Helping USAID Staff Understand Programming Foreign Assistance

March 28, 2017

PFA Course

The sound of a helicopter chop fills the room. The participants rush to the window of the hotel-meeting-turned-class-room to see who has arrived. They quickly realize it’s just the First Lady of Kenya dropping by to ensure that all is ready for the art exhibition being held at the hotel that evening. This is one of many unexpected and exciting moments that can happen during an overseas delivery of the USAID Programming Foreign Assistance course.

As exciting as a visit from the First Lady can be, the real power of the course is what happens in the classroom. Two facilitators guide approximately 25 USAID staff from missions around the world through five days of learning all about USAID systems and processes. Between the facilitators’ development experience and the participants’ willingness to learn, this is truly where the magic happens.

What is the Programming Foreign Assistance course? The course addresses the heart of the work USAID does around the world. Planning for and implementing programs with foreign assistance funds is a complex process involving many players – from USAID technical and support staff to the ambassador in the overseas mission, USAID Washington staff and leadership, the Congress, and even the Office of the President.

The course gives participants an overview of those players, as well as a framework for understanding how USAID plans for, budgets, implements, and learns from the work that it does. Lessons cover many topics including foreign assistance stakeholders, the legal framework for development, the U.S. Budget process, developing country strategies and plans, and monitoring and evaluating the implementation of activities, with a strong focus on continually learning, adapting, and improving on USAID’s results. The course, a key component of USAID’s capacity building efforts, is delivered dozens of times per year in Washington and in missions around the world.

Why is Programming Foreign Assistance important? It provides an understanding of the many pieces that come together to form the complex system of USAID’s work in programming foreign assistance. Because different people will be familiar with different pieces of the system, understanding how it all fits together can be elusive without a comprehensive overview. The course offers participants the opportunity to explore, ask tough questions, become familiar with acronyms, and ground themselves in policy and best practices for designing and implementing successful development projects.

What are the rewards of facilitating the Programming Foreign Assistance course? The rewards are too many to count: Working with and learning from smart, dedicated people from all over the world. Seeing the lightbulb come on. Hearing a participant say that we’ve demystified the budget process. Helping participants grasp how the work they do fits into USAID’s high-level strategies, supports our national security, defends the next budget to the U.S. Congress, and builds a stronger, healthier, more just world. These are important topics to grasp, and it’s an honor and a privilege see participants’ understanding take hold!

EnCompass, as a subcontractor to IRG/RTI International, delivers Programming Foreign Assistance instruction under USAID's Worldwide Training IQC. 

Unaltered photo c/o USAID Book Sprints via Creative Commons

Comments

Bob R

Excellent post!  I appreciated reading about this exciting work.

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