Posted on April 15, 2014 by Daniel W. Yohannes, Chief Executive Officer
This is my last day as MCC’s CEO.
Leading the noble work of this agency in partnership with countries around the world and with the unparalleled professionalism and passion of MCC’s amazing staff and committed Board of Directors has been one of the most rewarding and memorable experiences of my career. I thank President Obama, former Secretary Clinton and Secretary Kerry for their confidence and support during my tenure at MCC.
I leave to assume my duties at the U.S. Mission to the OECD in Paris with two thoughts.
First, I am incredibly grateful.
Over the past four years, I have benefited tremendously from the advice and recommendations of our friends from the business, congressional, NGO, and development communities. Their honest feedback has strengthened our programs and impact in our fight to reduce poverty through economic growth as part of U.S. efforts to advance global development. MCC will continue to be well served by listening to and acting on the input of the agency’s stakeholders.
Second, I am deeply hopeful.
From meetings to major events, from managing day-to-day to making the tough decisions, what has touched me most is getting to know the individuals and families in our partner countries whose lives are being changed for the better through our partnerships and projects. School children in Ghana, women farmers in Honduras, fishers in Morocco, business owners in Zanzibar who can now rely on electricity are just some of the beneficiaries who shared with me their hopes for a better, brighter future because of what MCC-funded programs are making possible. These individuals are proof that we can, in fact, make tangible and measurable strides to reduce global poverty. MCC must never lose sight of this specific focus on making a lasting difference in the lives of the world’s poor.
For me, MCC represents the best of America’s values in translating hope into a world of real opportunities that reflect our common humanity and promote our shared prosperity. As MCC continues to thrive under the capable leadership of Sheila Herrling, who will serve as acting CEO, I remain forever thankful for the chance to have served MCC’s mission and look forward to following more of its life-changing work ahead.
Posted on April 11, 2014 by Sheila Herrling, Vice President for Policy and Evaluation
Could a new U.S. Government development agency select partner countries based primarily on objective, quantifiable indicators of sound economic, social and democratic policies? That was one of the big experiments attached to the Millennium Challenge Corporation when it was created in 2004.
Ten years later, MCC has shown that it works. An evidence- and data-driven system can indeed be used to select partner countries, focus attention on MCC’s mission and inspire policy reform (even before spending money). And I’m so excited to share our learning—what makes it work, what we continue to learn and what’s next—through a new MCC Principles into Practice paper and issue brief. This latest Principle into Practice is yet another in our series to share learning in a very technical space (thank you Andria Hayes-Birchler, our scorecard data architect extraordinaire!) in a very accessible manner (thank you Sarah Jane Staats, senior policy advisor!).
For those who know me, you know how much importance I place on evidence-based decision making. That means, whenever you can, use data and evidence as a base from which you begin your deliberations but recognize the challenges of any data-driven system and allow for responsible discretion in its use. So how do you use both evidence and discretion in a credible manner? Make the system transparent, assess its execution in practice, share your lessons, and evolve to better practice whenever you can.
So, how’d we do? Read the paper, but here’s a teaser:
The big takeaways for us are that MCC’s policy performance data:
- Drives country selection decisions;
- Focuses attention on MCC’s poverty reduction through economic growth mission; and
- Inspires policy reform (even before spending money).
But five critical elements are part of what makes the system work:
- It’s public.
- It’s built on a research-driven technical and mathematical foundation.
- It’s simple, accessible and actionable.
- A credible system selects—and removes—countries
- .It adapts to stay current and cutting edge.
At MCC, we are really proud to show that the experiment works, and we will continue to push ourselves to stay on the cutting edge of policy measurement. We also hope the lessons will be of interest to other donors, including other U.S. Government agencies, and those thinking about a post-2015 data revolution. And we are really excited to use our experience to spur the creation of more and better data for development decision making. The global governance data workshop we are co-hosting with Global Integrity next week is a promising step in that direction (thank you Alicia Phillips Mandaville!).
So please read the paper. Give us your feedback. Share your own lessons and experience in the use of data to base decisions. And for all of you out there pushing for and producing better development data, thank you, thank you, thank you!
Posted on April 7, 2014 by Tamara Heimur, Liberia country team
Each MCC compact is designed to create economic growth. Since the private sector is a key driver for sustainable growth, MCC’s Finance, Investment and Trade team works with partner country colleagues to ensure that companies have input throughout the compact development process.
This work includes consultations with American, Liberian and international businesses to learn firsthand about the challenges they face when considering investment in our partner countries. We then work with our partner countries to design compact grants that address these challenges.
MCC, the Government of Liberia and The Corporate Council on Africa (CCA) recently hosted a roundtable meeting in Washington, DC for companies that are active in Liberia or are interested in investing.
At the roundtable, the Government of Liberia (GoL) and MCC presented the Liberia Constraints Analysis, a report outlining the primary constraints to economic growth and investment in Liberia.
Every MCC partner country develops a constraints analysis, which takes an evidence-based approach to identifying the primary factors that limit investment. The analysis clarifies priorities among a country’s many development needs and identifies potential areas of focus for an MCC compact. The Liberia Constraints Analysis identified the lack of roads and electricity as the primary constraints to growth.
After the presentation of the constraints analysis, the Liberian government delegation presented some initial concepts for potential projects in the roads and energy sectors. We invited feedback and questions from attendees, which helped start a conversation that will help the GoL to refine the proposed projects.
