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Archives for Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah

Video of the Week: USAID Participates in Social Media Week

In this week’s Video of the Week, Administrator Raj Shah talks about the importance of social media to further international development goals. For the first time, USAID will participate in Social Media Week, held this week. Social Media Week is a worldwide event exploring the social, cultural and economic impact of social media. This annual conference connects people and organizations through collaboration, learning, and the sharing of ideas and information.

USAID will host events during Social Media Week in Washington to amplify the role of international development in social media. Events include a panel discussion “Why is Social Media Necessary for International Development?” and a video showcase “#Popcorn + International Development” that features videos from USAID partners and missions, and others who are making a footprint in development. Lastly, USAID will host a networking event, with Global Health Alliance, to toast a week of collaboration and the power of social media to change people’s lives.

Can’t attend one of our events, but would like to join the conversation? Join us on Twitter (@usaid) and use hashtag #smwUSAID.

 

USAID Gives Back to Servicemembers at Home and Abroad

On Saturday, I joined USAID staff and their families to celebrate the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. by volunteering on the National Day of Service. With ten thousand other volunteers, we worked together to make 100,000 care packages for men and women serving our country overseas, wounded warriors here at home, and first responders who risk their lives to save and protect American families.

Administrator Rajiv Shah and daughter on the MLK National Day of Service. Photo credit: Anna Gohmann/USAID

Because we work for an agency whose mission advances human progress and dignity around the world, it was meaningful to join so many people–particularly so many from our USAID family–in giving back to our community here at home. I especially wanted to share this experience with my four-year-old daughter Amna, so that she grows up with an appreciation for the importance of giving back and an understanding of the impact community service can have on the lives of others. But Amna was not the only child there on Saturday.

It was particularly inspiring to see so many young people give up their Saturday to answer President Obama’s call to participate in the National Day of Service. As I have seen on university campuses across the country, this spirit of generosity and sense of responsibility evident in young people today reflects a desire to help advance the shared values that underpin our own agency’s mission.

Our event was organized through a great partnership between the Corporation for Community and National Service, Points of Light Foundation, and Target, among others. By bringing together AmeriCorps volunteers, university students, school groups, and service men and women, it demonstrated what we can accomplish when we come together to reach a common goal.

Please join me and check out opportunities to get involved in your community by visiting serve.gov.

Video of the Week: Administrator Shah’s Address to African Leadership on Child Survival Meeting

In an effort to catalyze global action for child survival, the Governments of Ethiopia, India, and the United States together with UNICEF convened the ‘Child Survival Call to Action’ in Washington, D.C. in June 2012. . Under the banner of ‘Committing to Child Survival: A Promise Renewed‘, more than 160 governments signed a pledge to renew their commitment to child survival, to eliminate all preventable child mortality in two decades.

At Datajam, Innovators and Entrepreneurs Unleash Open Data for Global Development

Rajiv Shah (left) serves as administrator of USAID. Todd Park is U.S. Chief Technology Officer. Photo Credit: USAID, White House.

A remarkable new tool is becoming increasingly available to help end extreme poverty and ensure dignity and opportunity for people around the world—a tool that few people think about when they consider how to bolster international development efforts. That tool is data, and in particular “open data“—data freely available in formats that are easy to use in new and innovative ways, while rigorously protecting privacy.

The possibilities are truly endless—it could be regional epidemiological statistics being made available to community health workers; or real-time weather information being made available to small-holder farmers; or loan information being made accessible to first-time borrowers. In these and countless other arenas, open data has the potential to not only improve transparency and coordination, but also dramatically accelerate progress in development.

In order to explore new ways of leveragingopen data for development and to help strengthen our commitment to open data with others inside and outside of government, we joined with colleagues from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy on December 10 for a DataJam at the White House.

Administrator Shah and CTO Park discuss open data's impact in development. Photo Credit: USAID.

This unprecedented event brought world-class innovators and entrepreneurs together with U.S. government leaders and decision-makers to discuss the impact that open development data has already had on strengthening entrepreneurship in the United States and in developing countries—and the additional impact that can be had going forward. We also brainstormed about new partnerships we could form to facilitate the opening of new pockets of data that many of us deal with in our work every day and that have potential added value across the development domain. For USAID, this effort reflects our increasing focus on throwing open the doors of development to problem-solvers everywhere.

The Datajam showcased some of the groundbreaking work that innovators and entrepreneurs have accomplished with open data in the development sphere—from tracking election transparency in Kenya with the non-profit Ushahidi; to the State Department’s Tech@State and TechCamp conference and workshop platforms that bring in-country technologists and entrepreneurs together to solve local—and global—problems; to the exciting announcement that FEWSnet, USAID’s Famine Early Warning System Network, is launching a competition to analyze USAID data to better inform and improve our own decision-making. As Presidential Innovation Fellow Dmitry Kachaev, explained, “Technology is not the hard part.  The hard part is getting the information.”

