U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Mark Green's Remarks at a Town Hall Meeting

U.S. Embassy Lima, Peru

For Immediate Release

Friday, April 13, 2018
Office of Press Relations
Telephone: +1.202.712.4320 | Email: press@usaid.gov

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: It's good to see all of you.  Thank you for the warm welcome, but also thank you for all of your hard work in helping to put on all of our work around the Summit of the Americas.  You know, as was mentioned: I'm a former ambassador and a former congressman. So, that means I've hosted official visits, I've lead official visits, I've been on official visits, and I know what goes on behind the scenes.  I also understand what a wheels up party looks like but I really do appreciate all of the hard work that you guys have put into, not just my visit, but all around the Summit of the Americas.

So, what I thought I would do, before I open it up for questions, is offer a few thoughts on the redesign.  I know that's something that many of you have heard about, and I'm sure is pressing on your minds. But to talk a little bit about that.  And then, again, open it up to questions; any topic you want. Everything is fair game, any topic at all.

So, to understand what it is that we're trying to do: I think the first thing to realize is that, even though Redesign, technically speaking, began with a presidential directive, I'll be honest with you.  I would have argued that we need to undertake this process anyway. And, really, it's because of one thing. We are the world's leading development and humanitarian assistance organization in the world. We're the best at what we do.

The question that I want us to ask ourselves is what do we need to do to stay that way?  What do we need to do to ensure that we continue to lead the world in the years ahead? How should we shape ourselves?  How should we position our work? What are the systems that we need to continue to recruit the best talent, to strengthen that talent, retain that talent, and empower that talent to lead?  And that, to me, is what this is all about.

As I have posed those questions to myself and the rest of the team, we tried to keep in mind the same two guiding principles that I have tried to emphasize since the day I arrived at AID and, quite frankly, in the months leading up to it.  Some have of you have heard it probably ad nauseam, but it is the way that I look at our work and the role we play in the world. Number one, I believe fundamentally: the purpose of foreign assistance must be ending its need to exist. And what I mean by that is, as an agency, certainly it's in my heart.  We believe in human dignity. We believe in the innate desire of every individual, every nation, to be able to choose their own destiny, and to get there under their own power.

If a country is willing to take on the difficult journey to self-reliance, as I call it, as Americans, that touches our values.  We feel a responsibility to help them along the way. And so, that means prioritizing programs that incentivize reform, that strengthen in-country capacities, I think that attract private-enterprise-driven initiatives, and also help our partners mobilize their own resources.

The journey to self-reliance also means that we should help countries look forward to the day when we can transition to a new kind of relationship, not turning off the lights, but a new kind of relationship, a relationship that moves beyond traditional assistance, one that embraces opportunities for enterprise-driven development, one that celebrates how much we've accomplished together, but also symbolizes a forward-looking, enduring relationship; a relationship that captures how a country is ruled, usually in part because of our support, from recipient to partner to fellow donor.  I mean, that, to me, is the path that we should walk with every country that is willing to take on the journey.

There's a second guiding principle for me, and it really touches on our role in humanitarian assistance.  We will always stand with people and countries when disasters strike. That's who we are. That is at the core of our values as Americans.  We will work relentlessly to ensure that assistance, as we deliver it, we deliver it in the most effective way we know how, the most efficient way we know how, but also out of a spirit of true compassion.  We'll also help countries to build their resilience along the way, to help them withstand future shock in crisis. Those two principles that I just laid out have broad support all across the administration, both sides of the aisle, and across numerous administrations.  And that, to me, has to be how we shape ourselves or why we shape ourselves.

So, redesign is not about a budget.  Redesign is not in response to a budget.  It's not about staff size. It's not about responding to a particular cause or political cause.  It is, instead, going back to the idea of what we need to do to maintain our world-class leadership.

So, as we've undergone this process, which started before I actually arrived, we've been pulling together the best ideas that we can find.  Some of them are brand-new. Many of them are not. Many of them are ideas that have been floating around for a while, and then turning them into a structure and an operational plan that I think is worthy of the mission that brings us in here each day.  It's about assembling the structures and tools that will help us chase those guiding principles. Again, I think about keeping our role as the world's leading development and humanitarian institute.

