USAID Impact Photo Credit: USAID and Partners

Archives for Global Partnerships

Video of the Week: Our New Partnership for Global Development Innovation Ventures

U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and U.K.’s Department for International Development (DFID) announced last week plans to build a global investment platform that reimagines how to support breakthrough solutions to the world’s most intractable development challenges.

Innovation has yielded dramatic gains in global prosperity. The mission of Global Development Innovation Ventures (GDIV) will be to focus resources in international development towards innovative approaches with proven, radically successful results.

GDIV will adopt the model of the Development Innovation Ventures program at USAID, designed to source powerful solutions from anywhere in the world, test them using rigorous methods and staged financing, and bring to scale those that offer more value for money than standard practice and improve the lives of millions. It will unlock investment capital from both private and public sectors, to scale solutions commercially or through public sector adoption.

Learn more about GDIV.

New ACVFA Working Group to Broaden Feed the Future’s Impact

Last week USAID Administrator Raj Shah joined the Advisory Committee on Voluntary Foreign Aid (ACVFA) to launch a working group focused on civil society collaboration under the Feed the Future initiative.

Co-chaired by David Beckmann of Bread for the World and Bruce McNamer of TechnoServe, the working group is tasked with developing an action plan for further deepening the engagement of civil society partners in Feed the Future. Read on to find out how you can provide input.

Administrator Shah delivers remarks at the ACVFA public meeting on June 12, 2013. Photo credit: Pat Adams, USAID

USAID – along with the nine other agencies that make up the Feed the Future initiative – recognizes that achieving sustainable solutions to global challenges such as hunger requires us to work in close collaboration with countries, citizens, partners, and the wider development community in almost every facet of our work. Partnership with civil society brings in expertise and awareness that allows our development efforts to have a broader impact and helps us use U.S. taxpayer dollars more efficiently and effectively as we pursue our development goals.

With this in mind, we’re excited to work with this diverse group of advisors to deepen and broaden the impact of the U.S. Government’s Feed the Future initiative. We know our civil society partners here in the United States and overseas have been looking for more formal avenues to input into Feed the Future and we look forward to incorporating additional voices and widening the scope of participants and stakeholders in this process.

Through the action plan, the working group seeks to strengthen collective progress toward the specific goals and focal areas of Feed the Future. (If you’re not familiar with them, you can find them outlined on the Feed the Future website.)

We’ve narrowed the scope of the working group by outlining five key areas where the U.S. Government is eager to hear from nongovernmental organizations, implementing partners, and other private voluntary organizations working to fight hunger and undernutrition.

The task of the working group will be to identify a set of five to ten actions within these areas where greater collaboration will maximize Feed the Future’s impact.

These key areas are:

  • Propose 2-3 specific actions that should be highlighted or prioritized within the Feed the Future Learning Agenda, or related to high profile crosscutting issues like climate, nutrition or gender, where the U.S. Government and the international NGO community can work against a common set of milestones.
  • Highlight 2-3 concrete actions that the NGO community and the U.S. Government can commit to work on together on that will strengthen local civil society with consideration to building resilience to recurrent crisis (e.g. focusing on capacity building across all programming, supporting NGO platforms organized by food and nutrition stakeholders, advancing local stakeholder education, promoting an enabling legal environment for local civil society).
  • Define a common message on the importance of eradicating extreme hunger, undernutrition and poverty that can be reflected across Feed the Future and the stakeholder community and identify new ways to communicate this message frame effectively to the American people.
  • Define or adopt a method to gauge the quality of stakeholder engagement in Feed the Future and in focus countries (e.g. possible adoption of the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program’s Quality of Participation Guidelines).
  • Propose a method for ensuring accountability and transparency from civil society and the U.S. Government in following up on the workstreams laid out in the final recommendations of this group.

The questions and comments raised by audience members at the launch of the Feed the Future working group were insightful and thought-provoking, and we’re sure there are plenty more. Now is your chance to weigh in on what you believe to be issues of high priority. The working group wants to hear from you.

Send your comments on the above items to ACVFA@usaid.gov and we’ll make sure your thoughts get to the working group members.

Cooperation for Better Development and Security

Last week, Beth Cole, Director of USAID’s Office of Civilian-Military Cooperation, presented on how USAID and U.S. Special Operations work together at the 40th annual Institute for Foreign Policy Analysis and Fletcher School national security conference. The conference brought together top U.S. and partner country officials, senior military commanders, Congressional leaders, academic-policy specialists and other non-governmental experts for a two-day exchange on the growing role of special operations forces (SOF) in twenty-first-century security. SOF currently operates in more than 75 countries, including a growing number where there are USAID programs.

