenges of the 21st century, and attract and retain the best development professionals. The goal of the Development Leadership Initiative is to double the Agency’s Foreign Service Officer Corps and expand recruitment to attract a diverse range of professionals including mid-career talent into the Foreign Service. Adequately staffing missions in Africa and ensuring that countries benefitting from the Global Health and Feed the Future initiatives have sufficient technical staff in place to effectively implement the associated programs are both priorities. USAID is also more effectively using the expertise of its Foreign Service National (FSN) staff through a fellowship program and an FSN Senior Advisory Corps. Further, the Agency is extending benefits to same-sex domestic partners of its gay and lesbian employees.
Rebuilding Policy Capacity: A new Bureau for Policy, Planning, and Learning was created to promulgate evidence-based development policies and strategies for the Agency. Key priorities for the bureau include supporting the preparation of Country Development Cooperation Strategies, which were initiated in 20 countries in FY 2010; developing key policy and strategy documents to bring the best available evidence to bear in guiding Agency actions; and bringing the development voice to interagency policy discussions.
Budget Management: A new Office of Budget and Resource Management in the Office of the Administrator will better link budget allocations to program planning. The Office will support preparation of budget recommendations to the Department of State and improved execution of appropriations. This renewed capacity will increase the efficient use of the Agency’s resources at a time of constrained foreign affairs budgets.
Monitoring and Evaluation: USAID is enhancing its capacity to assess, learn, and be accountable for its results. This year the Agency updated its evaluation policy to raise its rigorous standards of methodology, objectivity, transparency, and learning. The enhanced monitoring and evaluation process better links these efforts to program design, budgeting, and strategic planning. In addition, together with State, USAID initiated a comprehensive Streamlining Initiative to reduce the internal reporting burden and improve the efficiency of external performance reporting processes.
Innovation: USAID launched the Development Innovation Ventures grant program to develop scalable solutions to development challenges. The first recipients are improving rural solar access, creating an affordable fuel-cell powered bicycle, and developing a new way to measure the effectiveness of a cellular text messaging election-monitoring platform in reducing election fraud in Afghanistan.
Science and Technology (S&T): USAID is enhancing its capabilities through better use of Geospatial Information Systems, a framework of Grand Challenges for Development focusing on key scientific and technical barriers to development, funding cooperative research grants, and improving access to scientific knowledge and resources. The S&T reforms were launched through a conference called Transforming Development through Science, Technology, and Innovation that engaged more than 65 of the world’s leaders from academia, the private sector, and the Federal Government.
In addition to the USAID FORWARD accomplishments, the Agency developed the following plans to improve its efficiency and effectiveness as a premier development agency:
Taken together, these management accomplishments and reforms are enabling USAID to reclaim its position as the preeminent leader of development assistance in the U.S. Government and to more effectively meet the challenges of the 21st century.
USAID / ASGP Kabul Staff
The U.S. Ambassador’s Small Grant Program is strengthening the capacity of women-focused civil society organizations to contribute to the social, economic, and political development of women throughout Afghanistan. With funding and support from USAID, women learn vocational skills at the Afghan Women’s Initiatives organization. Most of the participants of this project are widows or have disabled husbands, and will soon be able to supply the local market with cabinets, chairs, tables, and desks. The sale of the furniture produced will improve each woman’s economic situation and raise her standing within her family and community.