The Business of Government Hour


About the show

The Business of Government Hour features a conversation about management with a government executive who is changing the way government does business. The executives discuss their careers and the management challenges facing their organizations. Past government executives include Administrators, Chief Financial Officers, Chief Information Officers, Chief Operating Officers, Commissioners, Controllers, Directors, and Undersecretaries.

The interviews

Join the IBM Center for a weekly conversation about management with a government executive who is changing the way government does business.

Holly Wise interview

Monday, November 29th, 1999 - 20:00
Holly Wise
Radio show date: 
Tue, 02/03/2004
Intro text: 
Leadership; Strategic Thinking; Missions and Programs...

Leadership; Strategic Thinking; Missions and Programs

Magazine profile: 
Complete transcript: 

Tuesday, February 3, 2004

Arlington, Virginia

Mr. Lawrence: Good morning, and welcome to The Business of Government Hour. I'm Paul Lawrence, partner in charge of The IBM Center for the Business of Government. We created the Center in 1998 to encourage discussion and research into new approaches to improving government effectiveness. You can find out more about the Center by visiting on the Web at

The Business of Government Radio Show features a conversation about management with a government executive who is changing the way government does business. Our special guest this morning is Holly Wise, Secretariat Director for the Global Development Alliance for the U.S. Agency for International Development. Good morning, Holly.

Ms. Wise: Good morning. Nice to be here.

Mr. Lawrence: And joining us in our conversation, also from IBM, is Elise Storck.

Good morning, Elise.

Ms. Storck: Good morning.

Mr. Lawrence: Well, Holly, let's start by finding out more about the U.S. Agency for International Development. Can you tell us about its mission and its activities for our listeners.

Ms. Wise: The U.S. Agency for International Development is a smallish government agency, and our job is to work on addressing poverty and hunger and disease issues around the world. We work particularly in developing countries and emerging markets, and we are an instrument of foreign policy. Our work varies in different settings, but we do everything from work on HIV-AIDS to work on deforestation issues. We help with democracy and governance strengthening overseas. We work on female education programs. That's just to name a few.

Mr. Lawrence: Well, let's move on to the Global Development Alliance. Could you tell us about that?

Ms. Wise: We describe our agency as having four pillars. Three of the pillars are the things that we do: the first one being economic growth, agriculture and trade; the second being global health; the third being democracy conflict and humanitarian assistance. And we have an additional pillar, which is our business model. It's the way increasingly that we do the work that we do. That's the Global Development Alliance. It's an approach to enhancing the impact of development assistance, of foreign assistance, by working in strategic alliances with various private partners.

Ms. Storck: Holly, what is your role as the director of the Alliance Secretariat?

Ms. Wise: The Secretariat is a staff office to the administrator, and what we do is try to develop the capacity of our AID staff to build and manage these public/private partnerships. We are responsible for doing outreach to new potential partners and for assembling some of these activities, or deals, if you will. And so I have three jobs that I do. I work on organizational change and building skills and reorienting our own in-house staff. I build external relationships, and I work on specific alliances that demonstrate this kind of new work.

Ms. Storck: Holly, I understand that USAID is headquartered in Washington, and then it has its overseas missions. We're interested to know about the folks who work for you. Are they just in headquarters, or are they overseas? Tell us about the employees of the Secretariat.

Ms. Wise: The Secretariat is a very small group of six full-time people, and that's a combination of foreign service officers, which, if you know AID structure, it's like active duty military people. Then we have a couple of civil service positions, and we also have a couple of administratively determined positions from outside the Agency. As I said, the core staff; we have some contracted technical assistance that we use to support our work. But most importantly, we have Global Development Alliance points of contact in each our roughly 80 field missions overseas. They're the ones that really help to push this effort. They're the ones that support our field operation, which is our real strength, and where most of the work gets done.

Ms. Storck: What types of skills do these folks need to have to advance the Alliance?

Ms. Wise: They need to have some of the technical skills that are one of the main assets that AID brings to development work, so they have a combination of backgrounds in everything from private enterprise development to agriculture marketing to health. But probably most unique and most important is they have ability to help our staff understand that this is an opportunity for them to do their business slightly differently, and they have an ability to kind of step outside the government role and talk to potential new partners in a way that they can understand what we might be able to do together, and help to create common cause with them to build these new alliances.

Ms. Storck: So do they have to come from the private sector to be able to reach out to those partners?

