Posted on May 16, 2013 by Sheila Herrling, Vice President for Policy and Evaluation
On April 29th at the G8 International Conference on Open Data for Agriculture, the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) unveiled a new evaluation data catalog to house all the data collected through our independent evaluations. Right now, the public can view metadata from agriculture programs in Armenia, Ghana, El Salvador, and the Philippines on the catalog at data.mcc.gov/evaluations, including descriptive statistics for surveys of an estimated 5,000 households in Armenia, 9,300 households in Ghana, 1,700 individuals in El Salvador, and 2,400 households in the Philippines.
The data catalog is designed to contain all of the information that documents and describes MCC-financed independent evaluations, including information on evaluation questions, the types of surveys conducted for the evaluation and the population of interest, questionnaires, sampling methods, and descriptive statistics for household- and individual-level data. The data catalog is fully searchable down to the variable level, allowing for comparison across datasets. In addition, as microdata for each survey is reviewed by MCC’s Disclosure Review Board and is approved for public release, the catalog will host public-use datasets and statistical analyses files for replicating the independent evaluator’s results or conducting separate analysis.
The launch of the catalog is just the beginning of a series of planned data releases. We aim to release as much of our independent evaluation data to the public as possible. We’ve developed an institutional process to enable us to do this over the coming months. It is a labor-intensive effort, but that’s a small price to pay for pushing the boundaries of transparency and accountability to get this huge stock of data into the public domain. And we are delighted to be ahead of the curve on President Obama’s just-released Executive Order on Open Data Policy.
While publishing the data is a big deal in and of itself, the really big deal will come in seeing how others use it. We know – and welcome – that it will be used as another accountability check on us and our partner governments. We hope it also will be used by other investors to learn from our experience on how to increase the impact of the dollars they invest. For example, the agricultural data we are releasing may help us better understand why some farmers adopt improved practices more quickly than others, which can lead to program improvements to maximize impact, increase incomes and expand productivity.
Still, it is the unknown uses – the things we never imagined our data could be used for – that will likely prove to be the most exciting. Finance institutions, for example, looking to spur agricultural growth may gather information needed to develop innovative new products for smallholder farmers. Companies that want to evaluate the risks and benefits of operating in certain locations may find market information that is useful for evaluating risk and catalyzing new investments. Governments and civil society organizations can also analyze this data to drive forward their own complementary development and social programs.
MCC is opening our data because it is the right thing to do: American taxpayers deserve to see this part of their investment. But we are also opening our data because it is the smart thing to do. Information and data are tremendous strategic assets. They can help us enhance policies and practices to more fully contribute to economic growth, strengthen democratic institutions, improve the impact of our work, and inspire entrepreneurship, innovation and scientific discovery in the field of development and beyond. Follow our efforts and give us your feedback!
Posted on May 10, 2013 by Stacy Alboher, Program Officer for East Africa
Asbestos is a hazardous material that can cause lung cancer, asbestosis and other deadly respiratory diseases. In early 2012, MCC discovered that asbestos-containing materials—very common in older buildings in Africa—were present in the majority of health facilities being renovated under the Lesotho Compact’s Health Sector Project, leading to concerns about potential exposure of both workers and surrounding community members.
Additionally, many of the health facilities under renovation have been operating for decades without a systematic nationwide approach for disposing of the medical waste being generated. This waste was deposited in open pits, burned or buried onsite. It contained syringes, medicine or biological waste. And it had accumulated without any markings to indicate where the waste was located.
When contractors began digging at the health facility sites, they often came into contact with this material. In some cases, their earth-moving activities spread the waste across the sites, creating a bigger potential for exposure and contact.
Over the past year, MCC has been working closely with MCA-Lesotho, the project’s supervisory engineer and the construction contractors to put in place procedures for ensuring that the risks associated with both asbestos-containing materials and medical waste are appropriately mitigated. During a recent trip to Lesotho, we developed this video to document the issue and describe the processes put in place to respond to the challenge.
Through the Lesotho Compact, we are not only addressing the immediate risk related to our project but also helping Lesotho to develop a sustainable process to continue addressing these issues in the future.
Posted on May 10, 2013 by Daniel W. Yohannes, Chief Executive Officer
What will it take to deliver on Africa’s economic promise?
On my way to compact closeout activities in Lesotho, I had the opportunity to attend some sessions at the World Economic Forum on Africa in Cape Town to help answer that very question. The energy and excitement generated by 12 heads of state, five former presidents and over 1,000 participants from the private sector, government ministries, nongovernmental organizations, foundations, and development agencies inspired new thinking on unlocking Africa’s promise. And, I am particularly proud that MCC was able to play a part.
MCC participated in key discussions at the Forum that focused on some of the most fundamental building blocks for economic growth. We talked about strengthening land rights and governance. We highlighted the importance of policy reforms in the energy sector as key for sustaining other investments. We emphasized that helping African farmers boost trade regionally and beyond really depends on expanding their productivity to include a competitive range of diverse, high-quality products. MCC continues to be among the largest investors in African infrastructure for trade, but we first need to help equip African farmers and entrepreneurs with the necessary skills to generate the income-producing goods and services that will reach markets via the roads, bridges, ports, and airports we construct.
