Welcome to the 2021 DRG Virtual Conference!

Speeches Shim

screenshot of the 2021 DRG Conference from June 21 - July 1, 2021

The 2021 DRG Virtual Conference was held online from June 21 to July 1, 2021 and included four plenaries, 14 technical sessions, and four networking sessions. The event featured USAID Administrator Samantha Power, 64th Secretary of State and Chair, National Democratic Institute Madeleine Albright, and Former National Security Advisor and Board Chair of the United States Institute of Peace Stephen Hadley as keynote speakers. The conference was attended by 906 individuals from 85 different countries!

screenshot of the 2021 DRG Conference with Administrator Samantha Power, from June 21 - July 1, 2021

“The struggle for democratic expansion can’t be about rhetoric. In the face of serious backsliding, we need to clearly demonstrate that democracies can deliver for people, including in the United States.”       - Administrator Power during the Opening Plenary

Participants were taken by the inspiring remarks throughout the conference, including that of the new Administrator. Additionally, throughout the conference, colleagues shared their own inspirational DRG stories in three minute-long videos. Hear their experiences and connect by watching these 16 videos available in our very own DRG StoryCorps.

This year’s 2021 DRG Photo Contest winner is Mikheil Meparishvili for Equality Movement, a Georgian civil society organization. Equality Movement partners with USAID to advance equal human rights protections for all Georgians, combatting workplace discrimination against members of the LGBTQI+ community through evidence-based advocacy and awareness raising activities. The second place winner is a photo taken by the partner Management Sciences for Health, of the USAID ACCESS Program that highlights Wi-Fi internet infrastructure being installed in a high-mountain community in Georgia. The third place winner is a photo taken and submitted by Jelena Popovic from USAID/Serbia. The photo depicts the “Red Badges'' initiative, supported by USAID’s Civic Action for Accountability rapid response program, which organized a guerilla campaign in front of the Smederevo City Assembly, Serbia in order to raise awareness about negative consequences of polluted air in February 2021. Check out all of the 2021 DRG Photo Contest finalists as well.

Photo Credit: Mikheil Meparishvili, Equality Movement (2018)
Photo Credit: Mikheil Meparishvili, Equality Movement (2018)

Click here to check out the Conference Program Guide. Recordings are available below:

Plenaries

Welcome, Opening Remarks, and Keynote Address

  • Danielle Reiff, Team Leader, Cadre Care and Development Team, USAID DRG Center
  • Kacy Mixon, Counter-Trafficking in Persons (C-TIP) AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellow, USAID DRG Center
  • Alpha Luyoyo, Senior DRG & CMM Advisor, USAID/Guinea & Sierra Leone
  • Johnny Walsh, Deputy Assistant Administrator, USAID
  • Samantha Power, Administrator, USAID  

You may access the recording here.

Closing Ceremony and Keynote Addresses 

  • Don Chisholm, Former Director, USAID DRG Center
  • Ro Tucci, Director, USAID DRG Center
  • Madeleine Albright, 64th Secretary of State and Chair, National Democratic Institute
  • Stephen Hadley, Former National Security Advisor, Board Chair of the U.S. Institute for Peace and Principal, Rice, Hadley, Gates and Manuel LLC  
  • Dr. Daniel Twining, President, International Republican Institute

You may access the recording here.

TECHNICAL SESSIONS

Countering Disinformation: What Do We Know AND What Works?

As programming to counter disinformation is a relatively new area, questions we should be asking ourselves include: What do you need to know to do this programming effectively? How do we know if what we’re doing is working? And, even, what are we trying to achieve? In accessible, non-technical language, we  talked about the types of evidence, data, and research methodologies we are using to help us design interventions and improve their efficacy. Looking at examples from USAID programming in the field, we talked about what we are learning, what we need to learn, and how we understand the impacts we are having.

  • Joshua Machleder, Senior Advisor for Media and Internet Freedom, Civil Society and Media Team, USAID DRG Center
  • Dr. Tim Weninger, Professor of Engineering, Notre Dame University
  • Mikheil Benidze, Chief of Party, Georgia Information Integrity Program, Zinc Network
  • Keti Bakradze, Democracy and Governance (DG) Team Leader, USAID/Georgia
  • Anders Mantius, Deputy Director, DRG Office, USAID/Indonesia

You may access additional resources here. You may access the recording here.

Mainstreaming Anti-Corruption Approaches

With the Biden-Harris Administration's renewed focus on combating corruption, it is critical for anti-corruption approaches to be more broadly integrated - and in fact mainstreamed - through USAID programming. Drawing on and renewing the 2018 DRG Officer's Conference session on Integrating Anti-corruption, this session featured a robust discussion on concrete ways to mainstream USAID's systems-oriented, holistic anti-corruption approaches (including strengthening prevention, detection, oversight, accountability and sanctioning) across the DRG, biodiversity, health, and education spaces.