Ms. Wise: In fact, they don't. If you take me as a case in point, I'm a lifer. I sometimes in a silly way describe myself as having been a child bureaucrat. I've been with the government for 25 years, and I started off as a health officer. What I was trained in is public health; what I know is government work. And yet, what I can understand and appreciate is that this presents us with unique new opportunities. And so I've kind of learned on the job about how to do this. It's not difficult, but it is challenging, and it's different from the kind of orientation we've had in the past.

Ms. Storck: In terms of your fine career, I understand you were recently a runner-up for the Service to America medal. Congratulations.

Ms. Wise: Thanks very much. I was really honored to be a finalist in that very competitive process.

Mr. Lawrence: Could you tell us more about it and why they almost selected you?

Ms. Wise: Sure. The Service to America medal is an annual competition that several public service support organizations come together to host. There are various medal categories. I was in fact a finalist in the National Security and International Affairs category. What they are looking for there, as I understand it, is those who demonstrate tremendous commitment and have some significant accomplishment to their credit in their government service. In fact, I was very proud of the gentleman that won in my category. He is a Department of Energy employee who has been working on the Chernobyl challenge for quite a long time, six or seven years, out in the field in very harsh conditions, and has helped to contain the problem and provide safe standards for moving forward with managing that area.

Mr. Lawrence: You alluded in the last question to your long career in government. I'm curious. Can you pick out a couple of jobs that you think sort of positioned you to be where you are now?

Ms. Wise: There's been nothing particularly linear about my own career, and I would suggest that that's the way it may be for many, and that that's not necessarily a problem. I started off as a health officer, as I mentioned. I had various field assignments. I am also part of a tandem couple. That is a term that sounds more like bicycling, but actually it means that I have a spouse that works in the foreign service as well. And so, given that, we have to have some flexibility to be able to be posted with our family overseas in different places.

So I was given an opportunity to move out of cone; in other words, to go from doing public health work to doing private enterprise work, and moving from the Eastern Caribbean to Kenya in East Africa some years ago. It meant also that it could accommodate a good position for my spouse, and I chose that opportunity. That was a time when I sort of went overnight from condoms to convertible debentures, and had a steep learning curve, but it's one that can be managed. So what I did was take up that post and learn a lot about capital markets development, a lot about policy and regulatory work, a lot about small and medium enterprise support, and worked on microcredit and a variety of other really exciting things in that setting.

Then I went from there to Uganda and took up more of a social service portfolio. As you know, at that time, it was pretty much the epicenter for HIV-AIDS, so we had a large and really significant program there that was contributory to helping them bring the disease to a plateau. We had work that we did on family planning, and we started a private enterprise program there. We had a variety of general development activities that I was responsible for. That was a generalist position. That was very rewarding, probably my happiest overseas assignment.

After four years in Uganda, I came back to Washington to a staff position, and that was an opportunity for me to be inside the Beltway again, understand a little bit more about the congressional and political process that drives the foreign assistance agenda, and it was a great learning experience.

I then went from there to the National Defense University, as a really special opportunity to be a student there, and then was asked to stay on and teach for several years, which I did, at the Industrial College of the Armed Forces. Came back to AID and ran our Office of Business Development, and that was, again, an interesting new challenge and something that I appreciated having the opportunity to do. That kept me in the private enterprise realm, so I've had that, been a little bit steeped in that.

And then, frankly, there was an unexpected opportunity in the political transition to sit on a transition task force. I was asked as one of three people to help with that, looking to wither the agency, and to address some of the issues which were of great concern in the foreign affairs community at the time. That's when the Global Development Alliance idea took root, and we built it from there. Secretary Powell announced it firmly in his congressional testimony in May 2001, and we officially started a secretariat about six months later, and have been busy working on organizational change and building new alliances since then.

Mr. Lawrence: Well, you certainly were right when you said it wasn't linear. I heard at least three careers in there. That was very interesting.

How has the way we provide assistance to countries changed over time? We'll ask Holly Wise of the U.S. Agency for International Development to tell us more about that when The Business of Government Hour returns.


Mr. Lawrence: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm Paul Lawrence, and this morning's conversation is with Holly Wise, Secretariat Director for the Global Development Alliance of the U.S. Agency for International Development.

And joining us in our conversation is Elise Storck.

Ms. Storck: Holly, you've described a fascinating and very accomplished career. Tell us about the changes that you've observed in foreign assistance over the past few decades.

