On Aug. 1, Angelique Crumbly, assistant administrator to the Bureau for Management, Susan Reichle, counselor to the Agency, and I spoke before hundreds of InsideNGO community members in a plenary session at the InsideNGO Annual Conference in Washington, D.C. For us, having an in-person, live discussion where we engage our partners directly was of the utmost importance. This venue allowed our community of development professionals the chance to engage on current topics and learn about each other’s practices and concerns for the future.
We started the session by discussing exciting changes happening within USAID, including our USAID Forward agenda, strategic management reforms and changes to Acquisition and Assistance policies. The current USAID Forward model focuses on collaboration and expanding our range of partners, and we discussed how this approach is more inclusive, transparent and results-based.
After the brief overview, we listened to firsthand accounts from our partners about their concerns, including a sense of inconsistency and the level of customer service inside the Agency. USAID has recognized these issues, and is working hard to ensure that the problems are corrected. I was pleased to announce that a new Acquisition and Assistance (A&A) Ombudsman will be joining the Agency soon. The A&A Ombudsman is a neutral Agency official responsible for managing external concerns and making recommendations for change, and I encouraged our partners to utilize this resource to the fullest.
Susan also invited the community to join the USAID Learning Lab. Already, there are thousands of members from different community sectors that come together here virtually to share feedback and best practices.
Another central topic of concern was the impact of budget sequestration (PDF) on the Agency and the community. To that end, USAID has established a sequestration leadership team to look at the potential impacts of these budget decisions. In the spirit of open dialogue we committed to keep them informed as soon as it is practical to do so.
Many audience members told us how much they appreciated our willingness to answer questions. We are committed to an open dialogue and believe it will allow us to focus on win-win opportunities. Together we can produce sustainable approaches to development, share resources, risks and results, and achieve the highest scale of impact – not only for the countries we serve, but also for the American taxpayer.