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

For Immediate Release

Thursday, November 1, 2018
Office of Press Relations
Telephone: +1.202.712.4320 | Email: press@usaid.gov

 
November 1, 2018
Warner Theater
Washington, DC

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: Thanks, Erica.  Welcome, everyone, those here in Washington, and those who are watching us from around the world.  So, as Erica mentioned, this is a slightly different setting than I am used to. We are here at the historic Warner Theatre.  You've heard from Erica, some of the performers -- I have on my list of vaudeville performers Jerry Lewis, silent movies. Conan O'Brien will be here tomorrow night, and the next night is, "So You Think You Can Dance."

So, you won't hear jokes from me, at least not intentionally.  And you are definitely not going to see me dance. But if you cheer Jim Richardson on, who knows what will happen?  But hopefully, you'll still find this morning worthwhile.

So, a few thoughts before we get down to questions.  As you know, we're in the final days of our Global Mission Directors' Conference.  And as you know, it's the first one that we've had in quite some time. So let me, first -- will the Mission Directors who are here today -- would you all stand up so we can recognize you?

Welcome.

So, it's great to see all of you.  It's great to see all of you. So, over these last several days, I've been reminded over and over again of just how much it is that we have accomplished over this last year.  Simply put, this is not the same Agency it was a year ago. Here's some of what we have just done in this last year. We've officially launched our country roadmaps that will help guide how we prioritize investments, craft our strategies, and shape our conversations with partners.  We've begun to make better use of our partnership and procurement tools in ways that will boost innovation and enterprise-driven development.

So, what does that look like?  In India, we launched a Development Impact Bond for maternal health, the largest, and most ambitious of its kind.  Private capital will fund the initial investment, and we only pay when the development outcomes are achieved.

The Bureau for Food Security has unveiled a broad Agency announcement to fight malnutrition in complex environments, an issue that demands the most creative thinking we can find, and so we're turning to small business, and to private enterprise, and entrepreneurs for answers.

Partnering with DFID, our British cousins, we've issued the first ever Humanitarian Grand Challenge, and the finalists are...cool. 

Like SurgiBox, a Massachusetts corporation, which is manufacturing inflatable mini operating rooms, that fit into backpacks.  Or Kupona Foundation, which is working to deploy 3D printing technology in Tanzania to create quality prosthetics for people with disabilities.  And these are just the tip of the iceberg, the kinds of new partners that we're looking for.

We've instituted a more comprehensive approach to our engagement and oversight of multilateral organizations.  And this is going to help us make sure that our precious resources, the money provided by our taxpayers, that it's used effectively, and that it's in line with, and advances our priorities and policies.

In that same spirit, we've instituted a new matrix-style review of the procurement planning process.  We'll be using that prior to solicitations for large awards so that we can move quickly and get resources out swiftly, and with optimal procurement tools. 

In the area of talent management, we have created new tools like a modernized Foreign Service assignment system, and an online human resources portal.  Online, imagine that. We're finally catching up. With any luck, you'll spend less time on paperwork, and more time doing what it is that brought you to the Agency in the first place.

Our new leadership philosophy, led by today's MC, Erica, defines a common Agency approach to fostering a culture of respect, learning, and accountability.  For the first time, we have a common set of principles that really define what it means to be a leader for our team members at every level, and all across the world.

We launched the Action Alliance on Preventing Sexual Misconduct.  This is not a one-off effort. This very much is an ongoing, across-the-Agency initiative, to make clear that we have zero tolerance for sexual misconduct of any kind.  This includes harassment among USAID staff and our implementing partners.

Now, I'd like to take a moment just to remind ourselves of a path that we took to getting here because I hope it'll be a blueprint for what we do going forward.  So remember, we began by coming together around our organizational purpose, our unifying mission. And you've heard me say it a number of times, we believe that the purpose of foreign assistance must be ending its need to exist.  And we believe in the area of humanitarian assistance that we will always stand with people when crisis strikes because that's who we are as Americans. But, we'll not only help with immediate needs. We'll also work to build partner resilience to protect them against future shock.

While each country must lead its own development journey, because we believe in the innate desire of people to want to lead their own future, we can help as partners by incentivizing reforms that strengthen in-country capacity, and help them mobilize their own domestic resources.  Every country, of course, is in a different place in their development journey. And as our country partners progress in self-reliance, our relationship will progress and evolve as well.