Ms. Wise: I have been around for a while, and I think it's fair to say that a lot has changed over the span of my career. Much of what we have been doing in foreign assistance is based on a kind of a post-World War II reality, if you will, and taking that forward to the future some.

If you look at the numbers, for example, in 1970, the kind of work that we were doing overseas was largely official development assistance that was done either directly or through a handful of non-governmental organizations. In fact, if you look at resource flows in 1970 from the U.S. to developing countries, about 70 percent of those resources that flowed were official development assistance. It was government money, public money, and there really weren't a lot of other players our there. You didn't see corporations that were either sourcing raw materials all over the world or manufacturing and distributing product all over the world. You didn't have this whole phenomenon of globalization as active. You didn't have universities and the whole host of non-governmental organizations -- PVOs, private voluntary organizations, as we sometimes refer to them -- with the kind of reach and placement, and the tremendous skills and assets that they bring to addressing development issues. So there weren't a lot of players, and there wasn't a lot of private money that was going overseas.

Fast forward to 2000, and that reality is completely the opposite. In fact, about 80 percent of the resources at that point that flow from the U.S. to developing countries are private flows, and only 20 percent are official development assistance monies. Now, that's particularly striking when you think that the U.S. is the lead donor in the world in terms of total dollars spent on foreign assistance, and yet we're the minority shareholder, if you will, if you look at the total resource pie, of U.S. resources that go overseas. So it's a very different world than the one which we started in.

Ms. Storck: How would you characterize some of the business or social and political drivers that have led to this sort of reversal in the share of resources?

Ms. Wise: The fact that there are companies that need to and want to source goods and services from overseas; the fact that the markets are growing most overseas as compared to the growth in U.S. markets-- that's a huge driver; the fact that in this smaller world and more visible world, company behaviors are under a lot of scrutiny; that there's the recognition, for example, that it's not just important to be a good company so everybody will like you, but also so that you can maintain your social license to operate; and it's about the competitiveness of company operations overseas that has corporations, in particular, really paying attention to how can they be part of the solution; what can they do not only in terms of corporate social responsibility, but how can they provide some leadership in addressing global development issues.

Ms. Storck: Well, surely, they need educated, healthy people just as we do here in the United States in order to be profitable.

Ms. Wise: You bet. If they are not helpful in addressing HIV-AIDS issues, for example, they'll have nobody to make their cars and nobody to buy their cars. And that's something which is a stark reality that they deal with on a daily basis.

Ms. Storck: Holly, tell us a bit about the way that USAID identifies different alliance opportunities, and then how do you develop these opportunities into real public-private partnerships.

Ms. Wise: Well, frankly, some of it is opportunistic. Because we're moving from a frame, or a mind-set, which is largely about how do we look for partners to implement our programs -- and we do that sometimes through formal solicitation -- to how do we look for resource partners that can be co-equals in these development undertakings. It means that we have to think more creatively. It means that we have to expand our rolodex. It means that we have to be comfortable being out and about and talking to a much more diverse set of potential players.

So how do we go about doing that? Some of it is we reach out through multipliers, like trade associations, and present a kind of general message, which is we're open for business if you are needing or wanting to think about engaging in this kind of work. We have put out a couple of general solicitations saying in a formal sense we are seeking your good ideas and would be willing to support activities if there is significant private leverage resources to conduct them.

We have also approached individual companies, where we either know that they have a strong reputation for wanting to be a corporate leader and have a strong commitment to responsible behavior that would tend to suggest that they would be interested in working on issues that we're in interested in working on, or where they have a particular need or a particular problem. And that's where you think about the extractive sector industries, oil and gas companies, timber companies, those who do water kind of work, are natural partners because they have a particular need, and they have resources to put toward these sorts of activities.

Mr. Lawrence: Besides supporting the alliances monetarily, what other support to USAID does it provide?

Ms. Wise: Probably the best thing that we have is our technical staff and the fact that we have these field missions around the world. When we are sitting down and talking with, for example, a mining company, they don't necessarily want or need to co-finance something with us, but they would be interested in the fact that we know something about tuberculosis, and know something about working in Uzbekistan, and know something about the ways in which you link one activity with a whole set of other activities in order to have a sustainable program or a sustainable development activity.

