USAID Reveals Metrics for Mapping the Road to Self-Reliance

By , Business Development and Programs Associate

From the beginning, the Volunteers for Economic Growth Alliance’s (VEGA) approach to global development has been centered on self-reliance. Over the past 13 years, VEGA, its members and volunteers have partnered with people around the globe to provide skills and opportunities they seek for more self-reliance—supporting the economic growth desired by individuals, families, businesses, communities and countries. Now U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Mark Green is redefining and prioritizing self-reliance, having unveiled new metrics to measure and create roadmaps for countries to achieve self-reliance with support from USAID. The new initiative is a cornerstone of Administrator Green’s vision to move countries beyond aid as development donors and professionals “work themselves out of a job” and defines self-reliance as a country’s ability to plan, finance and implement its own development solutions.

On June 27th, 2018, VEGA participated in USAID’s Bureau for Policy, Planning and Learning’s (PPL) Partner Meeting on Promoting Self-Reliance through the Program Cycle. The convening of PPL partner NGOs was held in concordance with the recent unveiling of USAID’s new self-reliance metrics. The objective of the PPL meeting was to discuss how USAID plans to operationalize this initiative through the program cycle. USAID’s new self-reliance metrics are determined by two complementary factors: a country’s level of commitment as indicated by formal and informal governance mechanisms, and a country’s capacity across dimensions of political, social and economic development. As a first step in understanding where countries are on their journey to self-reliance, USAID has identified a set of 17 metrics that fall under either the commitment or capacity side. These metrics are third-party, publicly available indicators from sources like the World Bank and World Economic Forum.

By this fall, USAID will release “Self-Reliance Country Roadmaps” for all 140 low and middle income countries. The roadmaps will identify countries that are ready for strategic transition and will inform a new agency-wide development framework, individual country strategies and the programming cycle. The metrics and corresponding roadmaps introduce a country-centric model for targeted assistance based on a country’s self-reliance profile. This will promote a new emphasis on co-financing, partner country accountability, capacity-building and enabling environments to catalyze local actors.

The development of this new strategic approach is still in its early stages of development and the recently unveiled metrics and upcoming “roadmaps will be a continuous work in progress. They are intended to be a starting point to see where there are opportunities to reorient strategies or redefine partnerships. The metrics will be used to develop and update country development cooperation strategies (CDCS) , and will be weaved throughout the business cycle, from strategic planning, to project design and implementation, to monitoring and evaluation. While the new self-reliance metrics are not necessarily appropriate to measure performance at the project level, program achievements should be in support of bringing a country closer towards self-reliance.

USAID is beginning to engage with partners and other stakeholders, such as members of Congress and the White House’s Office of Management and Budget. Partners at the PPL meeting expressed concerns about how Congress’ traditional sectoral budget allocation will be able facilitate an overarching, cross-sectoral self-reliance objective. USAID recognizes these concerns and is currently working to define what it means to be self-reliant within each sector to address this issue. This will be just one part of an agency-wide learning agenda on self-reliance, as USAID hopes to learn from its partners about their experiences around self-reliance.

VEGA applauds USAID’s new strategic approach to support countries in their journey towards self-reliance. Many of VEGA’s programs have successfully built the human and institutional capacity of local organizations and governments to effect sustainable impact. VEGA’s Capacity Building of Local Organizations program implemented by IESC in Cambodia supports USAID’s focus on assisting local partners as they build their own capacity to sustainably implement development programming, The program provides mentoring and training via skilled volunteers to organizations like the Cambodian Center for Human Rights to ensure they are capable of assisting and protecting Cambodians for years to come. VEGA programs also strengthen resource mobilization and enabling environments to increase revenue, while catalyzing local investment. VEGA’s BIZ+ program in Sri Lanka, implemented by Land O’Lakes International Development is stimulating economic growth, job creation and increased household incomes in post-crisis and under-developed areas of the country. The program provides small and medium enterprises (SME) with technical know-how and investment grants that require a 1:1 match by the SMEs. In other words, enterprises receiving assistance are required to invest in their own growth and success. VEGA has also facilitated several other successful efforts to leverage the private sector, a key component for sustained investment. In VEGA’s flagship public-private partnership, VEGA and VEGA Member CNFA has partnered with USAID/Nigeria and Nestle to mobilize volunteers and create innovative, shared-value solutions to reduce the threat of dangerous crop contaminants that are harming the safety and quality of maize and soybeans in the cereal supply chain in the state of Kaduna. Together in this public-private partnership (PPP), we are able to generate more prosperity and improved health and nutrition for the Nigerian people, while also improving the quality and quantity of locally-sourced cereal crops available to Nestlé.

The heart of each VEGA program is the mobilization of highly skilled volunteers to partner with people seeking skills for a better future. VEGA has facilitated more than 47,000 days of volunteer expertise to provide individuals, organizations and governments the training and tools they need to become self-sufficient. This pro bono, private-sector expertise has been and will continue to be a valuable contribution to USAID partner countries’ journey to self-reliance.