Sharing the Lessons of International Development… in Maryland


As you might have noticed from our most recent blog post, we at KANAVA International are keen to apply the lessons we’ve learned overseas to similar development efforts here in our own communities. One great way to do that is to encourage local businesses and firms to engage with major funders of international development, including the US Agency for International Development, or USAID.

The Agency was one of several funders represented at a February 11 forum sponsored by the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development. I was honored to be among the speakers, who included some of our colleagues from the major DC-based development firms.


I shared my experience with the compliance requirements of development projects as well as with some of the security challenges of working in tough environments. The latter is a major consideration for firms looking to partner on projects in conflict or post-conflict zones, like Iraq or Afghanistan. As a former Chief of Party – that’s USAID-speak for the head of a project – in southern Afghanistan, I know a thing or two about the risks and how to mitigate them.

Topping the list, of course, is awareness – about your surroundings as much as the overall political situation in the country or region where you’re working. A huge part of this is getting to know your community. When I was in Afghanistan, we made a point of meeting with local leaders, filling them in on why we were there and asking for their support.

In that way, international development work is just like development back home. Whether you’re working in Kabul or Kalamazoo, understanding how your partners and stakeholders see things and giving them a say in what you hope to do are essential prerequisites to any development effort.

That also applies to the work of ensuring compliance with federal regulations. With USAID work, those regulations can be a bit more complicated, though, spanning things like anti-terrorism legislation, which puts strict guidelines on how – and to whom – assistance is distributed. It’s a slightly more complicated set of management requirements, but the basics are the same: We who “do development,” whether overseas or here in the States, have a responsibility to put taxpayer money to good use, effectively and efficiently.MD Intl Dev Sign

That’s a responsibility we take very seriously at KANAVA, and I’m honored to have had the opportunity to share some of the lessons I’ve learned with colleagues who are also committed to positive change. If you’d like to learn more about KANAVA’s work or request a copy of my presentations from this week’s forum, drop me a line at Thanks!

Carol Yee

Kanava International