And so what I say to my folks is, if you're leading with your checkbook, you're in the wrong place, because our money is not our best thing. Our assets are that we have a lot of technical depth across a whole range of sectors; that we have good systems for accounting for funds and for doing due diligence on potential partners on the implementation side; the fact that we're forward-deployed, as my boss Colin Powell would say. We have these field missions around the world, and we know the local customs; we know the local officials. We understand the NGOs that are working there and the track records that they have. We have a whole network of contacts than that which a company or a university might have.

Our government, I would suggest, is both an asset and a liability; an asset in the sense that we have a certain convening power, we have a certain credibility in communities. But with that also comes some of the slowness of government and some of the concern of government, some of the risk aversion of government. I'm not going to change those, but we try to work on that a little bit to make us a better partner.

Ms. Storck: I understand USAID has a development alliance in Angola with Chevron-Texaco. Could you describe this alliance, Holly, and some of the results that it has achieved?

Ms. Wise: It's a really exciting activity. It is particularly interesting because it's not one that we did the leading on. It was the one where we met Chevron-Texaco partway through a process that they were going through. What they had decided was, having done some nice corporate social responsibility activities in Angola and a variety of other places, it was time for them to think about having a more substantial involvement in the development and the transformation of Angola beyond the area which was just kind of outside their gates. They had been asked by the head of state there to think about standing up for a large project.

So they did their homework, and they thought about whether they wanted to be involved in a large project, re: Infrastructure, and decided that may not be their best contribution. What they actually came to was thinking that for both reasons of sustaining their investment and growth of Angola as a nation, investing in people was the best way to go. What they also realized is that they are a good energy company, and don't claim to have huge experience in development work; that they wanted to make a commitment, but in partnership with others.

So they went on partner search, and came to us. After much kind of to and fro, and getting to know each other, and dancing around potential opportunities, we in fairly short order signed a memorandum of understanding, which committed us and them each to put in about $10 million toward a rather loosely-described economic development alliance for Angola.

What in fact was the first activity that we agreed on for this alliance is an agriculture revitalization program, which involves five U.S. NGOs that we have worked with a long period of time and had an existing relationship with in Angola. The way that it actually played out is Chevron-Texaco decided to write a check to AID, so that we would act, in a sense, as the fiscal agent for them, and also so that we would provide the management oversight to these activities.

We figured out that, yes, we have gift authority, and we could take the check in. And, oh, by the way, that this would create a tax deduction, if Chevron-Texaco chose to take it, just as though they were giving it to a 501(c)(3), a not-for-profit. They gave the money to AID. We then had it reapportioned and put it down to our field mission, where they then executed it through an NGO consortia arrangement to do agriculture work.

Now, that's exciting and wonderful because it means that there were resources to take it beyond what we had money for in the first instance, which was basically emergency feeding, and instead grow it to support seed multiplication, bringing tools to the farmers, helping these demobilized soldiers to go back to land, having the land mines taken off it. They could get back to work and plant their crops. And the emergency food would tide them over, but they basically were making an investment in their future and able to get back into productive agriculture.

That's the very first activity, and that's wonderful in its own right. But I think even more substantial have been other benefits of this alliance. What it's helped us to do is to understand Chevron-Texaco, among others, that we've formed alliances with, as a company; the fact that they have the same sorts of issues and concerns about thinking globally and acting locally that we do. They're going through the same sort of change process about how to move from one-off activities to more sustainable programs. They have the same sort of cultural concerns or aversions that we do about partnering with people that you don't know very well or that don't have the secret handshake, and we've learned from each other through that. So that's been hugely rich I think for us as an agency in these various partnerships to be able to take on board the experience of the private sector, the for-profit sector, and supplement that which we know in the public sector.

In addition, through the experience of working on these alliances, various corporate partners have come to understand development issues in a very different way, and found their voice. And they have a very different platform for sharing their perspectives in this experience than do we in government. And so what I've been so pleased to see is that chairman and other corporate leaders increasingly standing up for development issues, putting it in their own words and their own frame, but really tackling some of the kinds of things that are my life's work, with a special kind of commitment and a special kind of gravity.

Mr. Lawrence: That was a very interesting description.

How does one measure results when we're assisting other countries? We'll ask Holly Wise of the U.S. Agency for International Development when The Business of Government Hour returns.


Mr. Lawrence: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm Paul Lawrence, and this morning's conversation is with Holly Wise, Secretariat Director for the Global Development Alliance of the U.S. Agency for International Development.

And joining us in our conversation is Elise Storck.