As to the formal redesign path itself, we're well into the phase that we call Transformation. Remember, all this began with a presidential directive which was launched actually, well before I got to the Agency.  But, what we did at USAID, is took it as an opportunity. We seized the opportunity to take on long-standing issues and ideas and to tailor our strategies and our approach for a rapidly changing world.

We didn't turn to consultants for this work.  We turned to all of you. This work was led by more than 800 USAID employees from throughout the world, the talent and experience that we have right here inside the Agency.  As we forged our plans, we undertook waves of consultations, more than 275 events, all-hands meetings, and feedback sessions; 200 external stakeholder engagements; 75 Capitol Hill meetings and briefings.  That's what's gone into crafting and refining our plans. In other words, your fingerprints are all over this, as well as the ideas, and the input, and the feedback of our stakeholders.

For example, early on, you told us that we spend far too much time on inefficient, burdensome administrative tasks.  So we launched new HR tools, including an online employee launch pad, and the new Foreign Service performance management system.  You said you wanted us to improve the alignment of our core functions, better integrate the budget, and reduce micromanagement from headquarters.  And that's reflected in the structural reform proposal currently making its way on Capitol Hill.

But, as we stand here today, that's just a down payment.  We all recognize that there's a lot more to do if we're going to make the vision come alive.  We need to ensure that self-reliance is further incorporated into new Agency policies, strategies, and, yes, ultimately reflected in how we budget and invest.  The country roadmaps that we've already published are just a -- just a step in that direction. The Agency's new policy framework will outline our enhanced approach, and provide staff and partners, and other stakeholders clear guidance of what we hope to do.

Our country development cooperation strategies, they'll be reshaped to reflect the self-reliance metrics, and help ensure that our country relationships are firmly rooted in advancing them.  And as countries succeed, as they advance, as they achieve new levels of self-reliance, we'll begin a thoughtful and purposeful discussion with them on crafting a new and evolving partnership.

Our formal private sector engagement strategy, which will be launched later this fall, it calls on staff and partners to increase true collaboration with the private sector, and to prioritize enterprise-driven development.

Now, you know, we're going to continue to power much of our work through traditional cooperative agreements and contracts, but we're going to take steps to provide tools and recommendations which allow you, and encourage you, to consider a broader range of partners and tools.

When we were soliciting ideas for building the USAID of tomorrow, many of you told us that the Agency needs a more flexible work plan, a more flexible workforce system, a better way of recruiting and working with talent.  Well, a team of over 80 employees from across the Agency has been working to design a brand-new personnel-hiring category. And this will modernize our capital -- human capital process in order to support an agile, mobile workforce.  We're calling this effort the Adaptive Personnel Project. And it will target the areas where we need the most flexibility: global health, humanitarian assistance, and crisis response. And we hope to launch this next fall. 

Now, to be clear, this is not an initiative to reduce the workforce.  This is an initiative to make sure that we have the right mechanism in the right place at the right time.

As we have said before, 80 percent of the Transformation is about systems, approaches, people.  But, how we're structured does have an impact. Congress is currently looking at our structural reform proposals.  These will make us more efficient, more effective, and more competitive in a world where there are multiple agencies, multiple donors, which are doing different pieces of development.

Ultimately, our structure will be more field focused.  Why? Because -- let you in on a secret -- we actually don't do development here in Washington.  We'll be better functionally aligned. We'll be better able to respond to the daunting challenges that people face in the field every day.  We will empower, we will enable them.

So, we have lofty goals.  And I'm under no illusion.  Transformational change is not easy, never has been.  We're going to be asking more of each of you as employees and as leaders.  And it also means that sometimes as an Agency, we're going to have to make tough choices.

But, let's remember, we are the world's leading development and humanitarian Agency.  And the American people, and our nation's security demand that we remain as such. And that really is what this is all about.

My commitment to all of you is, that I will -- just as we have, as we talked about the path getting here, I will continue to rely upon your experience and your expertise, in order to enhance the work we do, listening and consulting with you every step of the way.

So, today as we move forward, ask questions, learn more, get involved -- this really matters.  Thank you for everything that you've done that has brought us to this day. But more importantly, thanks for everything that you're going to do.  This is the world's premier Agency, and we're going to make sure it remains that way for the years and decades ahead.

Thanks.

Last updated: November 02, 2018

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