Beth Cole, (left) Director of USAID's Office of Civilian-Military Cooperation speaks on the role of interagency coordination at the IFPA-Fletcher Conference on National Security Strategy and Policy, June 5, 2013. Photo credit: Tony Rinaldo

USAID coordinates with U.S. Special Operations to address complex challenges in fragile states, particularly in conflict situations, to ensure that diplomatic, development and defense efforts are mutually reinforcing. Fundamental to the relationship is communications and transparency. The two organizations have established a robust liaison capacity: two military representatives from U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) currently serve at USAID in Washington, D.C., and a USAID Foreign Service Officer represents the agency as the Senior Development Advisor at USSOCOM in Tampa, FL. This highly experienced team keeps channels of communication open between USAID and our SOF colleagues, assisting in the interaction of literally hundreds of Special Operations and USAID professionals, and arranging meetings, workshops and key leader engagements in Washington, D.C., Tampa, and in the field.

USAID and USSOCOM work together on special projects when there is a mutual need, tapping into the expertise, resources and innovations of both organizations to solve challenges. An example of this is the USAID-USSOCOM Joint Sahel project—a recently completed seven-month collaborative analysis of risk and resilience factors in the Sahel region of Africa. Initiated by USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah and USSOCOM Commander Admiral William McRaven in fall 2012, the project consisted of a desk study and regional Conflict Assessment Framework analysis that included the participation of more than 100 interagency participants and external partners. Geospatial mapping also helped to depict some of the analytical data. This project was the first major collaborative assessment coordinated by USAID and USSOCOM, and is an example of USAID’s commitment to integrating the technical expertise of our partner agencies into development and planning.

Training and education are key elements of the USAID and USSOCOM relationship. Throughout the year, USAID provides training to several hundred Army, Navy, and Marine Special Operations personnel deploying to Afghanistan in support of the Afghan Local Police/Village Stability Operations program. Agency personnel also teach in Joint Special Operations University (JSOU) courses, including its “Combating Terrorism Networks Interagency Seminar,” which analyzes the overarching social, political, and strategic currents that influence terrorist networks and assess the challenges posed to national security. To reciprocate, SOCOM allows USAID staff to take part in its educational programs and solicits USAID input in JSOU research projects in areas of mutual interest.

U.S. Special Operations Command also lends technical experts to help support USAID country and contingency planning. Recently, at the request of USAID’s Joint Planning Cell in Dakar, Senegal and through the support of the USAID-USSOCOM, an experienced SOCOM planner was sent out to train USAID staff on how the military conducts contingency planning. This experience furthered learning outcomes for both partners and is a good example of how strategic partnerships magnify results.

Achieving sustainable solutions to global challenges requires us to work in close collaboration with countries, partners of all sizes, citizens and the wider development community. “You can’t surge trust,” is a key phrase of USSOCOM and the Commander’s SOF 2020 Vision Strategic Plan, and building strategic partnerships and leveraging “solution holders” is a tenet of USAID’s Policy Framework. This relationship allows the unique capabilities of USAID and U.S. Special Operations Command to be aligned to achieve better development and security outcomes in pursuit of U.S. national security goals and national values.

Accounting for Tomorrow: Partnerships for a Better World

As a former investment banker and CPA, I understand firsthand the importance that companies place on their bottom lines and creating shareholder value. Through my years of development experience, I have also come to appreciate how sustainable development in emerging market countries is critical to corporate bottom lines. Yet, longstanding development issues such as clean water, stable governments, an educated citizenry, and many others cannot be successfully solved solely through development assistance.

Members of Devex's Strategic Advisory Council meet with USAID Deputy Administrator Donald Steinberg and IDEA Deputy Director Ricardo Michel at its inaugural meeting. Photo credit: Pat Adams, USAID

Fortunately, I see the landscape evolving. Companies are increasingly looking at development as a core strategy issue rather than a matter of corporate philanthropy. Through innovative alliances, USAID is partnering with corporations, private foundations, other donor agencies, philanthropists, NGOs, social entrepreneurs and diaspora communities to mobilize the ideas, efforts, approaches and resources of all partners towards common goals.

