Category Archives: Big Think

QDDR: Transforming State/USAID for the 21st Century?

The Art of Transformation album coverImage via Wikipedia


Deputy Secretary Jacob J. Lew delivered his Remarks on the QDDR at an event hosted by the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition last week. His prepared statement has now been posted online here. You can also read the transcript of the panel discussion here (Panel participants: Jack
Lew, Anne-Marie Slaughter, Director of Policy and Planning, Department of State, Alonzo Fulgham, Acting USAID Administrator and moderator, Judy Woodruff). Quick excerpt below from D/S Lew:

[…] I am the first to acknowledge that resources are only a beginning. The world has changed, and we at the State Department and USAID have not done enough to change along with it. We use outdated tools and our organization was not designed to meet today’s challenges — the rise of new powers and non-state actors, increasing interdependence, the dangers of transnational challenges and weak, impoverished states.
[…]
We have an excellent QDDR leadership team with veterans of State and USAID as well as the private sector and the nonprofit community.

Five working groups led by key stakeholders from State, USAID, and other relevant agencies will drive the details. They will work quickly and pragmatically to produce both analysis and solutions. There is a lot of fine work to draw on, which will make it easier to work quickly. The goal is full engagement of senior leadership informed by the people who can make bottom-up transformation a reality.

Here are the working groups’ goals:

First, we are examining the kinds of capabilities needed to develop a new architecture of global cooperation.

Second, we are looking at how we can reform ourselves to both lead and support a whole-of-government approach to foreign policy.

Third, we are considering what capabilities we need to help contribute to the building blocks of strong societies.

Fourth, we are looking at ways to build a strong civilian capacity to respond to crisis and instability.

Finally, we are evaluating how the State Department and USAID should be organized to maintain core capabilities and execute them effectively.

I note that the fifth goal also says, “This group is considering how we recruit, train, and promote our own diplomats and development professionals, and how we can better equip them to meet these challenges. They are also reviewing how we manage our own resources, including how we work with outside partners.”


Read the whole thing here.


You might remember that “transformation” was a buzz word during a certain former Secretary’s tenure at the 7th Floor. Transformational diplomacy shifted resources from one end of the world to another, there was whole lot of commotion and a lot of ink spent on it. It was transformation this, transformation that without new staffing or funding. It was done quickly and on the cheap with great results if you believe everything you read.


Transforming an old, traditional bureaucracy such as the State Department has never been easy. Just about every administration, Democratic or Republican have tried stretching that rubber band only to see it slap back into place. It is a journey littered with good intention but also with disappointments …


Organizational transformation starts with the people and its internal culture. A strong leader with a vision is necessary to drive change to fruition. The people who sit at the base of the pyramid must be willing to trust and follow that leader, even if the outcome is not totally clear.


Jack Lew is probably the one great hope at the moment to shepherd that State/USAID transformation into the 21st century. Let’s wish him the best.

Related Posts:

About these ads

Leave a comment

Filed under Big Think, Foreign Service, Leadership and Management, Reform, State Department, Transformation

Video of the Week: Jacqueline Novogratz on Escaping Poverty

Jacqueline Novogratz tells a moving story of an encounter in a Nairobi slum with Jane, a former prostitute, whose dreams of escaping poverty, of becoming a doctor and of getting married were fulfilled in an unexpected way.

One of the most innovative players shaping philanthropy today, Jacqueline Novogratz is redefining the way problems of poverty can be solved around the world. Drawing on her past experience in banking, microfinance and traditional philanthropy, Novogratz has become a leading proponent for financing entrepreneurs and enterprises that can bring affordable clean water, housing and healthcare to poor people so that they no longer have to depend on the disappointing results and lack of accountability seen in traditional charity and old-fashioned aid.

