DAVOS, Switzerland — Mark Green, administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, is in Davos this week to make good on his goal to better engage the private sector in development work.
“We want to tap into the entrepreneurship and creativity and ingenuity of the private sector by going beyond contracting and grantmaking,” he said. USAID will move toward co-designing, co-creating, and co-financing solutions in order to engage business, allowing the agency to come up with the best solutions.
In his conversations at Davos, Green said that the business community has responded well to his focus on changing how USAID engages with them, and understand the agency is “very much interested in true collaboration.”
USAID will use existing mechanisms, some of which haven’t previously been used as often, to engage with the private sector, including grand challenges and the use of broad agency announcements. USAID released a BAA last year to tackle the voluntary return of internally displaced people in Iraq.
Green also highlighted an increase use of innovative financing mechanisms, pointing to the Utkrisht Impact Bond, which tackles maternal child health in India, and the Smart Communities Coalition, which will work to address internet connectivity, digital payments, and energy access in refugee settlements.
His trip comes less than a month before the administration’s budget is expected to be released. Those with knowledge of the matter anticipate significant cuts to the aid budget, but neither the budget nor the reorganization process will be significantly impacted by increased private sector engagement, Green said.
“I can honestly say that we would be undertaking these types of initiatives regardless of what the budget situation was. The two are not tied together,” Green said. “We’re mostly interested in tapping into the spirit, the ethos of the private sector and trying to harness some of the ingenuity, the market-driven creativity to take on challenges.”
Much of USAID’s work will continue to be funded in more traditional ways, he added.
Green said that USAID staff are excited about working with the private sector on new ideas and finding the most effective solutions, and that doing this work won’t require a restructuring at USAID. Rather, staff will just spend more time reaching out to people who haven’t been engaged as often in the past, he said.
This approach also won’t have a direct impact on budget allocations, Green said. USAID’s “dedication to our work in various sectors is unchanged, what is changing is how to get the results we are looking for,” he said, adding that the agency may look to emphasize domestic resource mobilization.