That is why I am excited about the launch of Devex Impact’s Strategic Advisory Council. In their commitment to this initiative, the Council’s corporate, donor and NGO leaders have embraced the importance of public-private partnerships—that global challenges cannot be solved by one sector alone. The founding members of the Council—AusAID, The Boeing Company, Business for Social Responsibility (BSR), Chevron, DFID, Exxon Mobile, GAVI Alliance, IBM,  KPMG, and Orange—will provide advice to enhance Devex Impact, a collaborative website initiative by USAID and Devex, that brings together corporate, NGO, foundation, and government actors around public-private partnerships for development.

At our first Council meeting on June 3, Raj Kumar, President and Editor-in-Chief of Devex and I led a discussion of how business and development are coming together more now than ever before. Listening to representatives on the Council share their insights on developing trends in the business world confirmed for me that the 1,600 public-private partnerships built by USAID over the past decade are just the beginning. With developing countries now representing over half of global GDP and an even greater percentage of GDP growth, the places where USAID works today are the customer bases and workforces of tomorrow.

Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to speak at the Global Entrepreneurship Congress in Rio de Janeiro. It was an amazing gathering of private and public sector leaders, all focused on defying boundaries to get at the crux of the world’s problems. It also reinforced for me the idea at the core of Devex Impact—that partnerships are key to enduring development. In order to bring the message of partnerships to a broader audience, we need a platform that gathers partnership builders, enabling them to share their experiences and lessons, and connecting them to each other—and future partnership opportunities.

This is exactly what Devex Impact is doing today.

As the “go-to” site for business and development, Devex Impact showcases incredible collaborations taking place across the globe. It is a resource for companies and organizations of all sizes looking to tell the story of doing business in emerging markets. And it is a tool for professionals looking to create more sustainable supply chains, develop new business models to reach consumers at the base of the pyramid, and partner with local and international organizations. Devex Impact enables partnership builders to connect with peers across industries and disciplines to build the partnerships of tomorrow.

I encourage you to learn more about the amazing work being done by Devex Impact, the Strategic Advisory Council, and partnerships around the world at devex.com/impact.

Promoting Empowerment and Education in the Americas

This originally appeared on the White House Blog.

Last week I had the pleasure of accompanying my husband Joe on a trip to Colombia, Trinidad and Tobago, and Brazil. In each country, I witnessed the good work of the United States to promote economic growth and development through education and empowerment of women entrepreneurs.

Dr. Biden and Colombian First Lady María Clemencia de Santos met with carpentry students at Escuela Taller in Bogota. Credit: Jenny Murcia, U.S. Embassy Bogota Public Affairs Press Assistant

Colombia: Vocational Training for At-Risk Young Adults

As an educator for more than 30 years, I enjoy meeting students wherever I go. I love to hear about their experiences and see exciting and innovative programs that are working. One of those programs is the Escuela Taller in Bogota, which I had the pleasure of touring with Colombian First Lady María Clemencia de Santos. Escuela Taller is a vocational school that serves low income and high-risk youth and provides training for jobs such as carpentry, culinary arts, construction and wood working.

Since 2006, USAID has provided funding to the Bogota, Cartagena, and Buenaventura locations of Escuela Taller, funding that, in part, supported the construction of the school’s in-house restaurant and kitchen. Through the U.S. partnership, the school is mitigating gang recruitment risk factors such as lack of education, unemployment and low-self-esteem for young adults. Alumni like Jonothan Medina who attended the culinary school are now dreaming big – he wants to study in France at the Cordon Bleu! In fact, over 90 percent of the graduates from the culinary program are employed in local restaurants.

Trinidad: Women Entrepreneurs Invigorate a Local Trade

As I travel around the US and across the globe, I always notice the important role women entrepreneurs play in local economic development. Trinidad and Tobago is known for its high-quality cocoa beans, but they only make up about 5 percent of the world’s market. Women like Isabel Brash, owner of Cocobel Chocolates, and Darril Astrida Saunders, owner of Exotic Caribbean Mountain Pride, use only local products from start to finish and are trying to revive the local cocoa trade, while simultaneously promoting women’s entrepreneurship.

I toured Isabel’s kitchen and saw her turn cocoa beans into delicious bars of dark chocolate. I also heard from Darril how the U.S. State Department’s Women’s Entrepreneurship in the Americas (WEAmericas) and the International Visitor Leadership (IVLP) programs provided her with business training and networking opportunities. WEAmericas connects women entrepreneurs from throughout the Americas and leverages public-private partnerships to increase women’s economic participation.