The Acumen Fund
, which she founded in 2001, has an ambitious plan: to create a blueprint for alleviating poverty using market-oriented approaches. Indeed, Acumen has more in common with a venture capital fund than a typical nonprofit. Rather than handing out grants, Acumen invests in fledgling companies and organizations that bring critical — often life-altering — products and services to the world’s poor. Like VCs, Acumen offers not just money, but also infrastructure and management expertise. From drip-irrigation systems in India to malaria-preventing bed nets in Tanzania to a low-cost mortgage program in Pakistan, Acumen’s portfolio offers important case studies for entrepreneurial efforts aimed at the vastly underserved market of those making less than $4/day.

It’s a fascinating model that’s shaken up philanthropy and investment communities alike. Acumen Fund manages more than $20 million in investments aimed at serving the poor. And most of their projects deliver stunning, inspiring results. Their success can be traced back to Novogratz herself, who possesses that rarest combination of business savvy and cultural sensitivity. In addition to seeking out sound business models, she places great importance on identifying solutions from within communities rather than imposing them from the outside. “People don’t want handouts,” Novogratz said at TEDGlobal 2005. “They want to make their own decisions, to solve their own problems.”

In her new book, The Blue Sweater, she tells stories from the new philanthropy, which emphasizes sustainable bottom-up solutions over traditional top-down aid.

From TED.com

Leave a comment

Filed under Africa, Americans Abroad, Big Think, Video of the Week

Video of the Week:Seth Godin on Leading Tribes

Seth Godin argues the Internet has ended mass marketing and revived a human social unit from the distant past: tribes. Founded on shared ideas and values, tribes give ordinary people the power to lead and make big change. He urges us to do so.

“Seth Godin may be the ultimate entrepreneur for the Information Age,” Mary Kuntz wrote in Business Week nearly a decade ago. “Instead of widgets or car parts, he specializes in ideas — usually, but not always, his own.” In fact, he’s as focused on spreading ideas as he is on the ideas themselves.

After working as a software brand manager in the mid-1980s, Godin started Yoyodyne, one of the first Internet-based direct-marketing firms, with the notion that companies needed to rethink how they reached customers. His efforts caught the attention of Yahoo!, which bought the company in 1998 and kept Godin on as a vice president of permission marketing. Godin has produced several critically acclaimed and attention-grabbing books, including Permission Marketing, All Marketers Are Liars, and Purple Cow (which was distributed in a milk carton). In 2005, Godin founded Squidoo.com, a Web site where users can share links and information about an idea or topic important to them.

From ted.com

Leave a comment

Filed under Big Think, Leadership and Management, Video of the Week

TED is coming to State! Yay!

Tomorrow, June 3rd, the Global Partnership Initiative will host TED@State, the first U.S. Government-sponsored Technology, Entertainment, Design, or TED, event in Dean Acheson Auditorium from 2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

According to the press release the TED@State speakers will be as follows:

  • Clay Shirky, social-media analyst and author of Here Comes Everybody
  • Jacqueline Novogratz, philanthropist and CEO of the Acumen Fund
  • Stewart Brand, futurist and author of the Whole Earth Catalog
  • Paul Collier, economist and author of The Bottom Billion
  • Hans Rosling, data visionary and Karolinska Institutet Professor of International Health

If you have seen Hans Rosling in TED 2007, you would not want to miss this. All expected speakers had been at TED Talks previously. See previous videos: Clay Snirky, Jacqueline Novogratz, Stewart Brand, and Paul Collier.

Ambassador Elizabeth Frawley Bagley, the Department of State’s Special Representative for Global Partnerships, will introduce the speakers, and Chris Anderson, Curator of TED, will moderate a question and answer session.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton launched the Global Partnership Initiative on April 22, 2009 at the Global Philanthropy Forum. The initiative seeks to establish public-private partnerships with foundations, businesses, non-governmental organizations, universities, and faith communities. This is reportedly the first major event under this initiative and the first U.S. Government-sponsored TED Talks.