  • Jennifer Lewis, Senior Governance and Anti-corruption Advisor/Anti-corruption Lead, Deputy Director Anti-Corruption Task Force, Governance Team, USAID DRG Center
  • Agathe Tshimpanga, Manager, Integrated Governance Activity (IGA), USAID/DRC
  • Elizabeth Hart, Chief of Party, Targeting Natural Resource Corruption (TNRC) Project, World Wildlife Fund
  • Maria Rivera, Rule of Law Project Management Specialist, USAID/Honduras
  • Matt Henneberger, Health Systems Advisor, USAID/Global Health
  • Caitlin Hurley, Education Finance Advisor, Dexis Consulting Group

You may access the recording here.

Supporting Elections and Political Processes in Closing Space

In closing spaces and semi-authoritarian contexts, can USAID support elections and political processes without inadvertently legitimizing a bad process? Drawing on comparative experience and experience, this session explored strategies and approaches for working in these challenging contexts to support electoral integrity or the broader democratic environment around elections. This includes programs to expose electoral manipulation, protect political space, build capacity of reformers within government or Electoral Management Bodies (if appropriate), and provide alternative viewpoints. 

  • Michael McNulty, Senior Advisor, Democratic Elections and Political Processes Team, USAID DRG Center
  • Renne Traicova, Senior Field Advisor, Democratic Elections and Political Processes Team, USAID DRG Center
  • Joseph Taggart, Team Lead, Democratic Elections and Political Processes Team , USAID DRG Center
  • Pat Merloe, Senior Associate and Director, Electoral Integrity Programs, National Democratic Institute (NDI)
  • Sheryl Stumbras, Director, USAID/Zambia

You may access additional resources here. You may access the recording here.

Enhancing Your Activity Design Toolbox: New Resources for Busy People

Activity design is a regular part of our day jobs but how can we ensure we know all of our options, the best evidence, and ways to measure the results? This session showcased three sets of resources to support activity design: an inventory of technical approaches across DRG, a set of indicators to measure results, and a series of evidence gap maps to share relevant evidence.

  • Matthew Baker, Senior Learning Advisor, Evidence and Learning Team, USAID DRG Center
  • Christopher Grady, Senior Metrics Advisor, Evidence and Learning Team, USAID DRG Center
  • Laura Adams, Senior Director for Strategy, Development and Learning, Freedom House
  • Andrew Greer, Acting Team Lead for Democracy, Human Rights and Governance, USAID/Mali
  • Jesús Núñez, Rule of Law and Youth Civic Engagement Project Management Specialist, USAID/Honduras

You may access additional resources here. You may access the recording here.

From Protest to Policy: Social Movements and the Opportunity for Civil Society to Engage Youth in Politics

The rise in authoritarianism has also coincided with a rise in social movements, offering a potential opportunity for donors like USAID to explore strategies for helping civil society channel youth participation in protests, into sustained long-term engagement and leadership in political processes. This breakout session  offered Agency staff a space to share lessons learned, and explored best practices and resources to inform future program design. 

  • Neetha Tangirala, Senior Advisor for Youth, Civic Education and Engagement, Civil Society and Media Team, USAID DRG Center
  • Alpha Luyoyo, Senior DRG and Conflict Management and Mitigation Advisor, USAID/Guinea & Sierra Leone
  • Mike McCabe, Agency Youth Coordinator, USAID/Inclusive Development Hub
  • Dr. Jennifer Earl, Professor of Sociology, University of Arizona
  • Sabir Ali, Human Rights Activist, Pakistan
  • Nadia Shah, Democracy Officer, USAID/Ukraine
  • Liliane Kamshy, Program Management Specialist, DRG Office, USAID/DRC

You may access additional resources here and the presentation here. You may access the recording here.

USAID’s Response to COVID-Enabled Democratic Backsliding

The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated a trend of democratic backsliding, forcing USAID to adapt and respond to a new challenge to democracy, human rights, and governance. Democratic backsliding occurs through a series of discrete changes in the rules and informal procedures that shape elections, rights, and accountability. The goal of this panel was to explore lessons learned including how to adapt to effectively counter pandemic-related democratic backsliding and the implications of this trend for the future.

  • Daniel Sabet, Senior Learning Advisor, Evidence and Learning Team, USAID DRG Center
  • Dr. Erik Wibbels, Professor of Political Science, Duke University
  • Michael McNulty, Senior Advisor, Democratic Elections and Political Processes  Team, USAID DRG Center
  • Katerina Hadzi-Miceva Evans, Executive Director, European Center for Not-For-Profit Law (ECNL)
  • Rosa Colorado, Program Management Specialist and Rule of Law Advisor, USAID/El Salvador
  • Fernanda Buril, Research Specialist for the Center for Applied Research, International Foundation for Electoral Systems 

You may access additional resources here. You may access the recording here.

Money Matters: Building Fiscal Resilience in Turbulent Times

The growing threat of instability and fragility in many USAID partner countries has both economic as well as socio-political roots. In this context, the ability of governments to mobilize and manage resources efficiently, effectively, equitably, and accountability is vital to strengthening social cohesion, building the public trust, and even addressing the underlying causes of fragility. Drawing on USAID experience in supporting public finance reforms around the world, this session raised awareness of the growing fiscal risks confronting many partner countries, the promise and perils of fiscal policies in responding to those risks, and the tools and approaches USAID can draw on to strengthen countries’ fiscal resilience in ways that can reduce fragility and social unrest and bolster citizen-responsive governance.

