Rajiv Shah

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Nation’s humanitarian-in-chief takes business-like approach | 

Tom Paulson

Rajiv Shah

Writing for Foreign Policy, Samuel Loewenberg questions Rajiv Shah, head of the U.S. Agency for International Development and a former Gates Foundation program director, about the aid agency’s goal of becoming more “business-like” in its approach.

Loewenberg, a global health fellow in Harvard’s Nieman program but more importantly (to us out here in the Northwest) an Evergreen State College grad, takes no prisoners and asks some fantastic, provocative questions such as:

Some of the $4 to $6 billion (in foreign aid) is also going toward “partnerships” with big U.S. corporations like Wal-Mart, Coca-Cola, Chevron, and Monsanto. Why does subsidizing U.S. companies help people who are poor.”

or

“From what I’ve seen in my reporting, what poor people in places like Kenya, Ethiopia, and Guatemala really need are water and roads to keep them from these recurrent hunger crises. Yet for the last 30 years USAID has largely ignored those issues.”

The story begins:

The son of Indian immigrants from Ann Arbor, Mich., and a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania Medical School and the Wharton School of Business, Rajiv Shah began his career at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, where he ran the organization’s agriculture program and went on to serve as chief scientist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). In December 2009, at the age of 37, he was sworn in as head of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) — only days before a devastating earthquake hit Haiti.

In an interview for Foreign Policy, Samuel Loewenberg spoke with Shah about how he is reinventing USAID, an often-embattled agency charged with helping the world’s poorest countries develop, while at the same time dealing with crises around the globe.

Read the rest at Foreign Policy magazine

USAID infographic on using “household items” to fight global poverty | 

The U.S. Agency for International Development, USAID, run by former Gates Foundation program manager Rajiv Shah, is trying to upgrade its approach to fighting global poverty by encouraging innovation.

In case you haven’t noticed, we are now in the Geek phase of global health and development.

In a new infographic, USAID attempts to provide more specific examples to illustrate some good examples of what it means by celebrating innovation as a means to improving people’s lives in poor countries. Continue reading

USAID’s Raj Shah’s five favorite books on development | 

by Tom Paulson

Rajiv Shah, director USAID, speaking in Seattle

Here, from The Browser, are USAID director Rajiv Shah’s top five books on development:

1. A Farewell to Alms by Gregory Clark. Shah says he likes it because of “its focus on core economic growth as the driver of divergence.” Not sure what that means. Guess I need to read it.

2. Millions Saved by Ruth Levine. Shah likes this book because it’s about “success stories in global health.”

3. The Alchemy of Air by Thomas Hager. This description of the discovery of nitrogen fertilizer, the USAID director says, “reminds us of the serendipity of scientific inquiry.”

4. The Doubly Green Revolution by Gordon Conway. “A dense read,” says Shah, by the former president of the Rockefeller Foundation about the so-called Green Revolution in agriculture and how to update it for today.

5. Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid by CK Prahalad. This book, notes Shah, “argues that the billions (of people) at the bottom of the socio-economic pyramid can be helped profitably.”

So there you have it. Feel free to suggest any books Raj should read since the former Gates Foundation program manager is now running perhaps the world’s leading foreign aid agency — and trying to improve its effectiveness.

Melinda Gates urges Congress not to cut foreign aid, to save lives | 

Chris Kleponis, AFP/Getty Images

Melinda Gates

Melinda Gates, in Washington, D.C. today for the CARE Women’s Conference, called Congress not to cut foreign aid and also announced a new project, the Grand Challenge for Development: Saving Lives at Birth.

The Gates Foundation is among those asking Congress not to cut foreign aid.

The new initiative is aimed at supporting efforts, many of them paid for by U.S. taxpayers, aimed at saving mothers and babies’ lives in poor countries.

The Gates Foundation new, $50-million “grand challenge” announced by Melinda is focused on preventing maternal deaths and improving child survival. It is a collaboration with the U.S. Agency for International Development, the governments of Norway and Canada, the World Bank and others.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and USAID administrator Rajiv Shah (a former Gates Foundation program manager) also spoke. You can watch the press conference here.

And for more info re the gist of Melinda’s speech at the CARE conference, you can read her philanthropy blog post here.

Feds deny funding to UW health project in Mozambique | 

The Obama Administration says it wants to re-invent foreign aid and one of its mantras is to increase “country ownership” of the programs it funds for improving health and welfare in poor countries.

Given this, it came as a shock to Dr. Stephen Gloyd and others at the UW’s Health Alliance International (HAI) when the government basically pulled the plug on a long-running AIDS health care project in Mozambique that is, or was anyway, widely regarded as a model of doing just that.

“It’s ironic given their goal of wanting to strengthen local governance,” said Gloyd, director at HAI.

The U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID) recently denied HAI its request for continued funding of the project — a $100 million, 5-year grant. As a result of losing its bid for the grant, the non-profit organization affiliated with the UW Global Health Department had to lay-off nearly 900 health workers in Mozambique and cut its Seattle staffing by half, from more than 40 down to 22 people.

“It’s been wrenching,” said Gloyd, who is also associate chairman of the UW Global Health Department.

As the Seattle Times reported this week, the non-profit health services organization had expanded greatly over the past five years to assist with the global efforts aimed at improving access to HIV treatment in Africa. Gloyd said they fully expected to continue doing this work. Continue reading

David Rieff did NOT call Raj Shah a Marxist | 

Update / clarification on my earlier post in which I poked fun at an article that claimed Bill Gates has brainwashed the Obama Administration.

In The New Republic article, the author David Rieff contends that Gates and his techno-fix minions at the world’s largest philanthropy have indoctrinated everyone in the Obama Administration, including former Gates Foundation guy and current USAID director Raj Shah, into the Microsoft mindset.

The article is worth reading, even though I disagree with many (not all) of Rieff’s points and felt it was bit off-target and dismissive of many people and organizations who seem to be legitimately trying to reduce global poverty.

Anyway, Rieff took exception to my somewhat off-the-cuff claim that he appeared to be implying that Shah operated like a Marxist. I think he’s right, and I was wrong on that. Here’s what he said in an email to me:

Dear Mr Paulson,

You are absolutely within your rights to criticize my views as severely as you think appropriate. But I would have hoped you would represent them fairly while doing so. I NEVER called Raj Shah a Marxist. You’re completely right: to do so would indeed be laughable. But what I wrote was that in thinking about what I view as the revolving door relationship between the US Government, the UN, and the Gates Foundation, the old Marxist category of an interlocking directorate was a useful explanatory key — that is, I was making use of a Marxist idea, not accusing Raj Shah of being a Marxist.

Yours sincerely,

David Rieff

Innovate to Stretch Foreign Aid Dollars | 

Rajiv Shah

by Tom Paulson

Rajiv Shah, director USAID

Dr. Rajiv Shah, director of USAID for the Obama Administration, took time out of his family vacation to participate in a packed-house public forum Friday at Seattle’s St. Mark’s Cathedral focused on how to improve global development.

Shah, a former program director on health and agriculture projects for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, said innovation and technological breakthroughs will play a key role in the Obama Administration’s approach to making progress in foreign assistance programs.

Advances in mobile phones, solar energy and tablet computers hold promise for application even in poor communities of the developing world, he said. Poverty, Shah said, can be fought with the “smart application of science and technology.”

Seattle and Washington state, he said, has already established itself as a leader in finding innovative technological solutions to many problems in global health and development. He urged participants to continue to push for this strategy and to make their voices heard in Washington, D.C., as the Obama Administration and Congress are actively engaged in reforming foreign assistance. Continue reading