Video from the talks at TED@State will be posted on the TED website, www.TED.com

Leave a comment

Filed under Big Think, State Department, Technology, TED

Video of the Week: Eric Schmidt Talks to the Facebook/Google Generation

Eric Schmidt, chairman of the board and chief executive officer for Google Inc., gave the keynote address at Carnegie Mellon’s 112th commencement ceremony May 17, 2009. Schmidt underscored both the importance of technological innovation and understanding the value of the family, friends and people around you.

Key quotes:

“We got our news from newspapers, you get yours from blogs and tweets. And for those of you who don’t know, that’s not what you hear in zoos.”

“We thought friend is a noun, right, you think it’s a verb.”

“We didn’t tell anyone about our embarrassing moments, you post yours to Facebook and YouTube every day!” I am so happy that my record of my misachievements is not around for posterity. I’m looking forward to yours being there for many, many years.”

“We wore watches, took pictures with cameras, navigate with maps, and listened to transistor radios. You have a cell phone.”

“In our lifetimes, literally, certainly in yours if not mine, essentially every human being in the planet will have access to every piece of information known on the planet.”

“You cannot plan innovation, you cannot plan invention. All you can do is try very hard to be in the right place and be ready.”

“In some sense you’ve been penalized for making mistakes historically, now you have to go out and make them because mistakes allow you to learn and to innovate and try new things…”

“Don’t do things by yourself. Groups are stronger, groups are faster. None of us is as smart as all of us.”

“Leadership and personality matter, we saw that from our student speaker. Intelligence, education, and analytical reasoning matter.”

“Trust matters in a network world. Trust is your most important currency…”

“You’ll find out, I hope, what I believe very strongly that people all around us of every race, color, and viewpoint fundamentally want the same things. They want a great and safe world, and they want prosperity and peace among all of us.”

“You’ll find that a mindset in its own ways, set in its ways locked down is a mind and life wasted. Don’t do it.”

“You’ll find today is the best chance you have to start being unreasonable, to demand excellence, to drive change to make everything happen.”

Related Items:

Click here to read the transcript of his speech (pdf).

The speech is on the Carnegie Mellon You Tube channel:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xiYwUde3wNo&feature=channel_page

It’s also available for download at Carnegie Mellon on iTunes U:
http://deimos3.apple.com/WebObjects/Core.woa/Browse/cmu.edu.2071419470

Leave a comment

Filed under Big Think, Lessons, Video of the Week

Torturing Democracy: How Did We Get to This Place?

The video is 90 minutes divided into three segments: Part 1: From 9/11 to Waterboarding – The Inside Story; Part 2: From the CIA to Guantanamo and Part 3: Immunity of US Officials.

It is painful to watch — about what has been done in our name, the American People — I thought it’s worth 90 minutes of my life to watch it. You can watch the videos here; the annotated transcript in pdf format is here. Quick excerpt below:

NARRATOR: In other words, the President has the power to suspend – or simply ignore – the fundamental laws of war. That includes Geneva and its guarantees of basic human rights to prisoners and civilians alike.

RICHARD ARMITAGE – Deputy Secretary of State (2001-05): Our views were well known in this matter. We were not on board.

NARRATOR: Richard Armitage served three combat tours in Vietnam.

RICHARD ARMITAGE: For the most part, the Department of State was left out of this discussion, I think precisely because we’d have no part of it.

NARRATOR: The State Department’s top lawyer called John Yoo’s legal reasoning “seriously flawed” 39 – and warned that if heading to the dark side meant violating Geneva:

“This raises a risk of future criminal prosecution for US civilian and military leadership and their advisers, by other parties to the Geneva Conventions.” 40


NARRATOR:
That is, if officials – including President Bush – were accused of torture or inhumane treatment, they could be prosecuted for war crimes.

40Your Draft Memorandum of January 9th.” Taft, William H. IV. January 11, 2002.

The conclusion that the Geneva Conventions do not apply could be the basis for actions that otherwise would violate the Convention, including conduct that would constitute a grave breech. This raises a risk of future criminal prosecution for U.S. civilian and military leadership and their advisers, by other parties to the Geneva Conventions.

