By Kaylyn Koberna
Thought-leaders from the public and private sectors gathered in Aspen, Colorado for the first annual Aspen Institute Madeleine K. Albright Global Development Lecture. This named lecture recognizes an exceptional individual whose vision has provided breakthrough thinking to tackle the challenges of global development. Dr. Rajiv Shah, Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), was honored as the keynote speaker.
The Madeleine K. Albright Global Development Lecture was hosted on the opening evening of the Brookings Blum Roundtable and was the product of a collaboration between the Aspen Institute, Aspen Network for Development Entrepreneurs (ANDE), Aspen Global Health and Development (Aspen GHD), and the Brookings Institution.
Both ANDE and Aspen GHD were honored to be able to celebrate the accomplishments and thinking of both Dr. Shah and Dr. Albright. These leaders have demonstrated tenacity, vision, and innovation in the realm of global development. Program host ANDE operates a global network of over 150 organizations that propel entrepreneurship in the developing world. Through its membership and its programs, ANDE is actively working on this in emerging economies all around the world. Aspen GHD has extensive experience in fostering breakthrough ideas, and is currently promoting innovations at the intersections of different development sectors including reproductive health and food security.
Given former Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright’s position as an Aspen Institute trustee and a long-time friend of Dr. Shah, her introduction was characterized by both professional respect and personal warmth. After citing Dr. Shah as “someone known for both his vision and for his creative thinking,” Dr. Albright commended USAID for moving ahead “on every front—from recruiting talent to harnessing technology, and from evaluating what works to finding the means to improve performance even more."
Dr. Shah has a formidable record as a change-maker. In November 2010, less than a year after taking office, he spearheaded the ambitious USAID Forward campaign, which sought “to change the way the Agency does business, with new partnerships, an emphasis on innovation and a relentless focus on results." Two of USAID Forward’s main reforms centered on the areas of science & technology and innovation.
The theme of innovation was at the core of Dr. Shah’s remarks, which called for the expansion of “open source” development. According to Administrator Shah, open source development “enables a system of free enterprise to take hold and connect to an integrated global economy in a way that protects the opportunities of vulnerable and poor populations to survive and thrive." By enabling greater participation by a greater range of actors, Dr. Shah believes that USAID will “serve as a platform that connects world’s biggest development challenges to development problem solvers all around the world."
Achieving this vision will entail a dramatic re-thinking of development work. Among other things, it requires a “shift from designing and implementing projects to serving as a connector," a role that Dr. Shah cautions will challenge USAID to relinquish some of the control it has historically exercised over its projects. However, the payoff is enormous. Once development transcends “the exclusive realm of large expert organizations,” the contributions of new actors will dramatically accelerate international progress.
The Aspen Institute Madeleine K. Albright Global Development Lecture, with its diverse audience of government, NGO, and private sector representatives, exemplified the potential power of greater collaboration among sectors not traditionally linked to development. As the international development community embraces new innovations in the final push towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals, Aspen Institute events such as the Madeleine K. Albright Global Development Lecture will continue to provide participants the inspiration they need to continue development’s impressive forward momentum.
To read Dr. Rajiv Shah’s remarks in full, please click here