Attn: Presidential Transition Teams – 3 Big Ideas and 3 Smart Reforms for US Development Policy

October 24, 2016

Global development isn't exactly a campaign issue. But we at CGD hope it's a policy area both presidential transition teams are taking very seriously. The next US president will need to confront and prevent crises where our development and humanitarian assistance is a far more useful (and less expensive) response than guns and bombs. And smart development policy can help secure US economic interests by building markets. But more than a tool for US national security and economic gains, US development policy is fundamental to American leadership in the world. When you strip away the partisan rhetoric and the misinformation, most Americans say it’s the right thing to do too.

To that end, led by Scott Morris, we at the CGD Rethinking US Development Policy program put together a short memo to the transition teams. It's not comprehensive, there's so much more that could be done (see White House and the World and we'll be hearing from some other CGD experts on additional fronts soon); but these are the three big new ideas and three critical reforms we think need to get attention starting today with the transition teams. These ideas and reforms take into account where the United States has the ability to have the most impact on the biggest problems and the biggest opportunities and build on the successes of the Obama administration.

Big Ideas

  1. Seize on the catalytic and multiplier effects of investing in women and girls and launch a $1 billion incentive fund targeted at women’s economic empowerment.
  2. Be the global leader in sustainable infrastructure investment, including through launching the US Development Finance Corporation, new commitments to the MDBs, and scaling Power Africa.
  3. Target the migration crisis with humanitarian compacts for countries hosting a large number of refugees.

Smart Reforms

  1. Take country ownership to the next level to make our development investments sustainable.
  2. Relentlessly focus on results, from effective evaluations to adaptive management to outcomes-based funding models.
  3. Allow USAID more flexibility, starting with Effectiveness Pilots.

And, of course, we'd love to hear your responses to these and your ideas. Send me an email: or include in the comments below!


CGD blog posts reflect the views of the authors, drawing on prior research and experience in their areas of expertise. CGD is a nonpartisan, independent organization and does not take institutional positions.