The draft memo sent to the State Department’s Legal Office was dated Jan 9, 2002. A 40-page draft memo responding to Yoo at DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel was sent back two days later by State’s Legal Adviser William Taft IV, saying that “both the most important factual assumptions on which your draft is based and its legal analysis are seriously flawed.” More here.

Two principals from the State Department are included in the video. Richard Armitage who was Deputy Secretary of State under Secretary Powell had a lot more to say in his extended interview here. The interview of Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, who was Secretary Powell’s Chief of Staff is here.

When I hear about a “Truth Commission” or something similar being talked about, my initial reaction has been — just let it be. I’m sure I am not the only one who feels that we need to turn a page. Like many others I think that it is important to look forward and not backwards, and yes, it is important to remind ourselves that we live in dangerous times and that there are real security threats out there. But I must admit that after watching this entire video and reading the related documents and interviews, I can’t say that we should just ditch the idea of a commission. The narrative that what happened here was the work of a few “bad apples” has now moved into the realm of fiction. We teach our children that actions have consequences, but in this case — what are the consequences?

When you come to think of it, there is another reason why we need to look at how we came to this place — we need to, because this happened in Washington after all, and Washington insiders never really go away. Mr. Rumsfeld was SecDef in 1975 and came back to the same job in 2001. Mr. Cheney was WH Chief of Staff in 1975 and came back many different times. We are now seeing former Clinton staffers come back to serve in the new administration. How many Yoos, Gonzaleses and Addingtons are out there, waiting in the wings for repeat engagements in 2012, 2016, or 2020 and beyond? Folks in their forties now, may still show up inside the beltway in the next 30 some years down the road — because they never really go away.

I think we need to know how we got to this place; we don’t want to be asking the same question 20-30 years from now: how did we get here? But will Congress find its spine to look hard — not just at what happened but also at what they had failed to do? Foreign courts should not have to render judgment on our mess … isn’t that what we do to third world countries and their dictators?

The larger question becomes — ought we not, as the bright shining city upon a hill, shine some light on this darkness in our national soul?

Leave a comment

Filed under Big Think, Courage, People, State Department, Terrorism, War

Torturing Democracy: How Did We Get to This Place?

The video is 90 minutes divided into three segments: Part 1: From 9/11 to Waterboarding – The Inside Story; Part 2: From the CIA to Guantanamo and Part 3: Immunity of US Officials.

It is painful to watch — about what has been done in our name, the American People — I thought it’s worth 90 minutes of my life to watch it. You can watch the videos here; the annotated transcript in pdf format is here. Quick excerpt below:

NARRATOR: In other words, the President has the power to suspend – or simply ignore – the fundamental laws of war. That includes Geneva and its guarantees of basic human rights to prisoners and civilians alike.

RICHARD ARMITAGE – Deputy Secretary of State (2001-05): Our views were well known in this matter. We were not on board.

NARRATOR: Richard Armitage served three combat tours in Vietnam.

RICHARD ARMITAGE: For the most part, the Department of State was left out of this discussion, I think precisely because we’d have no part of it.

NARRATOR: The State Department’s top lawyer called John Yoo’s legal reasoning “seriously flawed” 39 – and warned that if heading to the dark side meant violating Geneva:

“This raises a risk of future criminal prosecution for US civilian and military leadership and their advisers, by other parties to the Geneva Conventions.” 40


NARRATOR:
That is, if officials – including President Bush – were accused of torture or inhumane treatment, they could be prosecuted for war crimes.

40Your Draft Memorandum of January 9th.” Taft, William H. IV. January 11, 2002.

The conclusion that the Geneva Conventions do not apply could be the basis for actions that otherwise would violate the Convention, including conduct that would constitute a grave breech. This raises a risk of future criminal prosecution for U.S. civilian and military leadership and their advisers, by other parties to the Geneva Conventions.

