Submitted by Ruth Levine, Deputy Assistant Administrator for USAID’s Bureau for Policy, Planning and Learning

Today is the launch of USAID’s first “Evidence Summit,” where scholars and practitioners will put their heads together to ensure that state-of-the-art research and evaluations are used in what we do as an Agency every day.  During the next day and a half, USAID staff, faced with making tough calls about how to design and implement development programs, will have a unique chance to learn from and share ideas with world-class scholars who are collecting and analyzing data, testing hypotheses about what works and what doesn’t, and synthesizing findings across disciplines ranging from economics to anthropology and political science.

Speakers at Panel "Learning from USAID Learning Efforts" left to right: Leah Werchick, USAID/OTI Nathanial Christie, USAID/Colombia, Angela Martin, UISAD/AFR,Harry Bader, USAID/OCR Photo Credit: USAID

Our newly launched Bureau for Policy, Planning and Learning expects to hold several such summits over the course of our first year. These summits will instill more rigor and discipline into how the development entrepreneurs at USAID chart the Agency’s future.

This first Evidence Summit focuses on one of the biggest challenges we face in this Agency:  How to make sure we’re making the most effective possible contribution to the national security goal of countering insurgency and combating terrorism.   It is hard to imagine a more timely and important set of questions than the ones being posed at this event today: How and why does radicalism emerge?  What strategies that are effective – or not – in countering the formation of terrorist organizations? And what impact does development have on the effort to counter insurgency?

The researchers at the Evidence Summit, including Dr. Eli Berman of the University of California San Diego and Dr. Jacob Shapiro of Princeton University, will bring new empirical research to help us think through these questions.  Some of these findings will force us as development practitioners to ask difficult questions about our way of doing things.

The Summit’s full conclusions will be shared in-house through briefings, video and other means.  And the results will be borne out for all to see in improved, high-impact programs in the field.