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The development community got an early Valentine from the White House: an executive order establishing the President’s Global Development Council. The council’s mission is to inform the president and other senior government officials on U.S. global development policies. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to help the White House generate nominees for the twelve non-government seats at the table.

Here’s what has developmentistas’ hearts a-flutter:

  1. Sharing the love. The council, like the Presidential Policy Directive on Global Development that conceived it, is meant to cut across U.S. development policies (read: not just foreign aid) and agencies (read: not just USAID).
  2. Table for 12. Like the innovative MCC Board of Directors which has U.S. government and private board members, the Global Development Council aims to give non-profit, private sector, academic and philanthropic individuals a seat at the president’s development table. The council will include 12 individuals from outside the federal government and five non-voting government officials (see below).
  3. A wink and a smile for USAID. USAID will administer the council and sit alongside the Secretaries of State, Treasury, and Defense, and Millennium Challenge Corporation CEO as non-voting members. While this falls short of the once-dreamed-of cabinet-level status for USAID, it recognizes a role  for the agency in coordinating U.S. development policy and in the council, at least, development sits alongside defense and diplomacy.

And yes, I can already hear you hardened hearts out there. There are some easy cautions to avoid falling needlessly head-over-heels. The council has to be active and engaged in real policy decisions (i.e. not a loose, public engagement forum like ACVFA). This means there also have to be real, moving development policy issues that have hope of making it out of the hole-of-government. The council also has to strike the right balance so it is gets constructive (and innovative) input and isn't an outlet for special interests. And there is always the fear of an annulment come the 2012 election.

But the first step to avoid heartache is to make sure the White House doesn’t get stood up by the development community. Help them come up with names of the best thinkers and do-ers that should be advising the president on development. The sky is the limit: think big, think bold. Individuals should have stature and come from a variety of backgrounds: higher education, non-profits, private industry, philanthropic organizations and civil society. I might add the following criteria: they should have development experience and knowledge of U.S. government processes. I'd also exclude anyone who is currently benefiting directly from the international affairs, or 150, account to avoid conflicts of interest.

Send names directly to the White House at Interest_GDC@who.eop.gov by February 24 and I hope you'll also post names in the comment field below so we can see who you're thinking about!