The draft memo sent to the State Department’s Legal Office was dated Jan 9, 2002. A 40-page draft memo responding to Yoo at DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel was sent back two days later by State’s Legal Adviser William Taft IV, saying that “both the most important factual assumptions on which your draft is based and its legal analysis are seriously flawed.” More here.

Two principals from the State Department are included in the video. Richard Armitage who was Deputy Secretary of State under Secretary Powell had a lot more to say in his extended interview here. The interview of Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, who was Secretary Powell’s Chief of Staff is here.

When I hear about a “Truth Commission” or something similar being talked about, my initial reaction has been — just let it be. I’m sure I am not the only one who feels that we need to turn a page. Like many others I think that it is important to look forward and not backwards, and yes, it is important to remind ourselves that we live in dangerous times and that there are real security threats out there. But I must admit that after watching this entire video and reading the related documents and interviews, I can’t say that we should just ditch the idea of a commission. The narrative that what happened here was the work of a few “bad apples” has now moved into the realm of fiction. We teach our children that actions have consequences, but in this case — what are the consequences?

When you come to think of it, there is another reason why we need to look at how we came to this place — we need to, because this happened in Washington after all, and Washington insiders never really go away. Mr. Rumsfeld was SecDef in 1975 and came back to the same job in 2001. Mr. Cheney was WH Chief of Staff in 1975 and came back many different times. We are now seeing former Clinton staffers come back to serve in the new administration. How many Yoos, Gonzaleses and Addingtons are out there, waiting in the wings for repeat engagements in 2012, 2016, or 2020 and beyond? Folks in their forties now, may still show up inside the beltway in the next 30 some years down the road — because they never really go away.

I think we need to know how we got to this place; we don’t want to be asking the same question 20-30 years from now: how did we get here? But will Congress find its spine to look hard — not just at what happened but also at what they had failed to do? Foreign courts should not have to render judgment on our mess … isn’t that what we do to third world countries and their dictators?

The larger question becomes — ought we not, as the bright shining city upon a hill, shine some light on this darkness in our national soul?

Leave a comment

Filed under Big Think, Courage, People, State Department, Terrorism, War

Up Close and Personal: Reconstruction & Stabilization Operations

Recent stabilization and reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq have underlined the need for the United States to shift the burden of these operations away from the Defense Department and onto other government agencies better suited to the work, according to a study released last week by the RAND Corporation.

“The military isn’t the best agency for reconstruction and stabilization missions, even though it can get personnel and resources to a location quickly,” said Nora Bensahel, lead author of the study and senior political scientist with RAND, a nonprofit research organization. “Putting the military in charge of these tasks also sets a bad example because one of the key components of democratic theory is civilian control over the military,” Bensahel said. “If these tasks are highly or completely militarized, it raises fundamental doubts as to whether it is, indeed, democracy that is promoted by U.S. assistance.”

On Personnel Surge?

“Absent fundamental changes in organization and resources, the State Department and USAID will probably be more knowledgeable about stabilization and reconstruction issues than DoD but nowhere near as good at surging personnel in response to a crisis. Developing the capacity in civilian agencies to surge personnel and funding will need to be a key priority of senior U.S. leaders all the way up to the presidential level in order to spark changes in both capacity and organizational culture. The question is whether the State Department and USAID can develop and maintain the ability to surge personnel and funding in response to a crisis, or whether DoD will continue to be relied upon to undertake stabilization and reconstruction missions.”

The Lead Agency?

“If nation-building remains a foreign-policy priority for the United States but the majority of resources and capabilities for that priority are concentrated in DoD, that organization, which already has the military missions under its control, will become the lead agency for a major component of U.S. foreign policy. Such a development would weaken the role of the State Department, both at home and abroad. It would raise concerns about the weakening of civilian control over military policy and undermine U.S. diplomatic efforts around the world. In short, it would be a fundamental realignment of how the United States both sees itself and is seen globally.”