That’s where we all come in, and that’s why we are issuing a call to action for open data. There are data sets and information resources across the government that could serve a greater good and be effective tools for change if they were made more accessible and usable, while ensuring that privacy and confidentiality are always rigorously protected. We want to collect these data—these potential change agents—and present them in their most creative and effective forms. We want to engage students and volunteers to help us clean and organize the data to make this information accessible and useful, just as USAID’s Development Credit Authority did with its crowdsourcing project to clean up and map loan data records. We want these same data to be available to entrepreneurs and innovators who are building new organizations and creating local and lasting change.

Although we often talk about our business-like focus on data and the importance of delivering concrete results, the reality is that the open data movement has been inspired not only by analytical logic but also in large part by a shared passion to help change the world. When you apply your vision and expertise to this task—when you add to the growing stores of data for use in new and creative ways—you are helping an infant take its first easy breath and live to celebrate her fifth birthday. You are helping farmers grow more nutritious foods, fostering healthy families and prosperous communities. You are helping end the enduring outrage of human trafficking. This is the power of open data.

We’re excited and think you should be too.

Watch a video of the Datajam event.

Visit our website for more information about open data and learn more about the Presidential Innovation Fellows.

Rajiv Shah is the Administrator of USAID.

Todd Park is Assistant to the President and U.S. Chief Technology Officer.

How I Was Inspired to Solve Global Problems

As a senior studying public relations, I never thought about working abroad. I had the epiphany one day and decided to include international development in my career plans. I was attracted to the idea after Dr. Shah’s visit at Howard University on October 15. I was excited to learn and understand my role in international development, if there was one. Dr. Shah gave me hope that international development has a place for anyone who is willing to serve.

Administrator Rajiv Shah speaks to students at Howard University on October 15, 2012. Photo Credit: Patricia Adams, USAID.

The event opened with an inspiring and appropriate video by the university’s Communications Department, highlighting the efforts of School of Dentistry students who helped Haitians develop dental hygiene products during the annual Alternative Spring Break (ASB) Program. The opening presentation conveyed the commitment and passion Howard students have for international development and set the tone for the event.

While being a student at Howard, I participated in two domestic ASB programs: New Orleans and D.C. These two, week-long service projects changed my life. The people who were affected by me and other Howard students mentoring their children or cleaning their environment were extremely grateful. When I watched the video of the students in Haiti, it inspired me further to do international development because of the strong interest I already have in helping people.

However, the opening video was just the beginning of my inspiration to be involved in development.

Howard’s Provost Dr. Wayne Frederick spoke on the legacy of Howard’s commitment to international development. He stated that “opportunity remains promise”, which was the perfect transition into honoring the late Congressman Donald Payne, a pioneer in international development policy and his family.

“Howard University’s mantra is social justice,” said William Payne, Donald Payne’s brother. He continued, “And, I believe my brother’s work embodied social justice.”

Dr. Shah commended Howard for its work in international involvement, and excitingly introduced the new Donald Payne Fellowship at Howard University, giving more students the opportunity to go abroad and contribute to America’s positive contribution to humanity’s global needs. The fellowship provides up to $90,000 in benefits, and funds a two-year Masters degree for fellows and provides them with internship opportunities on Capitol Hill and overseas.

This was my favorite part of the event because it gave me insight on a great opportunity to catapult my interests in international development! Now, as a graduating senior, this fellowship is definitely something I will look into as I plan the next stages of my life! Overall, the fellowship is a great opportunity for all Howard students, and I am proud that my school was a part of it.

At the event, a USAID video which quoted President Kennedy, who created USAID over 50 years ago, stated, “Our problems are man-made, therefore, they can be solved by man.” The Donald Payne Fellowship will give students like those at Howard, a resource to help solve global problems.

For more information about the USAID Donald M. Payne International Development Graduate Fellowship, visit paynefellows.org.

 

Storify Features This Week at USAID

This week has been a busy one at USAID Headquarters in Washington, D.C.! We began the week by launching the Agency’s first-ever policy and program guidance  on Building Resilience to Recurrent Crisis. The widespread suffering seen across the Horn of Africa and Sahel this past year revealed that in far too many places, too many communities, families and individuals consistently rely on humanitarian assistance to survive. The policy is in response to this clear need, and together with our international development partners, USAID has committed, through its Resilience policy and program guidance, to better coordinate its development and humanitarian approaches to effectively build resilience in targeted areas of recurrent crisis.

