submitted by Julie Kunen
An interview with Larry Garber, Assistant to the Administrator of the newly created Policy, Planning and Learning (PPL) Bureau.
Q: Why has PPL been created?
Garber: Administrator Shah created PPL to serve a range of internal and external stakeholders with policy analysis, meaningful evaluations, strategic planning coordination, and a dedicated focus on using science and technology to solve development problems. Working with the Agency’s talented professionals, the Bureau will provide an informed and unified voice in inter-agency and external fora. Of equal importance, PPL will support USAID’s evolution as a learning organization that is results-oriented, and fosters interchange among policy, planning, evaluation, research, innovation, and knowledge- management activities. PPL will also promote active engagement with and learning from our national and global development partners.
Q: What will PPL be working on?
Garber: PPL staff from the Bureau’s five offices (Policy, Strategic and Program Planning, Donor Engagement, Science and Technology, and Learning, Evaluation, and Research) will support the Administrator’s priority goals and initiatives, which include a renewed focus on the MDGs; inclusive, country-led growth; science, technology, and innovation; and development in crisis situations. More generally, PPL will play a leadership and coordination role on matters of policy and strategic planning for the Agency, providing guidance and content for policy- and strategy-related dialogues that occur in interagency and other external fora.
Q: How does PPL differ from the old PPC?
Garber: The new PPL is different from PPC in several ways, although it will play a role similar to that played by PPC in the past in coordinating and ensuring a corporate approach to Agency policy and strategic planning. Among its unique characteristics and approaches, PPL expects to undertake its work in ways that actively interact with and serve other parts of the Agency, and that take advantage of the interplay across its substantive areas (policy, planning, learning/evaluation, S&T, and donor engagement). PPL emphasizes “open architecture,” meaning its offices will not be silos, and it will create time-limited, goal-oriented teams that cut across offices to tackle cross-cutting issues. Moreover, PPL will take an outward orientation toward other bureaus, field missions, USG counterparts, and partners and will explicitly link the Agency’s engagement with donors and other partners to policy, planning, and learning through, for example, the Agency’s overseas development counselors.
PPL ‘s Science and Technology Office is also a unique element, one that elevates the role of science and technology in shaping development approaches and champions USAID as a center of scientific excellence. Another new aspect of PPL is its commitment to working with communities of practice throughout the Agency, whether on evaluation, research, or science and technology. PPL’s goal is to facilitate the best work of the Agency in support of the Administrator’s priorities, not to supplant the role of experts in their respective bureaus.
Q: How was the announcement of PPL received outside the Agency?
Garber: Several news organizations had positive things to say about the announcement. See, for example, what Foreign Policy’s “The Cable” blog reported at: http://thecable.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2010/06/07/usaid_s_policy_planning_shop_takes_shape