Since launching eight months ago, the U.S. Global Development Lab has rallied a global community of innovators around our shared goal of ending extreme poverty. Less than a year in, it is pursuing a diverse array of projects—like seeding start-ups through the Global Innovation Fund, preserving biodiversity in Brazil by harnessing advanced data analytics, and reducing child mortality in India through our new Urban Sanitation effort.

At the core of these efforts is a focus on working hand-in-hand with both global and local partners—enabling us to make an impact faster, cheaper, and more sustainably.

But in doing so, our Agency is focusing on doing business differently.

We are deepening our engagement with innovators—including co-creating through the new Development Innovation Accelerator, and hiring technical experts through flexible personnel authorities.

We are approaching challenges in new ways—crafting a statement of the problem, and then opening it up to the brightest minds around the world to solve. Using this public-facing approach, our new Ebola Grand Challenge generated more than 1,300 innovative proposals in one month alone.

We are broadening the scope of the partners we work with—like our Frontiers in Development innovation marketplace and the Higher Education Solutions Network TechCon, which brought together universities, corporations, and governments to share their best ideas in development.

We are embracing smart risk, iterating quickly, and learning from failure.And we are working to scale innovations with immense potential—likeelectronic payment systems—to millions of people in the world’s most vulnerable communities.

Today, we are thrilled to announce steps to take these efforts to a new level—as next month, the Lab will welcome Ann Mei Chang as its first Executive Director. With extensive experience in the technology industry, a commitment to public service, and a depth of expertise in development, Ann Mei will accelerate our Agency’s commitment to harnessing science, technology, innovation, and partnerships in every place we work.

Prior to USAID, Ann Mei served as the Chief Innovation Officer at Mercy Corps, where she focused on leveraging mobile technology to improve the lives of the poor. She also served as the Senior Advisor for Women and Technology at the U.S. Department of State—playing a key role in harnessing technology to improve the lives of women and girls in developing countries, and increase the representation of women in the technology sector. Throughout her career, Ann Mei has worked closely with USAID—including through the launch of the Alliance for Affordable Internet, a public-private partnership that aims to expand Internet access to one billion people.

Ann Mei has more than twenty years of engineering and leadership experience in Silicon Valley, including serving for eight years as a Senior Engineering Director at Google. At Google, she also led the product development team for Emerging Markets, with a mission to bring relevant mobile and Internet services to the two-thirds of the world’s population that is not yet online. In addition, Ann Mei has held leadership roles at several leading companies including Apple,Intuit, SGI, and several startups.

Under Ann Mei’s leadership, the Global Development Lab will continue to focus the world’s brightest minds on our biggest shared challenges—lifting millions out of the tragic cycle of extreme poverty.

Please join us in welcoming Ann Mei to our USAID family. 


The authors both served as Acting Executive Directors of the Lab.