So, all of those ideas that I've talked about; they began with hundreds of ideas: were pulled together and organized into five pillars of work, and they cover topics from identifying metrics that help us measure progress, to empowering people to lead internally.  Those pillar teams, the five pillar teams that were crafted: every one of them has been led by career staff, and the point was that we wanted to tap into the experience that career staff bring, challenging our assumptions, testing our thinking.

There were countless hours of discussion and collaboration, and all of that lead to our submitting tentative plans to the White House.  And the White House, as you heard me say just a couple of weeks ago, gave us a green-light. And that green-light is simply another step in a painfully long journey for all of us, but it's a chance for us to move into what we now call the transformation phase.  And transformation is about taking, you know, lines on a page and text, and moving it toward what it will take to actually operationalize some of the ideas that all of you have brought forward.

Transformation is not simply about structure, although that's what seems to be getting a lot of attention.  Structure is about 20 percent of Transformation. How we do things, how we manage information flows, how we harness talent: that's the 80 percent that's going to make all the difference.  And that's the 80 percent that will deliver the USAID of tomorrow. Structure is just a tool to help us get there.

The other point I want to emphasize here is that we are absolutely determined to do this the right way.  So, what we have been doing, and you have my commitment to keep doing, as we go through transformation, it'll be gradual, gradual as in months, and it will be consultation-based.  Again, every work stream that we have is career led. In fact, I learned this morning some of it is also career-woman led, which I didn't set out to do that. That's just the way it has emerged.  But we've tried to make sure that we have people who have been in the field, people who have worked in DC, people who are absolutely dedicated for their careers to USAID and the development process.

Now, as you know, there is a complicated org chart out there.  You can get it online at myusaid.gov. Jim Richardson and his team have done a really nice job of going over it in detail, and you can get the video of his presentation.  I won't delve into the details because I'll screw it up. But a couple of thoughts on this front: number one, during the video presentation you will see that we showed two org charts.

The first thing we did is to show the current org chart because if you're like me, you don't realize there is an org chart.  You never think about it, right? You come into work each day, and you don't look to see where you might fall on an elaborate -- nobody thinks like that.  Because when people looked at the new org chart, trying to think, "Oh, my God, look at this," well, when you compare it to the current org chart, you actually see it makes sense.  It's logical. In fact, I would argue that it's much more streamlined for information flow purposes. But what does this mean for all of you? What does it mean for Embassy Lima and your counterparts in the months that are ahead?

A couple things that I think you should be excited about.  One of my strong beliefs is that decision making -- as much as possible -- needs to be informed by and made in the field.  Now, I -- as I mentioned, I lived in Africa a couple times in my life. My beginning in all of this was as a volunteer teacher in Kenya on the village level, and I served as ambassador.  And you really do have to see them, as you know, to understand the impacts and to understand how things fit together. You can get white papers and briefings all day long. That's not going to do it.  So, we want to make sure that we shift, for that reason. What you'll get from D.C. will hopefully be customer service, resources, and information to help you in that process.

The metrics, we're very excited about.  As I mentioned to you, structure seems to getting everyone's attention.  That's only one of the five outcomes in our work. It's outcome two, I think, is structure  Why are we leading with that? Because it takes so long to get right. And as we start to move towards it, that needs to be informed and gradual.  That's why it's the first thing that comes up, because this is a months' long process -- where we want to make sure that all the people have input, that we craft things and we shape things to do it right.

But again, my goal is to make sure that as you go about analyzing challenges, as you go about crafting opportunities, so much of it must be done from here.  But you'll have the customer service backup you need in D.C. So, for example, we have the Bureau for Democracy and Innovation -- or DI, as it's quickly becoming called -- known as.  And that's meant to be a one-stop shop for the best in class technical and program design support. And it has a number of centers of excellence. And they are meant to be demand driven consultancies that serve all of you.

And the idea is that we have somewhere that's a repository of the best in class work so that there's constant information sharing.  So, that if you're seeing a challenge, if you want to take on a program area, you want to know from people who have been in your shoes, "What's the best stuff out of here?"  If you come across a problem, you can be quite certain it's not unique in the world. Somebody else at USAID somewhere in the world has either encountered that same problem or encountered something that is similar.  And so, the idea is that we will have best-in-class work.