Ms. Storck: Holly, in the past few years, we've seen social demonstrations against globalization, poor working conditions, environmental pollution, et cetera, all associated with aspects of free trade. From your experience at USAID, why do companies participate in strategic alliances against that type of backdrop?

Ms. Wise: Well, I think they are interested in being part of the solution. I think that the drivers for companies are varied. One of our jobs in government is to understand our partners and understand what it is that is driving their interest in being in a strategic alliance with us, or with anyone.

As I said, there's a whole spectrum of motivations for this kind of work. There are some companies that part of their core mission, who they are as a company, is very much about wanting to take care of their workers, both here and abroad; wanting to ensure that the environmental footprint that they leave is either not deep or a positive one. They want to ensure that they are part of a positive development in the communities in which they operate. And what they're doing is looking for those to partner with who have the ability to help them in formulating the right kinds of programs and implementing those programs. So they would suggest that they know something about their core business, but they may not know everything about community engagement in Indonesia, or they may not be too clear about how to work with local NGOs on a labor issue in one of the suppliers in their supply chain. And so they're interested in doing that for reasons of mission and of corporate social responsibility.

Now, in addition, there are many companies that understand that they're under scrutiny, and that they want to be very clear, for example, about their supply chain. It's not enough to stand up and say we don't own those sweatshops. They have to, and are interested in, looking down the supply chain to understand the factory floor or the forest floor from which they take product and services, and are willing to associate themselves with those that can help improve their working conditions, or the livelihoods, or, as I said, environmental and social aspects of their involvement in that community.

There are many companies that also understand that to the extent that they can understand new markets and they can understand poor people as not a liability but an opportunity, it makes the more agile and competitive, and they will be ready to take up tomorrow's challenges. So they're willing to work in emerging markets with others who can help them understand those markets better, and help them do the right thing with delivering products to the poor. There are companies that are very seized with understanding that the productivity of their investment rests on being able to minimize risk, the risk of either being shut down, or being boycotted, or being perceived as having bad products or being a bad company.

So there are lots of drivers, and some of them are absolutely pure, and some of them demonstrate enlightened self-interest. And I would suggest to you that there's nothing wrong with enlightened self-interest. We need to accept the fact that companies need to make a profit. And the way in which we intersect with them is not to directly contribute to their profitability, but to find a win-win situation where we can work together to address global development issues.

Ms. Storck: Holly, in USAID's experience, what are some of the critical success factors for public-private alliances?

Ms. Wise: Well, I would guess that it's important to view these as relationships, because that's what they are. So the success of the alliances is based on having clarity of purpose; in other words, understanding why we're in it, and why someone else is in it, and what is going to be clear as benefit or gain from that. A lot of them rest on trust, trust between organizations, and more importantly, trust between individuals. And so a lot of the work in this early alliance development has been to simply make friends with people that you didn't know before, and try and create areas of understanding, and then program resources together based on that.

What we are realizing is kind of new terrain for us is in this relationship management, and in taking the Alliance seriously, there is a realm of governance that needs to be applied to; it needs to be figured out; it needs to be done well. We don't have a lot of models for that in terms of these dynamic relationships that are beyond, for example, just a grant or a contract, something which is a resourcing instrument, but have lots of other aspects to them and lots of other complications, and moving parts, and players. And so what we are now doing is working hard on understanding some of these success factors and what characterizes good alliances that can change and move forward and meet the needs of all the participants. And what kinds of specific things, like letters of understanding, or memoranda of agreement, how often do you meet, how do you deal with power sharing, how localized our alliance is as opposed to having some headquarters or central role in them. It's a great learning field, but I don't think that we are fully there in terms of knowing everything about these new relationships.

Ms. Storck: Well, continuing in that vein, what are some of the greatest challenges you've experienced in establishing and managing these alliances?

Ms. Wise: The greatest challenges for AID have been in recognizing and moving toward this as a different role for government; understanding that the world has changed, and that we need to adjust to this change. In seeing it as an opportunity, there is a lot of organization and culture change that goes with that. That's really hard, and it's really long-term, and I would suggest it's really worthwhile.

It's not just AID that's changing. I think that there are lots of other government agencies that are starting to realize that the big responsibilities they have go beyond that which just government can do, and they need to think of creative ways of aligning themselves with various private resources -- private actors -- in order to get the job done.

