You’ve heard USAID talk about selectivity and focus in theory, but what do these principles mean in practice?

In response to the global trends that are reshaping the development landscape and in line with the QDDR and PPD, USAID will apply seven operational principles across the Agency to help us focus on achieving and measuring results. These principles are not new; many have a long and rich history within the Agency. But under the USAID Policy Framework, they will be applied systematically and with greater discipline and analytical rigor to demonstrate results at a higher level.   One of these principles is the application of selectivity and focus to our programmatic decisions.

According to this Policy Framework, selectivity is about where USAID invests its resources. It demands that the agency invest resources in countries or sectors where they are likely to have the greatest impact on development objectives at the country and/or global level. The key to applying selectivity is (1) gaining a good understanding of the conditions on the ground that are needed to “move the needle” in a certain development objective, and (2) applying clear, measurable, and relevant criteria for selecting countries, sub-national regions, or sectors on the basis of those conditions.

Focus is about the total volume of resources the agency invests in a particular country or sector. It demands that the total volume of resources invested is large enough to have a meaningful, measurable, and lasting impact. Applying this principle requires (1) estimating on the basis of evidence the minimum level of resources required to produce such an impact, and (2) ensuring that the resources we are devoting to the challenge—or leveraging from other donors—clear that threshold. Investments that fall under that threshold should be reconsidered and, where appropriate, redirected.

In keeping with these principles, USAID has worked aggressively to shift resources to countries where they are needed the most, to activities that are the most cost-effective, and to those programs where USAID will have the most sustainable impact. Here are some examples:

•            State-USAID’s FY 2012 Budget Request eliminates bilateral Development Assistance in 11 countries, a total of $44.9 million. The reductions target countries with rapidly expanding economies or those who should be graduating from assistance, those exhibiting a weak commitment to good governance, or funding was reprioritized to countries where programs will have the greatest sustainable impact.

•             State-USAID has further focused its resources and reduced the scope of its investments by eliminating program areas in the FY 2012 Budget Request. USAID eliminated approximately 115 programs areas (or 11 percent) since FY 2010.

•             In USAID’s Global Health account, the FY 2012 Budget Request reallocated $142 million from lower priority countries to higher priority countries to accelerate progress toward the Global Health Initiative goals.

USAID will continue to implement the principles of selectivity and focus over time.