Submitted by Moira Whelan, Deputy Assistant Administrator for Public Affairs
Every day, USAID talks to the families around the world receiving our aid and who are recipients of our programs. We do this in many ways–meetings, events, SMS texting, and websites in native languages, and in parts of the world most Americans have never seen.
We also work to make sure that Americans understand the value of their investment and how it contributes to the overall foreign policy goals of our country though our blog, our website, telling our story, Frontlines, press releases and many other ways. We talk about Feed the Future, Global Health and many other top development priorities so Americans can see how they’re contributing to the betterment of societies around the world.
Both of these functions are critical to the transparency efforts at USAID. We want people to know what we do and how we do it. Those who invest their tax dollars around the world need to know how it’s being spent and who it’s impacting. Those receiving assistance from the American people have a right to know who is providing it.
This week, those of us tasked with this mission are taking time to look at how we can do a better job. This is something that USAID has never done before. We’re also celebrating the people who do this work and their unique stories. You see our hard work but we want you also to know a little more about how we work.
For the first time, USAID will host our Development Outreach and Communications Specialists (DOCs) for a special training in Washington. The DOCs are tasked with implementing the requirement of the US Foreign Assistance Act to communicate to recipient audiences that the aid they’re receiving is “American aid”. Docs have gathered before for regional training sessions and for skills trainings on various topics, but they’ve never gathered all in one place, and they’ve never come to Washington.
This is important for a few reasons. First, because of who the DOCs are. All are experienced professionals: former journalists, photographers, event planners. More than half are citizens of the countries in which USAID works. USAID Missions are unique this way–we understand that to really assist the people of a country, we must work with them to implement our programs, so more than half of USAID employees are actually citizens of the countries in which we work. They’re professionals in their field and work side-by-side US citizens to get our work done in the most effective way possible.
Just imagine: some are individuals who have for years, told their fellow citizens in countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America how generous Americans are–and yet they’ve never been here. Others are Americans who picked up everything to move abroad simply to tell our story and make sure the stories of the people we help are known around the world. Keep checking back to the blog because we’d like you to meet some of them and they will be blogging about their experiences.
Second, this conference is important because the close coordination between communicators in our missions and in the United States are how we know our efforts are having individual impact. If you read Frontlines or check out “Telling our Story” you’ll learn more about the individuals we meet along the way. Meeting these people, getting to know them and then telling their story is an important way for us to communicate to Americans how USAID is investing around the world.
We’ve got big things planned: visits with White House and State Department senior staff, and meetings with journalists and our implementing partners. We’re training on social media and other topics, and we’ll have a little BBQ to boot. We’ll be working overtime to make sure you stay informed while getting ideas for how we can constantly improve. Stay tuned for updates!