So for me, the biggest challenge has been to look at the way in which, for example, we hire our staff, we train our staff, we promote our staff, we give incentives to our staff to recognize that this is their job, and to have the skills to be able to lean forward in different ways; to protect them in terms of due diligence and screening; and having the right mechanisms so that they can do this kind of work, to celebrate their successes, to tell their stories, to give platform for them to tell their stories; to be somewhat analytic in terms of what have we learned and what would we not want to replicate, and that which has been wonderful that we'd want to do a lot more of; and to fix some of the specific things in the way in which we do our business that in the absence of change would make it less easy for us to really surge in this new way.

So it's things like clarifying regulatory issues, changing some of our procurement practices, helping to seed champions in our different operating units that can support these new behaviors, and have messaging from our leadership that continues to help people understand why this is good, why this is useful, why this is an idea who's time has well come, and why they would want to continue this kind of work in the future.

Mr. Lawrence: That's a very interesting point.

Could the type of alliances we've been talking about be models for others providing assistance, such as the United Nations? We'll ask Holly Wise of the U.S. Agency for International Development when The Business of Government Hour returns.


Mr. Lawrence: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm Paul Lawrence, and this morning's conversation is with Holly Wise, Secretariat Director for the Global Development Alliance of the U.S. Agency for International Development.

And joining us in our conversation is Elise Storck.

Well, Holly, we live in results-oriented times. How do you measure Global Development Alliance results?

Ms. Wise: Well, measuring for results is a tough business, especially when what we do is fairly long-term. One of the problems with foreign assistance programs in telling our story is that if you give me money today, you'll need to come back, sometimes in 10 years, to find out whether the education investment resulted in kids who are learning better. That's something we understand in the U.S. context as well. So I'm just suggesting that this measuring for results thing is long-term and kind of difficult.

There's some near-term results that we have our eye on very carefully. They are early evidence of impact. We've been at this for about two years now. In the first two years that we've building alliances, we've created about 200 new relationships. We have put about $500 million worth of public money into these new activities, and that's leveraged over $2 billion worth of private resources. Now, the real impact is the difference it makes for poor people overseas, and we have plans to be measuring, of course, that impact. So it's not the signing ceremony or how much you leverage, but what good it does that's going to be really most important and most instructive for us.

We're also looking, when we're measuring for results, at new relationships and whether we've brought in innovative models or new partners, and whether we've really affected the way in which we do our business; change in that. There's lots of good to say on that as well. We have brought forward different kinds of relationships with some of our traditional nongovernmental partners.

We have also established new relationships with companies, just to name a few, such as Chevron-Texaco; Shell; Home Depot; Staples. We've worked with companies like Starbucks, with Hershey�s and Mars. We've worked with companies that work on the services side. We've worked with manufacturers. We've worked with the extractive industry. We've also worked with a whole range of foundation partners. The largest of them, of course, is the Gates Foundation. And what we realized as we started on this is that there are many other players that have tremendous contributions to make, and the test of our effectiveness is how we can stand up to this challenge and work effectively with these new partners.

The Gates Foundation, as you probably know, is a major contributor to our international health activities. USAID is the single largest donor in the health sector, bilateral government donor. And the Gates Foundation in the last several years has come forward to give almost on a par with the public resources that we deploy. So they are a major positive force in addressing humanization issues, and AIDS research, and looking at supporting research into what has worked in the health sector on a whole variety of topics. So we've developed many partnerships with them and with other foundations, both established foundations and some of the newer foundations that have come forward in the last 10 or 15 years.

Mr. Lawrence: Because measuring results is so hard, many people put it off. Was there anything that stimulated or pushed you to be able to develop the kind of measurements you just talked about?

Ms. Wise: Well, measuring that kind of thing, leveraging and new partners, is easy. Measuring development results is much harder. And that's something that my agency has taken very seriously for a long time. And, frankly, it's one of the things that is valued by partners, the fact that we know something about evaluation and impact measurement; that we take our time to do baseline surveys, and that we put resources toward trying to do the best job we can of understanding if there's been a difference in how we want to make mid-course corrections to achieve the biggest impact.

The interesting thing in some of these partnerships we learn is that while we can collect data and measure results and put together a certain kind of story about impact, some of our partners do a much better job of telling that story. And so, again, the magic of the partnership is that you can combine our ability to do the spade work with their ability to help people understand why this makes sense, and why it matters, and why more people might want to be associated with some of these activities overseas. And that's very powerful and very useful for not only the Alliance, but for government and for the private sector in these alliances.

