International Democracy Day reminds us, in the words of USAID Administrator Mark Green, that “advancing fundamental freedoms, promoting democracy, and strengthening human rights reflect the best of who we are.” As we honor #DemocracyDay this September, EnCompass is also celebrating one year of work with USAID’s Center of Excellence on Democracy, Rights, and Governance (the DRG Center). We sat down with Chief of Party Jennifer Collins-Foley, who leads the USAID Generating Results within Our Work (GROW) activity, to learn about this collaboration.
What about GROW and its mission inspired you to lead this activity?
JCF: Leading the GROW team means a lot to me, both conceptually and personally. Conceptually, GROW provides my team, and EnCompass, with an opportunity to contribute to something important. We work behind the scenes to bring people together and share information and best practices for the DRG sector. We support the DRG Center’s subject–matter experts to be deliberate in their objectives as we collaborate to design learning events, such as training programs and webinars, measure their work, and see the effects of their successes. We provide space to pause and reflect on the possibilities, and expertise to support planning of thoughtful learning opportunities.
On a personal level, it’s satisfying to lead the GROW activity because it’s an amazing confluence of the things I love about my career. I get to contribute to the DRG Center’s thought leadership, and USAID’s. They are entities I really believe in. I get to work with others to integrate gender and inclusive development into DRG work and learning events. And I get to strengthen the capacity of colleagues, who are some of the brightest minds in the field, while appreciating that they have a lot on their plates.
What an opportunity we have to help them, so that they can shine! And then, to lead a team like the GROW team, that brings so much creativity, experience, and positive energy, is extraordinary. Every day, I just feel so proud.
In GROW’s first year, what are some things you and your team have accomplished?
JCF: Again, it’s an honor to support the DRG Center’s thought leadership. Their commitment to democracy and governance goes above and beyond their jobs. For example, it’s inspiring that so many subject–matter experts in the DRG Center want to go beyond their regular work and serve as trainers. And we help them do that through design, delivery, and continuous improvement of a DRG training-of-trainers course.
I am proud that my team has successfully laid the foundation to expand DRG sector face–to–face training into a learning journey, with expanded opportunities for creativity and engagement. We have also provided many vibrant spaces for discussion in the past year, from small–group conversations with DRG Center Director Tim Meisburger on issues critical to the DRG sector to the 2019 DRG Conference, a weeklong event for hundreds of people and with a keynote address by USAID Administrator Mark Green.
Our support makes it possible for these kinds of events to focus on key issues in the DRG sector and more broadly in international development. Our evaluation team members measure the success of our training, convening, and coaching services, making sure they lead to learning, application, and ultimately, impact. They help us hold ourselves accountable.
We also have a recognized rock star in the DRG field, Erin Soto of TLC Solutions, on the GROW team. She is a seasoned executive with more than 30 years of global experience. Erin leads our leadership and coaching workstream, and she and her coaches provide holistic, values-based, and action-oriented counseling to the DRG Center.
Finally, I love that we support the DRG Center’s commitment to serving democracy practitioners around the world. We provide space for them to think about whom they want to put in front of a microphone, or how to share their story in a newsletter article. We make sure the Center’s webinars are accessible to all stakeholders who have so much to contribute to a discussion.
What are you looking forward to in the next year of GROW?
JCF: I’m looking forward to expanding our coaching and leadership offerings and making sure even more DRG Center leaders have access to these services. We’re also delivering our first e-learning course this fall. We’re investing in some of the best learning content and practices to share the foundations of USAID’s work in particular spaces, such as human rights or elections and political processes. In doing that, we will have the ability to share this with USAID and DRG colleagues around the world.
And in the next year, we’re looking forward to diving into an important component of our contract, called “Reaching Broader Audiences.” We will be supporting the DRG Center’s commitment to fostering conversation and engagement on these issues not only among USAID colleagues, but with the larger DRG community.
I can’t think of a better way to celebrate democracy than making sure more voices are involved in integrating democracy assistance in development efforts. I look forward to seeing GROW continue to support information exchange and thought leadership at the DRG Center in support of that goal.
Pictures of the GROW Team are in the gallery below; click through to see JCF and her colleagues in action.
EnCompass manages the GROW contract with partner MSI.
Director of Gender & Inclusive Development
Jennifer Collins-Foley, EnCompass’ Director of Gender & Inclusive Development, brings a proven commitment to transformative collaboration and knowledge sharing about what works to advance gender equity and inclusion and democracy, human rights, and governance. With 30 years of international development experience in international organizations ranging from the United Nations to the National Democratic Institute, she has led overseas and U.S.-based projects and teams, focusing on program design, implementation, management, and capacity strengthening, in sectors including democracy assistance, economic development, education development, and inclusive security.
Before joining EnCompass, Ms. Collins-Foley served as the Senior Inclusive Development Advisor at World Learning. While there, she designed and co-created an internationally recognized Transforming Agency, Access, and Power (TAAP) Approach and Toolkit to promote gender equality and inclusion of marginalized groups who may be at risk due to social factors such as their age, ability, sexual identity, religion, ethnic, or racial identity. As the lead author, she built a collaborative and inclusive learning network on inclusive development, composed of donor organizations and implementing partners, resulting in an interactive manual that supports development practitioners to integrate participatory approaches and context sensitivity and analysis throughout the development program cycle.
Ms. Collins-Foley served as Senior Practitioner Faculty with the School for International Training Graduate Institute where she taught Issues in Sustainable Development, Program Design and Management, Inclusive Security, and Gender Equality and Human Development from 2011–2018. She has a BA in Political Science from St. Michael’s College and a JD from Albany Law School.