More From the Blog

  • Achieving USAID’s 30 percent local spending goal

    In 2010, the United States Agency for International Development formulated a bold, new agenda for modernizing U.S. foreign assistance. Christened USAID Forward, one of its most notable features was an objective to program 30 percent of development assistance directly to local governments and civil society organizations.

    At the time, only about 10 percent of USAID’s funding was awarded to local organizations. Earmarking U.S. assistance for local organizations was cheered by developing country partners and U.S. advocacy groups, such as the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network and the Center for Global Development, who had long argued that international NGOs, however well-intentioned, crowded out local actors and limited the growth of local capacity.

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  • Five ways to make universal access to family planning a reality

    Young woman smiling

    Photo: Jim Daniels/FHI 360

    World leaders recently ratified the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, which set 169 ambitious targets to be achieved by 2030. Reaching these goals would greatly improve the lives of people worldwide. Women and girls have much to gain, especially because two of the targets call for ensuring universal access to sexual and reproductive health services, including family planning.

    Given the contributions that family planning can make to nearly all 17 of the goals, we think that universal access to family planning could be a Sustainable Development Goal of its own. Still, the global community has taken a big step in the right direction.

    Now, how can we ensure that universal access to family planning becomes a reality? Here are five ways.

    1. Bring new and lower-cost contraceptive methods to market.

    More than 225 million women in developing countries want to avoid or delay pregnancy but are not using an effective method of family planning. For many of these women, the currently available products do not meet their needs and preferences.

    Some popular methods in the United States, such as the levonorgestrel-releasing intrauterine system (LNG-IUS), remain largely unavailable to women in developing countries because of cost. The introduction of more affordable products, such as the new LNG-IUS from Medicines360 and Sino-implant (II), can be game changing for diversifying the method mix accessible to women.

    Researchers are also developing novel methods of long-acting, highly effective contraception, such as a biodegradable implant and a longer-acting injectable.

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  • The age of integration

    The Sustainable Development Goals adopted by the United Nations in September provide an expansive vision of what we can accomplish over the next 15 years. Unlike the previous global development agenda, they include goals for all countries, not just poor ones, and more consideration for protecting our planet. The language also emphasizes that the new goals are integrated and indivisible, something the authors explain as win-win cooperation among the social, economic and environmental domains.

    Now that the new global agenda is officially launched with slick logos and celebrity endorsements, and as the cheers (and some boos) start to die down, it’s time to talk about the hard stuff: How do we actually operationalize an integrated development agenda?

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  • A version of this post originally appeared on Girls’ Globe. Reposted with permission.

    Opening up the panel, Greg BeckFHI 360‘s Director of Integrated Development, told the story of one particular attempt to aid in relief efforts. After great effort, and amassing donations and supplies, they opened boxes to find stacks of things like inflatable toilets and acne cream.

    Asked Beck, “How is this going to help anybody rebuild their life?”

    Beck’s point was an extreme example of a nonetheless integral point: development and aid are not straightforward, not simple. They don’t consist of simply hurling donations and good intentions at a problem and hoping something sticks.

    The term “integrated development” means just that — that development is complex and requires coordinated, planned effort across sectors.

    It operates around the idea that development does not exist problem by problem, sector by sector. You can’t improve global health without improving education without improving women’s rights. Naturally, there are some specific efforts that require a concentrated approach, but overall, a holistic view is more effective, and organizations and governments need to address what people really lack in the complex, multilayered environments in which they live — not just what we think they need.

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  • Beyond the health benefits, what does family planning have to do with the SDGs?

    A version of this post originally appeared on K4Health. Reposted with permission.

    The international community is abuzz with excitement about the new global development agenda, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Officially being launched this month, the aims laid out are more ambitious and all encompassing than ever before. As such, they’ve generated an expectedly broad, diverse and loud chorus of suggestions for their implementation. Everyone seems on the hunt for the best new idea or technology to carry the agenda forward. Yet, after decades of work and untold millions of dollars in investments in research and ideas, surely we must know something useful today that could be put to good use? Perhaps while smartly pursuing innovations that keep pace with our changing world, we can also put some real investment behind some of even the simplest things that we already know to be true and which might just need a little more traction before we can finally benefit from their full potential impact.

    For example, right now we have a tool available to us that spans almost every SDG. It’s a relatively inexpensive solution that can simultaneously improve global outcomes in education, health and wealth. It can help preserve our environment and ensure food security for people around the world. You may be wondering why you have not heard of this amazing tool, but it’s far from new. Drumroll … it’s fully meeting the global demand for contraception. That’s right — sound evidence from around the world tells us several things.