The World Economic Forum created a unique space to foster the kind of partnerships that can accelerate progress on these and other issues vital for Africa’s sustainable development. By partnering within the U.S. Government on a coordinated energy and trade strategy toward the continent, with African countries who know their development priorities best, and throughout the development and business community, we are working to create tangible opportunities to deliver on Africa’s promise and improve the lives of Africa’s people in meaningful and lasting ways. This commitment reverberated throughout the Forum and will continue to define MCC’s work in Africa.
Posted on May 1, 2013 by Daniel W. Yohannes, Chief Executive Officer
Former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice participated in MCC’s 2013 Forum on Global Development this past Monday and engaged in a lively discussion with Frank Sesno, the Director of the School of Media and Public Affairs at The George Washington University. Dr. Rice described the MCC model as the best combination of American interests and values. She sees this in the U.S. Government’s willingness to partner with the developing world through MCC to help countries determined to help themselves. She sees this in how MCC partners within countries, engaging directly with citizens, businesses, government ministries, and nongovernmental organizations and encouraging them to map out their own, homegrown path to development. And, she also sees MCC’s strength in catalyzing partnerships between developing countries, who motivate each other to reform their policies in order to compete and qualify for MCC funding, in what she—and so many others—aptly call the MCC Effect.
We share Secretary’s Rice affirmation of the power of partnerships. Results-focused partnerships that leverage our limited resources, amplify our intended impact and sustain the benefits of our investments have been—and will continue to be—a priority for MCC. With support from both Chevron and the United Nations Foundation, Monday’s Forum created the perfect opportunity to discuss how partnerships advance effective development and make a lasting difference in the lives of the world’s poor. More than 200 people attended as we celebrated such partnerships by recognizing the achievements of this year’s recipients of MCC’s Country Commitment Award, Corporate Award and Next Generation Award.
Mrs. Sophia Mohapi of MCA-Lesotho received MCC’s Country Commitment Award, recognizing her efforts to partner with Lesotho’s government to secure additional funding to sustain the MCC-funded investments made in health and water. Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Inc. won MCC’s Corporate Award, recognizing this Vermont company’s strong partnerships with fair trade coffee growers in MCC partner countries that help promote food security and long-term prosperity. Jessica Matthews and Julia Silverman of Uncharted Play were presented the Next Generation Award by DC United star player Dwayne De Rosario for their SOCCKET, a clever soccer ball invention that doubles as an eco-friendly portable generator. By forging partnerships with sponsors and local implementation partners around the world, the SOCCKET creators have ensured that minutes of play can lead to hours of electricity for those families struggling off the electrical grid. These honorees demonstrate what is possible through partnering. I invite you to learn more about their stories and be inspired by their compassion and creativity to uplift the poor and vulnerable.
We were also pleased that Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Deputy National Security Advisor Michael Froman could join us. Senator Leahy concluded the Forum by presenting MCC’s Corporate Award and reaffirming that partnerships are key to delivering development assistance effectively. Mr. Froman highlighted the importance of integrated and coordinated strategies, including input from MCC as well as private companies, to the Administration’s global development strategy.
What continues to resonate with me from this week’s Forum is the sheer determination and commitment by government, civil society and the private sector to do more by partnering more. This is what has made—and will continue to make—a tangible difference in the lives of the world’s poor.
Posted on April 25, 2013 by Daniel W. Yohannes, Chief Executive Officer
I had the privilege of appearing before the House Foreign Affairs Committee today with USAID administrator Raj Shah to answer questions about our agencies’ respective budgets and plans for the upcoming fiscal year.
Appearing before the committee provided a chance to highlight MCC’s model, mission and results, and our place in the U.S. Government’s wider foreign assistance efforts not only to Congress, but also to the American people.
There’s a lot of good news to share.
Nine years after its founding, MCC has produced real results, and remains a cost-effective approach to delivering foreign assistance. We play a crucial role in the U.S. Government’s foreign policy by strengthening the United States’ economy at home and standing abroad.
MCC’s evidence-based approach is at the core of its success. Our partners are rigorously selected countries that have a measurable track record of sound democratic and economic governance. After their selection, we ask our partner countries to prioritize and then develop and implement cost-effective solutions that make a real difference at reducing poverty by stimulating economic growth.
During these tough economic times, Americans deserve to see their tax dollars deliver a high rate of return and the greatest impact. That’s why we select projects with high returns, monitor progress during implementation and require that programs be completed in five years. We cut off funding if governments turn their back on principles of democratic governance. And we evaluate program effectiveness to see what did and did not work—and then make those findings public.
Almost 174 million people from across the world are expected to directly benefit from MCC’s investments. Beyond this benefit for individuals, the policy reforms and targeted investments that result from MCC’s programs foster an enabling environment for businesses to succeed.
With new markets, U.S. companies enjoy greater opportunities to trade, profit and create American jobs.
Many other countries benefit by the “MCC Effect,” when they take concrete steps to improve governance in order to become eligible for MCC assistance. That means more girls are in school, the time to start a business has fallen, more women have equal access to economic opportunities and more children are receiving vaccines because their governments hope to become eligible for a compact—before the American taxpayer ever spends a dime.
MCC is helping millions of poor people across the world pull themselves out of poverty while making the United States stronger, safer and more prosperous. I consider that a win for the American taxpayer. And that’s why I welcomed the opportunity to discuss our model and results with Congress.