How might we use science and technology to enhance aid effectiveness across USAID and its Missions?

Advised USAID on Design of a New Science & Technology Office


Like many donor agencies in the 1990’s and early 2000’s, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) struggled to keep pace with the transformations occurring through innovation, science, and technology. In 2010, the new USAID Administrator Raj Shah decided it was time to change that.  He appointed the agency’s first Science and Technology Advisor in 19 years, and issued a lofty mandate: restore USAID as a leading technical agency and revitalize the agency’s ability to deploy science, technology, and innovation (STI) solutions for development.  When it came to figuring out where and how to start tackling such an ambitious goal, USAID’s new Science and Technology Advisor looked to GKI for support.


GKI was brought in as an advisor to USAID’s STI strategy articulation process. GKI first helped USAID focus its efforts on the development challenges that most warrant STI investments, and then helped USAID source hundreds of such challenges from its home and field offices, as well as from the general public. GKI then organized a high-level, two-day stakeholder workshop, using these challenges as key inputs into workshop design.  Entitled “Transforming Development through Science, Technology, and Innovation,” the workshop asked tough questions about how USAID should orient its STI support.  Leaders from industry, academia, government, civil society, and philanthropy gathered in Washington, DC to provide advice.  The process resulted in dozens of synthetic recommendations that informed the structure of the new Office of Science and Technology at USAID and its programming.

Results / Outcomes

  • Sourced and organized hundreds of challenges from USAID staff and the general public
  • Designed the overarching workshop structure and 26 working sessions that engaged participants as strategy advisors
  • Authored a White Paper that provided historical context and highlighted new opportunities for USAID strategy
  • Synthesized recommendations and insights generated during the workshop for USAID