At our launch event here at the Ronald Reagan building,  Administrator Shah was joined by a distinguished panel of guests, including His Excellency Ambassador Elkanah Odembo, Kenyan Ambassador to the United States; The Honorable Jim McGovern (D-MA); Gayle Smith, Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director at the National Security Council; David Beckmann, President of Bread for the World; Neal Keny-Guyer, CEO of Mercy Corps; and Carolyn Woo, President & CEO of Catholic Relief Services. In case you weren’t able to make the event, check out this Storify feed which recaps the event!

On Wednesday, we launched our fourth Grand Challenge for development:  Making All Voices Count. This challenge is a unique multi-donor partnership to support innovative, next-generation solutions that use web and mobile technology to grow the global movement for open government, transparency and accountability. At the launch, Administrator Shah was joined by Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and White House’s Samantha Power, Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights.

This $45 million partnership with the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID), the Government of Sweden, and Omidyar Network will support innovation, scaling-up and research that will enable better citizen engagement with governments and help governments deliver to their citizens.  Check out this Storify feed re-capping the event!

Photo of the Week: Administrator Shah Travels to Turkey to Visit Syrian Refugees

USAID Raj Shah greets young Syrian children in Turkey. Photo Credit: Adem Altan / AFP

This week, USAID Administrator Shah traveled to Turkey where he met with senior officials to discuss the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Syria and assistance for those affected by the crisis. While in Turkey, Administrator Shah met with senior Turkish Officials at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Prime Minister’s Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency (AFAD) along with representatives of the Turkish Red Crescent and the World Food Program. Administrator Shah also visited areas along the Turkish border and spoke with individuals who have fled the violence in Syria.

Recipe: Raj and Shivam Shah’s rainbow hash browns

Originally featured on the One Campaign

Ever since ONE members started submitting recipes to our Digital Sweet Potato Cookbook, I’ve been searching for that perfect dish to cook and write about for the ONE Blog. It had to be something simple, healthy and versatile. So, when I saw USAID Administrator Raj Shah’s family recipe for rainbow hash browns, I knew I struck gold.

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The Japanese have long held the belief that eating dishes with at least five colors is the key to good health — so I was pleased to see that this dish had red peppers, orange sweet potatoes, yellow corn, green peas and spinach and purple onions. Sweet potatoes and spinach are particularly nutrient-dense, and it’s foods like these that need to be on the plates of the world’s poorest children to help them grow healthy and strong.

These rainbow hash browns are great because you can eat them for almost any occasion — under a fried egg for brunch, as a side dish for roasted chicken, as a topping for bruschetta. In my case, I tossed it with some whole grain spaghetti with a little extra olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice. And it’s super easy to cook. I think the hardest part was cutting the sweet potatoes up into cubes.

The Shah family didn’t include specific measurements in their recipe, so I took the liberty of adding more of what I liked (corn and peas) and less of what I didn’t (red peppers… I’ve never been a big fan!). This is the kind of dish that can’t go wrong — so I hope you give it a try just like I did. Here’s a step-by-step:

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Rainbow Hash Browns (or Rainbow Bruschetta)
Submitted by USAID Administrator Raj Shah

Dice sweet potatoes, red bell pepper, red onion and garlic and sauté in pan (with olive oil) until sweet potatoes are slightly charred but tender.

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Add frozen or fresh green peas and corn and sauté for a few more minutes. Add fresh chopped spinach or kale and sauté for a few more minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.

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Garnish with freshly chopped parsley or cilantro. Serve warm with eggs in lieu of traditional hash browns, or on toasted baguette for an alternative bruschetta, or simply as a hearty side dish to any tasty meal.

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Now that sweet potatoes are on your mind, take the next step and SIGN OUR PETITION to end global child malnutrition around the world. Nutrient-dense foods like the sweet potato are a vital part of a child’s health, but far too many children don’t have access to these kinds of vegetables. So, let’s urge world leaders to make it happen:

Live at UNGA – Day Three

To see the online conversation at UNGA, visit USAID’s Storify Feed

Day three at UNGA included two marquee events spotlighting progress to date on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition.  We also announced a new partnership to expand access to contraception for 27 million women and girls in low-income countries.

With only 15 months until the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) deadline, USAID partnered on an event with the UK Department for International Development for a second year to draw attention to the importance of the global community working together to reach the MDG targets by 2015.  The event brought to life the enormous development advancements made on the way to achieving the MDGs and featured innovators from across the development community sharing transformative programs and policies.  The world has met two MDG targets ahead of the 2015 deadline – poverty has been cut by 50 percent globally and the proportion of people with no safe drinking water has been cut in half.

That afternoon, Administrator Shah co-hosted with other G8 members the New Alliance: Progress and the Way Forward event.  President Obama announced the New Alliance for Food Security & Nutrition earlier this year, in which G8 nations, African partner countries and private sector partners aim to help lift 50 million people in sub-Saharan Africa out of poverty in the next 10 years by supporting agricultural development. Initially launched in Ethiopia, Ghana, and Tanzania, at the event, representatives from the New Alliance, G8 countries and the private sector announced the expansion to other African countries, including Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, and Mozambique.