Ms. Storck: Holly, Global Development Alliance is certainly a very innovative new model, and often, such models have a catalytic effect on others. When you look at other countries and international institutions, such as the United Nations, do you see USAID's work in this area driving change in their way of doing business?

Ms. Wise: I do. It's a very dynamic environment right now, and I think other bilateral donors, other governments and international organizations, are all asking the same kinds of questions -- does our role need to shift; what do we do best; how much do we do by ourselves; where do we lead and where do we work with others?

The corporate social responsibility movement is one which is becoming well-developed, so other donors are thinking about what is government's role in terms of supporting, or recognizing good behavior on the part of companies. Some are thinking hard about corporate governance issues and what role government plays, both in supporting them directly with companies and also in working with host governments, for example, the government of Philippines or the government of Ghana, so they can set the right environment so that companies can be most positive in their activities, their behaviors there.

On the kind of work that we do with public-private partnerships, I think that the U.S. government is a little out in front, in the sense that we're not seeing this as purely a policy issue, and we're not simply discussing it with other donors, but we're really putting a lot of money toward doing it. We've embraced this as a business model, and a way in which we increasingly want to do our work. Why? Because we see that it extends the reach and the impact in addressing global development challenges.

There is certainly a lot of introspection and benchmarking with other organizations that the U.N. and other donors are trying to do right now. I'm asked quite often to go and consult with other organizations as to the experience we've had and the relevance that it may have for their experience and their future planning. Next week, there's another U.N. session where they're, in the context of U.N. reform, trying to understand whether there is more opportunity for a public-private alliance in their work.

I would suggest that one of the challenges that they have is, obviously, that they're very diverse and have relationships with host governments. But also, some of the U.N. organizations have a tradition of fundraising, so that they may, while on the one hand, very comfortable with, for example, raising money from the corporate sector to support their activities, they are not equally or universally comfortable with allying with them, bringing forward who they are as a company, and working closely with them on development activities.

They even, in some quarters in the U.N., have a term called bluewashing, where they're concerned about being tainted or somehow negatively influenced by association with companies. And I must say, that's a concern. We have to be very careful as stewards of public funds in terms of thinking about who we work with, how we stay safe, how we structure relationships that we can exit if we need to, how we make sure there's no cross-branding, or work on things which are not in the national interest and not appropriate. This is an area where there's right now a lot of energy, and a lot of discussion, and a lot of searching for best practices. And it's a place where we are happy to participate.

Mr. Lawrence: What advice would you give to a young person considering a career in public service?

Ms. Wise: I would say go for it. I think that, certainly for me and those that I work with, it's been rewarding. I think that there's a lot that is important in terms of the role that the U.S. can play right now, and individuals can make a difference. I certainly have been privileged to have had the experience I had, and feel gratified with the little ways in which I've contributed to making this a better world.

So I would encourage others to seriously consider particularly international development work. If you're interested in the Global Development Alliance and what we've been working on, feel free to check out our Web site, which is

Mr. Lawrence: Thank you very much, Holly. Elise and I want to thank you for taking the time to join us today.

Ms. Wise: Most happy to be here. Thank you.

Mr. Lawrence: This has been The Business of Government Hour, featuring a conversation with Holly Wise, Secretariat Director for the Global Development Alliance of the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Be sure and visit us on the Web at There, you can learn more about our programs and get a transcript of today's very interesting conversation. Once again, that's

This is Paul Lawrence. Thank you for listening.

Holly Wise interview
Holly Wise

You may also

Broadcast Schedule

Federal News Radio 1500-AM
  • Mondays at 11 a.m. Fridays at 1 p.m. (Wednesdays at 12 p.m. as
  • available.)

Our radio interviews can be played on your computer or downloaded.


Subscribe to our program

via iTunes.


Transcripts are also available.


Your host

Michael Keegan
IBM Center for The Business of Government
Leadership Fellow & Host, The Business of Government Hour

Browse Episodes


Recent Episodes

David Grant
Federal Emergency Management Agency
Former Associate Administrator
Professor Jim Hendler
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Director, Institute for Data Exploration and Applications and Tetherless World Chair of Computer, Web and Cognitive Sciences, Computer Science
Commander Eric Popiel
U.S. Coast Guard
Program Manager for the Evergreen Program

Upcoming Episodes

Vice Admiral Raquel Bono
Director, Defense Health Agency
United States Navy