August 18, 2009 – 1:30 p.m.
|Presenters:||David Barth, USAID Office of Education|
Mitch Kirby, USAID Pakistan
Seema Agarwal-Harding, USAID Regional Development Missions for Asia
Global Development Alliance
This session focused on regional platforms as illustrations of technical assistance provision and gap-filling programming. Presenters emphasized that regional platforms have the propensity to both serve as effective regional training centers and build relationships with stakeholders in the region. However, participants in this session questioned the need of a corporate model to govern the structure of USAID regional platforms. Many participants voiced their concern for regional platforms to be able to adapt to their region’s needs. Regional platforms serve to bolster and support new areas of programming or recent staff additions. More importantly, regional advisors function as “hands-on mentors” providing assistance with programming. Participants pointed out one argument in favor of a corporate model for regional platforms, the fact that the existence of a standard structural model serves to institutionalize the model, thereby providing stability, however also limiting flexibility.
Using a regional platform in Cairo as an example, presenters discussed the fact that there is no corporate model at USAID governing how a platform should be constructed or what the goal of a region should be. The regional platform in Cairo was created in 2005 to provide technical assistance and fill gaps in current programming. Functioning as regional clearinghouses, regional platforms make very effective training centers—especially at Missions that have healthy programming. Participants discussed the fact that there is a correlation between demand and need for such platform programming. Furthermore, the preparation of officers in a regional studies context is necessary (akin to U.S. Department of State training). Regional platforms also offer the ability to be on the ground, build relationships, and create accurate programs.
Participants agreed that the “how” of building a regional platform is more complicated. Although it is easy to know what needs to be done, the logistics of how to make things happen can be problematic: even when there are initiatives that are intended, which are regional in nature, roles as to who will do them and who will fill what roles. Oftentimes, there can be confusion between the views of regional advisors at Missions, regional advisors in Washington, D.C and staff in the platform office. Regional advisors can also function as hands-on mentors, helping to prevent burnout while providing assistance to staff in the field. Nonetheless, according to participants, regional institutions have been one of the most positive additions in the Africa region.
Key take away points included how regional platforms have supported knowledge sharing among regions/countries. This cross-fertilization of ideas allows regional advisors to function as “orchestra leaders” promoting cooperation and collaboration among Missions. Session attendees and participants questioned the need for a regional platform corporate model and emphasized that regional platforms should adapt to regional needs. Participants felt flexibility was more important than standardization, allowing regional platforms to be more effective.