Read the rest of this post.

 

Video of the Week: Clean Kumasi: Digital Tools to Transform Urban Waste Management

In the fall of 2012, IDEO.org partnered with Water and Sanitation for the Urban Poor to tackle the issue of open defecation. IDEO.org and WSUP were the recipients of a Development Innovation Ventures  Stage One grant to test a hypothesis that the application of digital tools could effectively change behavior related to the management of human waste.

Building off the lessons learned from rural community-led total sanitation efforts, the team worked to adapt that methodology to an urban context.

The team designed a system that allowed community members to report instances of open defecation by calling them in, in response to signs posted around the neighborhood. This information fed into a database of contacts managed by a community organizer who then called the participants to gather for meetings and clean-ups.

This video shows the IDEO.org and WSUP teams in action – from organizing hackathons in San Francisco to conducting field work in Kumasi, Ghana, live prototyping of the mobile platform and technology, and ultimately to the community gatherings and clean-ups.

IDEO.org’s project is supported by the DIV and Gates Foundation WASH for Life Partnership. Read more about the partnership’s new grantees.

Folow @DIVatUSAID  on Twitter and join the conversation with #DIVWash.

USAID and Merck Put Skin in the Health Finance Game

This originally appeared on the Devex Blog.

The U.S. Agency for International Development and pharmaceutical giant Merck have joined other donors and companies in a massive ramp-up of an existing public health financing program built to help countries that need health supplies get more bang for their buck.

The Pledge Guarantee for Health (PGH), a loan insurance program for health commodities, is emerging from a pilot phase, which supporters say showed that the program can work to get health supplies where they are needed most, faster and in larger quantities.

Early on, the PGH showed promise when it helped UNICEF deliver bed nets to Zambia months faster than usual, staving off a feared malaria outbreak during the rainy season.

USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah. Photo by: Center for Strategic and International Studies/CC BY-NC-SA

USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah announced on Thursday that the agency and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency will commit $50 million to insure 50 percent of any loan that commercial banks issue to PGH over the next five years. The guarantee doubles the amount of funding that PGH can leverage from $50 to $100 million and signals a strong vote of confidence in the two-year-old program.

Merck and the public health product developer Vestergaard-Frandsen also pledged to provide discounted health products purchased through PGH, so the loans will carry even more weight in the health commodities market.

The companies will lower pricing so that the average savings on health commodities will offset the average costs of financing the loans to purchase them.

“This announcement builds on our efforts to partner with the private sector to help end preventable child death within a generation,” Shah said in a statement.

He added: “USAID’s partnership with PGH will help make this promise a reality by ensuring that people around the world — especially mothers and their children — have access to life-saving vaccines, bed nets, and other supplies that are delivered more quickly, cheaply, and broadly than ever before.”

‘Major leap forward’ for PGH

The pledge was first assembled two years ago by the United Nations Foundation and partners including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and USAID.

In this next phase, UNF will continue to support the program, but will no longer have a financial stake in any loan guarantees.

PGH allows third-party guarantors to guarantee rapid bank loans so that recipient countries, or the NGOs that they select, can purchase and distribute antibiotics, vaccines, contraceptives, bed nets and other life-saving treatments six-to-eight months faster than if they did so through traditional donor funding channels. This fast-track process aims to address the problems of stock shortages and higher costs associated with slower supply deliveries.

With the new commitments from USAID and Merck, the pledge is poised to take a major leap forward, supporters say.

“By joining in this partnership with PGH, our company will help to provide developing countries and local health workers with improved faster access to our life-saving medicines and vaccines,” Merck President for Global Human Health Adam Schechter said in the joint statement with the USAID chief.

Schechter echoed Shah’s call for more public-private partnerships to jump-start the final push towards lagging Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). According to USAID public health officials, ending preventable child death is one goal where innovative financing and risk-sharing between government agencies and the private sector can remove road blocks and save lives.

“While the financial mechanisms may be complex, the goal of PGH is simple: to quickly and effectively reduce deaths from easily preventable diseases,” noted UNF President & CEO Kathy Calvin.

With more partners sharing more risk than ever before, there will be no shortage of scrutiny as to whether or not the pledge pays off.

Happy Baby, Happy Mama: Private Sector Partnership Gets Results with Vouchers

During the month of May, IMPACT will be highlighting USAID’s work in Global Health. Below features the important role of mothers and partnerships in Global Health.