  • Steve Rozner, Senior Fiscal Advisor, Governance Team, USAID DRG Center
  • Nina Bowen, Foreign Service Officer and Director of Zambia DRG Office, USAID/Zambia
  • Mark Gallagher, Chief of Party for USAID’s Fiscal Accountability and Sustainable Trade (FAST), DevTech Systems, Inc.
  • Carrie Gruenloh, Senior Conflict and Governance Advisor, USAID/Africa Bureau

You may access additional resources here. You may access the recording here.

New DRG Gender Tools: Women’s Political Participation and Leadership (WPPL) Assessment and Media Gender Charter

Gender tools are instrumental in identifying gaps and challenges in gender mainstreaming and providing solutions and mechanisms to address these gaps and integrate gender in a meaningful manner. This panel  featured two gender tools - the Women’s Political Participation and Leadership (WPPL) Assessment Framework and associated tools and the Media Gender Charter and the associated Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) survey. USAID Learning Partner, NORC - at the University of Chicago, and developers of the WPPL Assessment Framework, provided an overview of the framework and promoted the Evidence and Learning Team’s  new initiative to co-fund these assessments with Missions. USAID/Sri Lanka shared the elements of the Media Gender Charter and how the DEI survey is being used to introduce and implement the charter in the local media landscape.

  • Mousumi Sarkar, Senior Survey Advisor, Evidence and Learning Team, USAID DRG Center
  • Sashee de Mel, Project Management Specialist, USAID/Sri Lanka
  • Zoe Grotophorst, Research Scientist, NORC - at the University of Chicago
  • Nikita Samaratunga, Deputy Chief of Party, USAID’s Media Empowerment for a Democratic Sri Lanka (MEND), IREX
  • Louise Fahnbulleh, DRG Specialist, USAID/Liberia

You may access additional resources here. You may access the recording here.

Democracy Delivers: The Benefits of Democracy

2020 marked the first time since the fall of the Soviet Union that authoritarian regimes outnumber democratic regimes. Worse, 68 percent of the world’s population now lives in non-democracies. Many people perceive that authoritarian regimes are better able to improve their lives than democracy. But what does the data say? Join us for a summary of research and a discussion about the effects of democracy on economic and human development.

  • Valeriya Mechkova, Researcher, Varieties of Democracy (V-Dem) Institute
  • Luz Marina Garcia, Development Project Specialist, USAID/Nicaragua
  • Carl Henrik Knutsen, Professor of Political Science, University of Oslo and co-PI of Varieties of Democracy (V-Dem)
  • Christopher Grady, Senior Metrics Advisor, Evidence and Learning Team, USAID DRG Center

You may access additional resources here. You may access the recording here.

Changing Paths, Not Goals: Building Adaptive Management in Practice

In the wake of a global pandemic that impacted not only the priorities of our Agency's work -- but our partners’ ability to pivot existing activities -- the need for building flexibility into our awards has never been more clear. ​This session aimed to spotlight how several Missions are using specific tools and activity design features ​such as inception periods, ​​opportunity modules, ​rapid response set-asides, and ​"pause and reflect" ​​to ​help activities respond to changing conditions like COVID-19​ or other context shifts that routinely impact DRG programming​. It also flagged ​recent​ ADS ​revisions ​and Agency guidance that can be useful for convincing reluctant colleagues of the importance of such approaches.  

  • Mark Goldenbaum, Justice, Rights and Security Team, USAID DRG Center
  • Nichole Graber, Acting Team Lead, Counter-Trafficking in Persons Team, USAID DRG Center
  • Laura Calderon, Project Management Specialist, USAID/Colombia
  • Mason Ingram, Global Governance Director, PACT/Somalia

You may access additional resources here. You may access the recording here.

DEI in the DRG Workforce: Taking Stock and Looking Ahead

After a short presentation of the key messages from the recent Benchmarking Race, Inclusion, and Diversity in Global Engagement (BRIDGE) survey, this participatory session will explore meaningful integration of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) in the workplace.

  • Erin Brown, Lead Management & Program Analyst, M/MPBP/PERF, USAID
  • Shiro Gnanaselvam, Chief Executive Officer, Social Impact
  • Swathi Massar, Director, Gender, Diversity & Inclusion, Mercy Corps
  • Clifton Kenon, Senior Program Officer and Analyst for Diversity and Inclusion, OCRD, USAID
  • Ajit Joshi, Acting Team Leader, Cadre Care and Development Team, USAID DRG Center
  • Ria Orca, Democracy and Governance Specialist, USAID/Philippines

You may access additional resources here. You may access the recording here.

For additional assistance, please contact Jessica Benton Cooney at jbentoncooney@usaid.gov.

Last updated: September 28, 2021

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