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    A call for integrated, people-centered approaches in the post-2015 era

    Impressed with their success in Kenya, the donor installed state-of-the-art hand pumps along Somalia’s Jubba River, confident that community members would also benefit from the highly effective water delivery system.

    A year later, the water pumps sat broken and unused.

    When my colleagues and I visited the community to ask why folks weren’t using the pumps, they told us that a regular (earthen) catchment system to capture water during the rainy season or a hand-dug well along the riverside would have better jibed with their way of life. That’s what they would have preferred. But no one talked to them before installing the hand pumps.

    It’s a scenario I’ve witnessed time and again in global development, whether the goal is to improve reproductive health outcomes for women or rebuild communities in the wake of a natural disaster or conflict. For too long now, donors and development practitioners have taken a top-down approach to addressing complex global challenges — or even the seemingly simple ones, like providing water during the dry season. We predetermine the solutions. We package them into artificial, often unrealistic time frames. And we do it all alongside of rigid funding structures.

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  • Srey Sros: Addressing the needs of transgender populations in Cambodia

    Srey Sros model

    A transgender model promotes the Srey Sros program. Photo: Graphic Roots Studio, Cambodia

    I have three long-haired boys, and wherever we go in Cambodia, people are confused, certain they are girls. We are constantly asked, “Why?” The answer is simple: They like having long hair. My boys’ push against traditional gender expressions is perhaps acceptable only because Cambodians have come to expect odd behavior from foreigners.

    Yet, it is a different matter for a Cambodian transgender individual with long hair. Transgender individuals in this setting face many acute challenges, and their unconventional appearance is only one of them.

    Transgender individuals in Cambodia carry a high burden of HIV. According to a study conducted by FHI 360 in select urban centers of the country, transgender individuals have an HIV prevalence of 4.15 percent (compared to 0.6 percent for the general population). Despite this striking percentage, they have historically been left out of HIV prevention and care programs. When they were included, they were incorrectly targeted as men who have sex with men. This means that there were no distinct behavior change communications or services for this group.

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  • Looking to nature to forge a new path in development

    Paul BundickOur thinking about development has been dominated by the metaphor of the machine. But, as deterministic systems, machines must be predictable to run smoothly, and their behavior is dictated by their structure and parts, along with the instructions of an external operator. The smallest change or variation can bring a machine crashing to a stop.

    Using the same mechanistic model, project managers apply multiple controls to reduce variety in the system, with the goal of trying to make input-output relations more predictable and efficient.

    When this approach is applied to complex development problems, it falls woefully short. It can even be dangerous. The realities we try to change — the big questions of development — are not machinelike at all. They involve exceedingly complex systems of interaction, coevolution and emergence, which are more like ecologies than machines. In ecosystems, as well as economies, variation or innovation provide the very possibility for change.

    Read the remainder of the blog here.

  • Youth and long-acting, reversible contraception: Confronting the myths with truth

    Youth and contraception: two words that when used together excite visceral responses throughout the world. The response is even more fraught when we consider long-acting, reversible contraceptives (LARCs) for youth. Both intrauterine devices (IUDs) and implants are LARCs, and the challenges for young people who wish to use them — lack of access, myths and misconceptions, provider bias and community stigma — are pervasive. We have to understand more about these challenges in order to overcome them.

    In late May 2015, FHI 360 and partners — U.S. Agency for International Development, PSI, MSI and Pathfinder International’s Evidence to Action project — sponsored a symposium, called “For Youth, a Healthy Option With LARCs” in Washington, DC. The meeting convened more than 100 experts from around the world, including program advisors and implementers, researchers, health providers, donors and advocates, as well as young people themselves. The meeting’s goal was to encourage participants to share experiences, tackle tough questions and advocate for wider access to LARCs for young women.

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  • A call for new thinking in the new systems age

    Paul BundickAs human development practitioners, we have been talking a lot recently about how a changing world is demanding new approaches to development in the way we finance, implement our projects and measure the results of our work. But what has been missing is a discussion about how to change the way we think about the world and mental models we use as we try to make our world a better place. While we all agree that the world has changed, our mental models lag behind, and we desperately need a mental model upgrade.

    Otto Scharmer, an economist, organization theorist and keynote speaker at the upcoming Challenge Conference in Washington, DC, wrote in Leading from the Emerging Future, “The success of our actions as change-makers does not depend on what we do or how we do it, but on the inner place from which we operate.” In other words, our awareness provides the underlying ground out of which our thinking and doing emerge.

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