When Scovia Ketusiime was 24 years old and five months pregnant with her second child she made a purchase that might have saved her life, the life of her baby, and that of her 18-month-old: she bought a voucher. The voucher cost $1.20 and entitled her to four antenatal care visits, a safe delivery including transport to a larger facility if needed, and a postnatal care visit.

Scovia lives in an area of Uganda with one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the country. While 88 percent of wealthy women have a skilled attendant at delivery, fewer than half of poor pregnant women deliver in the presence of a skilled attendant. To achieve the goal of reduced maternal mortality, Millennium Development Goal 5 (MDG 5), we need to increase the proportion of women who deliver with skilled attendants, and ultimately, we want every woman to deliver with a skilled provider. A critical step toward achieving this goal is partnership with the private sector.

Scovia Ketusiime holds a Healthy Baby voucher. Photo credit: SHOPS

When Scovia heard about the Healthy Baby voucher on the radio, she wasn’t thinking MDGs or partnerships. She was thinking safe delivery. Her first baby was born at home with the aid of a traditional birth attendant after three antenatal care visits at a local public facility. While her first delivery experience wasn’t bad, this time she wanted to ensure that, “in case of any complications, I can get good care.” She talked it over with her husband, and decided to buy a voucher. Happy with her decision, Scovia said that the price was affordable and that even if it had cost twice as much, she would have found a way to purchase a voucher.

The Healthy Baby voucher program is implemented by the USAID-funded Strengthening Health Outcomes through the Private Sector project in partnership with Marie Stopes Uganda. The program, supported by the Saving Mothers, Giving Life initiative, works with private facilities to ensure high quality service and with community-based voucher distributors to provide information to recipients.

The Healthy Baby voucher program set out to address the dual objective of increasing access to comprehensive obstetric care for the poor in private facilities and improving and maintaining the quality of obstetric care within the private sector. It achieved remarkable results.

Nine months after the program began, more than 10,000 vouchers had been sold. Almost 6,000 babies have been delivered to women using the vouchers to access safe delivery with a skilled birth attendant in a facility. More than 2,000 women used the vouchers for postnatal care, which included family planning counseling.

We know that when a mother dies, her children are less likely to survive. We know that two-thirds of all maternal deaths take place during the 24-hour period of labor and delivery. We know that poorer women lack access to quality obstetric care, and we know the private sector can help bridge the gap. This program shows that coupling private sector providers with low-cost vouchers can contribute to improved maternal health.

The program sounded good to Scovia. It sounded good to her husband, too. He is the one who takes her to the Kagame Maternity Home on his motorbike.

Follow USAID for Global Health (@USAIDGH) on Twitter and use #GHMatters to join in the conversation.

Saving Lives of Mothers and Babies through Family Planning

During the month of May, IMPACT will be highlighting USAID’s work in Global Health. From May 11-17, we will be featuring the important role of mothers and partnerships in Global Health.

With memories of Mother’s Day in the U.S. this past weekend still fresh in the mind—family gatherings, celebrations, festive meals, presents, flowers, and more—attention turns to the estimated 287,000 maternal deaths that occur each year, mostly in developing countries.

During this week, USAID is focusing on mothers and on how maternal health is critical to achieving its global health goals. Partnerships between the private sector and NGOs, foundations, associations, and others have allowed USAID to maximize its health impact around the world.

The death of a mother profoundly affects the health and well-being of her children. When a mother dies, her children are less likely to survive. If a mother dies in childbirth, her child is 10 times more likely to die before reaching age one.

A mother and her child in India. Photo credit: USAID

While maternal mortality remains unacceptably high throughout the developing world, a number of USAID-assisted countries have achieved significant reductions in maternal deaths from pregnancy-related causes. For example, several countries have already achieved Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 5 (PDF)—reducing maternal mortality by three-quarters between 1990 and 2015—including the following countries in which USAID works:

  • Romania (achieved an 84% reduction, from 170 to 27 maternal deaths per 100,000 live birth)
  • Equitorial Guinea (81% reduction, from 1,200 to 240 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births)
  • Nepal (78% reduction, from 770 to 170 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births)
  • Vietnam (76% reduction, from 240 to 59 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births)

Several countries are also on track to achieving MDG 5, including Bangladesh (with a 5.9% average annual decline in maternal mortality) and Egypt (6% annual decline).