The study recommends that the United States:

  • emphasize civilian, rather than military, capacity in stability and reconstruction missions

  • realign the roles of the National Security Council, State Department and United States Agency for International Development rather than create new bureaucracies
  • fund and implement the Civilian Stabilization Initiative
  • improve the ability to deploy police officers for both community policing and specialized tasks
  • improve crisis management for stabilization and reconstruction missions
  • ensure coherent guidance and funding for effectiveness and sustainability.

Read the summary here. Read the whole thing here.

Related Item:

RAND: Improving Capacity for Stabilization and Reconstruction Operations
By: Nora Bensahel, Olga Oliker, Heather Peterson
Download: 0.5 MB pdf file; 105 pages

Leave a comment

Filed under Big Think, Defense Department, Interagency Cooperation, State Department, T-Tank Reports, USAID

Up Close and Personal: Reconstruction & Stabilization Operations

Recent stabilization and reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq have underlined the need for the United States to shift the burden of these operations away from the Defense Department and onto other government agencies better suited to the work, according to a study released last week by the RAND Corporation.

“The military isn’t the best agency for reconstruction and stabilization missions, even though it can get personnel and resources to a location quickly,” said Nora Bensahel, lead author of the study and senior political scientist with RAND, a nonprofit research organization. “Putting the military in charge of these tasks also sets a bad example because one of the key components of democratic theory is civilian control over the military,” Bensahel said. “If these tasks are highly or completely militarized, it raises fundamental doubts as to whether it is, indeed, democracy that is promoted by U.S. assistance.”

On Personnel Surge?

“Absent fundamental changes in organization and resources, the State Department and USAID will probably be more knowledgeable about stabilization and reconstruction issues than DoD but nowhere near as good at surging personnel in response to a crisis. Developing the capacity in civilian agencies to surge personnel and funding will need to be a key priority of senior U.S. leaders all the way up to the presidential level in order to spark changes in both capacity and organizational culture. The question is whether the State Department and USAID can develop and maintain the ability to surge personnel and funding in response to a crisis, or whether DoD will continue to be relied upon to undertake stabilization and reconstruction missions.”

The Lead Agency?

“If nation-building remains a foreign-policy priority for the United States but the majority of resources and capabilities for that priority are concentrated in DoD, that organization, which already has the military missions under its control, will become the lead agency for a major component of U.S. foreign policy. Such a development would weaken the role of the State Department, both at home and abroad. It would raise concerns about the weakening of civilian control over military policy and undermine U.S. diplomatic efforts around the world. In short, it would be a fundamental realignment of how the United States both sees itself and is seen globally.”

The study recommends that the United States:

  • emphasize civilian, rather than military, capacity in stability and reconstruction missions

  • realign the roles of the National Security Council, State Department and United States Agency for International Development rather than create new bureaucracies
  • fund and implement the Civilian Stabilization Initiative
  • improve the ability to deploy police officers for both community policing and specialized tasks
  • improve crisis management for stabilization and reconstruction missions
  • ensure coherent guidance and funding for effectiveness and sustainability.

Read the summary here. Read the whole thing here.

Related Item:

RAND: Improving Capacity for Stabilization and Reconstruction Operations
By: Nora Bensahel, Olga Oliker, Heather Peterson
Download: 0.5 MB pdf file; 105 pages

Leave a comment

Filed under Big Think, Defense Department, Interagency Cooperation, State Department, T-Tank Reports, USAID

Insider Quote: Past is Present Even in the FS

“You see, you can change your life; you can move half way across the world, but you can never totally leave your past behind. In some unplanned way, when you least expect it, it will hit you like it happened yesterday. If your past contains some pain, and frankly whose doesn’t, thankfully these moments will diminish as you get further away from the events.”



Becky Boo
Travel Tales You can run but you can’t hide
(FS Specialist Blog)

Leave a comment

Filed under Big Think, Quotes, Realities of the FS