This event is part of a series of conversations that MCC and the GoL have hosted since Liberia qualified for MCC assistance in December 2012. In mid-2013, the GoL organized roundtables with businesses in Liberia to learn what is constraining the growth of local companies, and in late 2012, MCC, the GoL and CCA hosted another event for companies in Washington, DC to provide feedback on the proposed compact projects. We expect to continue the dialogue with companies through more events, webinars, email updates, and other forums as the GoL continues its compact development process.
This type of private sector engagement is an important component of the MCC model. Together with our partners in the GoL, we are ensuring the private sector and other stakeholders provide input every step of the way.
We invite additional input and feedback from private sector firms; please contact the following individuals for more information:
Government of Liberia:
- Monie Captan, National Coordinator, National Millennium Challenge Compact Development, email@example.com.
- Philip Pleiwon, Private Sector Lead, National Millennium Challenge Compact Development, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Millennium Challenge Corporation:
- Evan Freund, Country Team Lead for Liberia, email@example.com.
- Tamara Heimur, Private Sector Lead for Liberia, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Posted on April 3, 2014 by Daniel W. Yohannes, Chief Executive Officer
Today, I joined USAID Administrator Raj Shah in New York City for the historic launch of the U.S. Global Development Lab, an event that featured Hillary Rodham Clinton, former Secretary of State and previous chair of MCC’s Board of Directors, and development practitioners from across the nongovernmental community and private sector. I was struck by the gathering’s energy, optimism and palpable momentum toward ending extreme poverty.
Guided by a spirit of true partnership and innovation, the Lab, powered by USAID, will be a meeting place for great thinking and bold action in applying science and technology to solving the world’s most pressing development challenges. Its ambitions carry the enormous hope of improving the lives of the world’s poor in meaningful ways. I was especially moved by former Secretary Clinton’s thoughts on how exciting this work is and how, because of it, we have extraordinary stories of impact to tell, new markets to create and compassionate ways of living our American values as we partner to save, touch and change lives.
By collaborating with colleagues both across the U.S. Government and well beyond it, MCC has much to offer this new initiative. By sharing our data and evidence, scaling up successes—including by changing laws and regulations that block innovation and investments—and supporting projects where science and technology add value, MCC will be contributing our best to the Lab’s best.
The launch we celebrate today is, however, just the beginning. By working together, we can maximize efficiencies, elevate a model for learning and deliver impressive impact toward our goal of ending global poverty. The resolve now to turn the Lab’s promise into the reality of real opportunities for the world’s poor will define success moving forward. MCC is ready to do our part to deliver on that promise.
Posted on April 3, 2014 by Alicia Phillips Mandaville, Managing Director of Development Policy
It seems that everyone is talking about how data will shape our global future. It is a beautiful and unprecedented level of enthusiasm for data—bring it on! But bring it practically.
While we are getting excited about what data can do for development, let’s also get excited about what we are finally in a position to do about development data. For too long, we have lacked credible numbers about many of the things we care most about—including comparative data on governance—and now people are finally starting to take note. But what can we actually do? As a first step, MCC and Global Integrity (with support from the Omidyar Network and The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation) are convening a group of global governance data users, producers and funders who are trying to identify collective action solutions to the way the current state of play affects the availability and quality of governance data.
MCC relies on independently produced, third-party data to drive the annual process of selecting country partners for large-scale grant investments in economic growth. We are painfully aware of data gaps, especially with regard to measurements of countries' efforts to fight corruption. For MCC’s purposes, the data on our scorecard remains the best available measure of anti-corruption efforts that covers all low and lower middle income countries. However, no single data set can answer every question—particularly for something as complex as corruption.
At its heart, these data challenges are a collective action problem. Plenty of people want more and better data, but no one is really doing anything about it yet. Until the field of governance measurement as a whole is more coordinated, we will have gaps and overlaps in our collective knowledge. Heck, at this point, we still battle huge gaps and overlaps with respect to what data is available in a machine-readable format (what can I suck into my computer without first tediously rearranging and cleaning enormous spreadsheets).
The consequences of this are a big deal to MCC, but they extend way beyond us. MCC has experienced firsthand how frustrating it is to want to compare national-level education or health outcomes (like literacy or maternal health at delivery) and find the data lacking. It would be terrible if the thing that undermined global focus on governance issues was inadequate data. So we're trying something new.
In mid-April, MCC and Global Integrity are co-hosting a two day effort to convene global organizations that rely on governance data (governments and donors), organizations that produce governance data (largely third-party NGOs) and organizations that are working to enable improvements in the quality and availability of governance data (philanthropic foundations and academics). If we can get the people who have a data problem (users) in the same room with the people who can solve the problem (data providers and enablers), maybe we can make some real progress. We've been excited by the enthusiasm we've met so far.
What will come of this? We aren’t sure. But no matter what, we'll end with much greater clarity between the users and producers of governance metrics (in part through some pre-event surveys that will be public shortly), and that's no small thing. But could we see a commitment to collectively move governance data into more easily useable spaces? A sort of alliance of actors who create or rely on the quality of the information available? What would that look like anyway, and what would it do?
A first step might be as technically wonky as agreement about the formats that data gets published in. Or a public calendar of when new data is available or being used. And while that sounds unexciting to outsiders, in the long run these are exactly the kinds of first steps that enable governance data to be broadly and regularly used by more than just MCC. Whether you care about measuring, monitoring, ranking, or investing – you have to start with useable data.
This kind of opportunity doesn’t come along all the time—people are talking about and calling for data! And not just some data—global data! At MCC, we will continue to celebrate the fact that people are finally paying attention to the promise and potential of development data. That environment makes us keener than ever to get people focused on practical questions attached to resolving collective action problems in the data world. And, of course, keen to hear your perspective and ideas about next steps and solutions!