Outside the Beltway
For those of us who are based within a ten mile radius of the Ronald Reagan Building in downtown Washington, DC, it seems like we are the hub of USAID-funded international development. The primary USAID implementers are almost all based here, although there are a few outliers. While most of our work is done overseas, the various associations and events held in DC attract most of the major players. I like to say if you go into any coffee shop within the beltway, you will find at least three people who understand USAID and U.S. government contracting.
But who knew that there are other international development hubs out there in America. I recently came across two, one in Denver, Colorado, and one in San Francisco, California.
In Denver, there is the Posner Center for International Development, which focuses on collaborative global solutions. Located in an old converted horse barn, it houses over 30 international focused business and organizations, in an environment that lends itself to collaboration. Their work is diverse, including areas such as water, energy, education, health, and agriculture. It turns out that Colorado is home to more 200 organizations focused on international development! Who knew? While there may not be as many people in Denver who are USAID regulations geeks, they are just as committed and passionate about their work as those in the beltway are. In fact, the lure of the Rocky Mountains and the great outdoors is attracting Washington, DC transplants.
Closer to where I grew up, there is also a vibrant international development community in San Francisco. I always knew that the Asia Foundation was based there, but there are other organizations there too, many receiving funding from various organizations in Silicon Valley. Most get little or no USAID funding, but there is an interest there in diversifying into the USAID market, which is interesting since many within the beltway are trying to diversify away from reliance on USAID. Like Denver, there are Washington transplants in San Francisco too, this time for the bay and the food!
One of the questions I kept being asked while in San Francisco was how they could connect with those organizations inside the beltway. I suggested that they attend some of the annual meetings where much of the international development communities gather, such as the annual conferences for the Society for International Development (SID) or InsideNGO, and then stay a few days extra for one-on-one meetings.
At the same time, those of us inside the beltway should remember there is a wealth of talent and experience in other parts of America that we should be leveraging to strengthen our development solutions and make the world a better, more prosperous place. There are also hubs in Atlanta, Seattle, and Los Angeles as well. Where else in America is there expertise and talent that we should be tapping into?