The other piece to it is -- with those centers of excellence -- is I want to make sure that we really take on some of the causes that we claim are important.  For example, I believe strongly in inclusive development. I believe strongly that gender issues need to be at the heart of a lot of the programs that we do. We have at USAID, as they do in many agencies, we have the women -- the gender issues office.  Okay. So, we've got a gender issues office. What does that actually mean?

We're very serious about this.  So, instead of simply creating an office and saying, "Okay.  We'll take care of the problem. Here's the office." We give them around $50,000, and then put some stuff out, and -- I don't think that's really a true taking-on-issues of gender inequality, gender empowerment.  So, these centers of excellence will have eyes on the programming that we do.

And so, we'll make sure that every program that we take on factors in these issues.  I mean, not every program, necessarily touches upon gender issues. But we want to make sure that those who have been doing the best work in this field are able to provide their thoughts and ideas.  And that's how we think we get the best possible ideas that are out there.

You know, we also have a bureau for conflict prevent and stabilization in the new design, which would combine OTI, CivMil cooperation, conflict management, and mitigation, policy -- program policy and management, and countering violent extremism.  Again, what we're hoping for is that these operations will become more field driven and they'll be more responsive to all of you as you take on issues that you think are causing destabilization, or violence, or conflict.

So, the idea, again, is that you'll have customer service centers that you can turn to.  We're not taking all of our technical experts and moving them all into one place. There will still be in the Bureaus some technical experts, but we do want to make sure that there is somewhere -- some part of the organization that is devoted to making best-in-class programming design choices.

So, I mean, that's just scratching the surface of what's out there, but I wanted to give you a bit of a flavor of it.  As I mentioned, you can see Jim Richardson's presentation. You can see the elaborate designs that are out there at my.USAID.  There's plenty of time for you to ask questions. We've been getting questions each week on the mission calls and I think that's great.  But you should be turning to the people who are helping to lead this process. You can contact them at Transformation@USAID.gov, offer your input and your questions.

A few other thoughts.  Again, a reminder that the pillars of work that we're doing are all led by career staff.  These are professionals who know, you know, your concerns, who have been in your shoes. And you should be confident that they're taking experience like yours and putting it to bear.

Again, to emphasize, outcome two -- which is what everyone is talking about right now -- it's just a small fraction of what it is that we're looking to do.  Think of it this way: that's the hardware of the agency. What we really want to focus on -- what's coming soon -- is discussion of the software, metrics. The initial primary metrics are starting to get out there.  These are ideas that we've had from input from a number of you. We've been on that work stream and outcome. Also, ACVFA, which many of you know as the statutory advisory group. They've taken a look at it. That will be out for all of you and for your input on that.

Finally, one other point.  As we talk about the software of the agency, there's something else that's really important to me -- I think important to you.  And it's an area where I believe this mission is particularly well-known for. And that's the work in the interagency. Part of the way that we're putting things together is to strengthen our voice in the interagency and also have focus contact points so that our voice is strong in the interagency.  All of you know that in order for us to take on our major challenges, it's not just USAID. We need DoD. We need State. And I know, here -- I've heard a lot of talk about how well all of you work with the State Department, work with the government of Peru in the coca eradication, which I'm going to see firsthand in a couple of days.

USAID provides farmers with alternative crops.  We know about the eradication work and the strategic planning that's being done by State and DoD.  All that I've seen -- all the papers, all the studies -- tell me that none of that works unless each leg of the stool is strong.  So, the fact that all of you are working so closely with your brothers and sisters from State, and DoD, and elsewhere -- that's a credit to you.  And it really needs to be an inspiration for the rest of the agency. I think what you're showing and what the government is talking to me about really shows what the possibilities are.

So, anyway, those are my initial thoughts on redesign.  I'm excited to be here. I'm excited to see all of you. It's no longer just on screens that I'm seeing all of you. But thanks so much for what you do each and every day.  I appreciate it very much. Thanks for the welcome. And with that, I'll be happy to dive in to questions that all of you have.  

Thank you.

Last updated: April 13, 2018

Share This Page