Finally, Administrator Shah took part in the UN Commission on Life-Saving Commodities for Women and Children. Prior to the meeting, Dr. Shah joined the Commission Co-Chairs, Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg of Norway and President Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria, alongside former President Bill Clinton, to launch a new partnership to make a safe, effective, long-acting, reversible method of contraception available to more than 27 million women in the world’s poorest nations. Under the agreement, Bayer is reducing by more than half the current 18 USD price of its long-acting, reversible method of contraception, Jadelle, in return for a commitment to assure funding for at least 27 million contraceptive devices over the next six years.  Dr. Shah stated, ”The US Agency for International Development is proud to have funded the development of this life-saving product. Today is a major step forward to making this product more accessible to millions of women, empowering them with the ability to make decisions about their health and family.”

As always, follow us live on Twitter to keep up with the latest developments!

USAID Book Club: A Farewell to Alms

Fall semester @USAID banner image

As part of USAID’s Fall Semester, we will host an online book club for our readers this fall. The Impact Blog will post suggestions from our senior experts at USAID to suggest a book on important issues in international development.  We’ll provide you and your book club with the reading suggestions and discussion questions, and you tell us what you think! Our fall reading list will  explore solutions to the most pressing global challenges in international development—mobile solutions, poverty, hunger, health, economic growth, and agriculture.

This week’s choice comes from: USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah

Dr. Rajiv Shah serves as the 16th Administrator of USAID and leads the efforts of more than 8,000 professionals in 80 missions around the world.

Dr. Rajiv Shah serves as the 16th Administrator of USAID and leads the efforts of more than 8,000 professionals in 80 missions around the world.

Book: A Farewell to Alms: A Brief Economic History of the World, by Gregory Clark

Synopsis: The source of human progress has long been a subject of debate. What makes rich countries rich, and poor countries poor? In the this book,  University of California, Davis, Economist Gregory Clark offers a provocative take on the age-old question, arguing that it was culture—rather than geography, natural resources or centuries of exploitation—that left some parts of the globe behind.

According to Clark, relative stability and effective workforces enabled certain societies to take better advantage of the Industrial Revolution’s new technologies and opportunities. Those countries with lax systems or undisciplined workers lost ground, and stayed there.

Clark’s book is skeptical of whether the poorest parts of the world will ever achieve real progress. For development professionals, it offers up a challenge to the belief that outside intervention can help bridge the vast economic divide between rich and poor.

Review:  This book impacted me because it shows how for hundreds, or even thousands, of years basic economic progress was largely stagnant. You didn’t have rapid compound increases in living standards until the Industrial Revolution when some countries and some societies got on a pathway towards growth – towards better health, longer life expectancy, higher income per person and more investment in education. Others remained on a slower-moving pathway.

That great divergence, and the study of it, is at the core of development. It is that divergence that we try to learn from and correct for. We define success in development as helping communities and countries get on that pathway towards improved health and education, and greater wealth creation.

I didn’t choose this book because I think it is the definitive story on development, but rather because I share its focus on core economic growth as the driver of divergence.

I disagree where Clark concludes that some societies failed to take advantage of the availability of modern technology because their cultures were antagonistic to development. With the right conditions in place, you can unlock a formidable work ethic from a range of different cultures and communities. The last 50 years have shown us that. By investing in local capacity and local institutions, we can leave a legacy of economic infrastructure, strong and capable leadership, and transparent, effective public and private sector institutions.

USAID’s partnerships in Latin America helped country after country develop strong institutions. The same can be said for South Korea. Unfortunately, there have been examples where aid and assistance have been provided in a manner that was not as sensitive to building lasting local capacity and institutions. This is true for all partners, not just our Agency. That’s why we’ve launched a program called USAID Forward, to refocus on working in a way that will create durable and sustained progress.

Administrator Shah is on Twitter at @rajshah. You  can also “Ask the Administrator” your questions on Crowdhall

Discussion Questions

1. Do you agree with Clark that some societies failed to take advantage of the availability of modern technology because their cultures were antagonistic to development?

2. The Nobel prize-winning economist Robert Solow has said Clark does not take into account how institutional factors, such as cronyism, inequitable taxation and ineffectual government cripple development. What role do you think these institutional factors play?

3. Clark challenges how effective outside intervention can be in helping poor nations progress. Do you agree?

4. Regardless of why some nations have fallen behind, how do you think they can bridge that gap today?

5. Has your world view changed after reading this book and how?

Get Involved: Use the comments section of this blog post to share your answers, or tweet them to us at #fallsemester

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