Nevertheless, even with the global decline of maternal mortality by 47% since 1990, the level is far short of the 2015 target and developing regions still have maternal mortality rates 15 times higher than developed regions.

During the 24 hours of Mother’s Day, some 720 women—one every two minutes—died in pregnancy or childbirth—and about 8,000 newborn babies died. The 24-hour period of labor and delivery and the first day of life for babies, in particular, is the most dangerous time period for mothers and babies. Most maternal and newborn deaths during this time period could be prevented, however, with critical, lifesaving interventions, including:

  • Strengthening the capabilities and number of skilled birth attendants
  • Promoting access to and use of low-cost products, such as applying chlorhexidine (a common antiseptic) to the umbilical cord stumps of newborns—which has the potential to prevent 500,000 global neonatal deaths each year
  • Meeting unmet need for family planning could prevent more than 100,000 maternal deaths annually by giving couples the ability to decide when and how many children to have. Expanding access to family planning will help women bear children at the healthiest times so that mother and child are more likely to survive and stay healthy.

USAID programs work to ensure women have access to a wide range of voluntary family planning methods ranging from CycleBeads® (a natural family planning method) to oral contraceptives and other short term as well as long-acting methods, from which a woman can choose. Expanding access to long-acting reversible contraceptives and permanent methods (LARCs and PMs) is particularly important. An article published in the Global Health: Science and Practice Journal (co-published by USAID and the K4Health Project at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Center for Communication Programs) explains that if 1 of 5 women in sub-Saharan Africa who were currently using pills or injectables switched to contraceptive implants, more than 1.8 million unintended pregnancies would be averted in 5 years, resulting in 10,000 fewer maternal deaths. Although use of implants worldwide remains low, they are increasingly popular and in high demand when they are actually available in family planning programs.

Not surprisingly, many programs are focusing on increasing access to family planning in countries with low contraceptive prevalence, such as in Africa where modern method use is at 23%. But family planning programs in countries with relatively high contraceptive prevalence also could have the potential for improvement. For example, women in Indonesia have, on average, 2.6 children, and modern method use is at 58%. However, contraceptive prevalence has been stagnant since the 1990s and the method mix is skewed toward short-acting methods, even though Indonesian couples are more likely to want to limit births. Nearly 8 in 10 modern method users rely on injectables and pills. Meanwhile, use of IUDs has dropped dramatically over the years, from 13% in the early 1990s to only 4% today, and use of implants and sterilization is at about 3% each.

The K4Health Project is implementing the Improving Contraceptive Method Mix (ICMM) Project to better understand the situation on the ground. Why has use of certain long-acting methods, such as IUDs, dropped over time? Do women know about LAPMs? Are they interested in using these methods?

This information will help inform the design of an integrated advocacy and knowledge management intervention—informed by Advance Family Planning-Indonesia’s advocacy methodology—in 6 districts in East Java and West Nusatenggara. ICMM will support the availability of a broader range of contraceptive methods for women and couples, with the ultimate goal of improving maternal health in Indonesia. The innovative project, funded jointly by USAID and AusAID and implemented by K4Health in collaboration with the Cipta Cara Padu Foundation, the Center for Health Research at the University of Indonesia (CHR-UI), the Indonesia Ministry of Health, and the National Population and Family Planning Board (BKKBN), is a unique partnership that leverages valuable resources and complementary skills and capabilities of various stakeholders.

With knowledge partnerships such as these and others designed to save mothers and babies through family planning, combined with improved services for pregnant women, perhaps Mother’s Day celebrated in the U.S. will one day become an international celebration event for women all around the world, if not in name, then at least in practice.

Follow USAID for Global Health (@USAIDGH) on Twitter and use #GHMatters to join in the conversation.

Road to Impact: A Small Business Journey with USAID

Today USAID hosts its annual Small Business Conference at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington. Below are some tips for growing your small business with USAID from Social Impact, recipient of the 2012 USAID Small Business of Year Award.

This week Social Impact (SI) is proud to receive USAID’s inaugural Small Business of the Year Award, based on our growth and service to support USAID in Washington and overseas to accomplish its international development priorities.

