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USAID administrator Rajiv Shah sets new direction for the agency

February 11, 2011

A few weeks ago Rajiv Shah, the Indian-American physician, former USDA official and Gates Foundation executive appointed administrator of the aid agency in the fall of 2009, presented his plan for overhauling the way the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) operates.  Two main points: Bring a renewed focus on tighter and more objective reporting, evaluation and monitoring to USAID projects and bring greater entrepreneurialism to the on the ground the work of the agency’s global development efforts.

The new evaluation policy requires performance evaluation by independent third parties for every major USAID project. And to better evaluate the impact of field projects, the agency will not only report results, but collect baseline data and implement studies that explain what would have happened without U.S. intervention. Shah also says reforming USAID contracting will result in accelerated “funding to local [non-governmental organizations] and local entrepreneurs, change agents who have the cultural knowledge and in-country expertise to ensure assistance leads to real local institutions and lasting, durable growth.”

Certainly, there is a similar trend in philanthropy – a growing expectation that grants and dollars be better tracked and assessed to measure impact and a growing interest by all sectors in entrepreneurial drive as key to social change.  Institutionalizing these elements of giving that Shah honed at the Gates foundation into a government agency will be challenging,  but we applaud his dedication and leadership.

Afterall, philanthropy shares these goals…to not only see results but to figure out how to best do the work and then attempt to accomplish it.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. February 12, 2011 4:18 pm

    Sometimes over excessive monitoring is counterproductive

  2. asridhar permalink*
    February 14, 2011 2:56 am

    I agree that’s a concern – I hope he’s not just scape-goating consultants etc. for political points. I get concerned about the same suspicion of nonprofit professionals and overhead costs, which often help make this type of important work sustainable. Excessive monitoring can be counter-productive, but hopefully some of the checks Raj proposes will ensure more aid reaches the people who need it.

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