It seems like just the other day that SI started as two-person company in 1996 with our same mission and vision—to make international development more effective in improving people’s lives. As the two founders, Pat Hanscom and I started SI with a small virtual team of like-minded individuals—people who cared about development and thought that they could help big international agencies, like USAID and the World Bank, to become more results-oriented and people-centered in their approaches to working with  developing countries. These are really the very same principles central to USAID Forward and USAID’s strategic plan. Yes, earlier versions of this thinking go way back in USAID and the international development community and when we created Social Impact we successfully spotted these needs and saw them as growth areas.

Small business owner Arnoise Clerveaux (in back) sits in her shop in Cap-Haitien, Haiti, on March 24, 2011. Photo credit: Kendra Helmer/USAID

When SI started out there were few opportunities for small businesses to get into the game. We had luck marketing SI and developing smaller contracts directly with USAID missions where we knew people and where we correctly identified opportunities to market SI’s services in project design, strategic planning, organizational capacity building, gender integration, monitoring and evaluation and participatory development. During these earlier years “relational” marketing produced a good result for us though it involved lots of meetings and hoof work. Through some of our earlier work we helped USAID create some of its good practices in participatory approaches to project design and strategy development in the field.

By the late 1990s things really got tough as USAID began to bundle all most all of its work into large Indefinite Quantity Contracts (or “IQCs”). These IQCs were hard barriers for micro and small business to break through and most of the work was reserved for USAID’s big business partners–”the usual suspects.” SI and many other small business saw token participation in USAID projects as small business subcontractors (or “subs”) but few opportunities to gain meaningful work as prime contractors, even with our demonstrated and growing capabilities.

After diverse efforts to work with development banks, UN agencies and other donors, we managed to win our first USAID IQC in 2003 with USAID’s Office of Transition Initiatives. We got to know them and they to know us through some conferences and strategy sessions that we facilitated as a sub. Our work with OTI in fragile states put us on the map with USAID and give us some additional “street cred”, especially with USAID’s emerging focus on fragile states.

About this time we grew bolder and started to advocate with our colleagues at OSDBU for more small business opportunities. When new RFP’s came out that had no opportunities for small business we’d say, “Hey, we’re here and we have capabilities to do this!” “Why doesn’t USAID follow through on its Congressional requirements to do more with small business?” In some cases we even wrote to the House Small Business Committee and said “USAID needs to be more accountable in meeting it small business goals”. Bottom line is that our advocacy—and that of other small businesses- helped to call more attention to our capabilities and those of the small business community to support USAID. USAID’s Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBU) became our trusted ally and advocate during this time.

Things really started really started to change dramatically with the new OSDBU team led by Mauricio Vera, Director and Kimberly Ball, Deputy Director. They had a clear mandate, a strong sense of purpose, a great sense of agency politics and contracting procedures, and top-level support from the Administrator to create additional opportunities for small business at USAID. Through their peaceful and persistent persuasion, Contracts Review Boards were set up, Bureaus and Contracting Officers became more accountable for creating small business opportunities and the pressure was truly on to change things for the better.

Now USAID has an “A-” on the SBA Scorecard and most of the new generation of IQCs contain solid set-aside provisions for small business. And we’re even beginning to see some USAID missions create small business opportunities (in large part due to OSDBU’s “road shows” in the field). What was once a barren landscape for small businesses now looks pretty fertile.  I can’t imagine a better time for small businesses to get started with USAID.

Based on our experiences here are some tips for growing your small business with USAID:

  1. Know your core capabilities and advocate for them through OSDBU. Get to know your OSDBU colleagues and keep them informed about your capabilities and growing successes with USAID.
  2. Get to know USAID as your customer including its current priorities, strategy documents and quality standards in the areas of your work.
  3. Focus on the quality of your work. USAID’s rating of the quality of your work in Customer Performance Reports or “CPRs” is critical to your landing new business.
  4. Find a capable medium or large sized business or two who will subcontract with you so you can get into the game and establish your credentials with USAID. Look for business who are willing to give you a well-defined piece of the action rather than just “blowing kisses” in your direction.
  5. As resources permit, grow your management team to include people who have successful experience working with (or in) USAID in your areas of expertise. This will give you tremendous insight on how to win work and how to perform at the high level of quality that USAID expects.
  6. Don’t grow too quickly. Growing purposefully–while not overextending your capabilities–will  allow you to build your experience  while minimizing the risks for your company and for USAID.
  7. Enjoy and appreciate the value of your work! When you step back from this all, there are few industries that enable you to produce a double or triple bottom line of a financially viable company while contributing to global social wellbeing and a more sustainable environment!

Learn more about USAID’s Small Business partnership opportunities.

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