‘Success is helping people transition
be constrained by would be the bureaucracy hurdles.
For example when the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
were trying to alleviate the HIV/AIDS problems in India,
they ran into bureaucratic hurdles and initial denial.
Has USAID tried to remove
some of the bureaucratic
impediments in India because
to these philanthropists working with USAID would be
working government to government and, hence, they may
be more inclined to going it
alone at the local level, bypassing the state authorities?
Absolutely. We’ve created a
whole division we call IDEA
(Innovation and Development
Alliances), which is basically
our partnerships group.
They have served as a single
one-stop shop for private sector partners and partnerships,
and through that effort, we’ve
been able to execute now 1,100
Some of our partners would
report that we are more
streamlined, much easier to
work with and more effective
than we’ve ever been at executing those kinds of partnerships.
We did that so that we could
reduce the bureaucracy that is
felt by some of our private sector partners.
Also, we work much more
with local partners in order to
achieve exactly what you
defined — getting in at the
ground level, learning from the
people we seek to serve and
measuring outcomes on the ground, so we know what we’re
achieving when we spend US taxpayer resources.
When you were in college, along with your now wife
Shivam and a few college friends, you guys were some of the
earliest grassroots activists in the Indian-American community.
In fact, you had an organization called Project Impact.
Today, when you look back, is there a sense of wonderment
when you see the progress that has been made by the community, particularly the second generation?
Our goal when we launched Project Impact was to just try
to inspire a sense of service and commitment in younger
Indian Americans, who we sensed had a desire to be
involved in public service and community service, but didn’t really have the knowledge of how to build activities or
careers in that space.
I am just thrilled to see the huge progress that this com-
from aid to self-sufficiency’
achieving the outcomes
and the results that got
you inspired in the first
place, that can be very,
very personally rewarding.
I know you don’t want
to look too much into the
future, but have you given
some thought to some
sort of political career —
a run for the US Senate
You have the experience, the track record,
not to mention the gravitas, in terms of the wherewithal for political office.
Or is politics out of the
Will you continue to be
one of those development
To do my current job
well, you have to be passionate about what you
are trying to achieve and
develop a real understanding of how politics
I have, and I continue
to kind of love this
opportunity to both work
on the policy and the politics of how America
projects itself around the
Remember, a lot of times, people will say foreign assistance is difficult to build political support for, but as I have
gone to college campuses across the country, met with
Diaspora communities across the country, spent time at
places like Greenville, South Carolina with (US Senator,
Republican) Lindsey Graham or Starkville, Mississippi
with (US) Senator (Thad) Cochran (also a Republican), I’ve
actually seen the opposite.
I’ve seen that it is possible to build political support for
this portfolio of work because Americans have a deep desire
to project our values around the world.
They know that that will keep us safe in the long run.
So, I love what I am doing right now, and that’s what I
basically think about.
I get plenty of opportunities to engage in the politics of
building support for this organization and that’s enough for
me right now. ;
USAID Administrator Raj Shah, left, briefs Dr Jill Biden, right; Dr Sanjay Gupta, next to Shah, CNN Chief Medical Correspondent; and others on
board a plane on the way to the Dagahaley refugee camp, in Dadaab, Kenya, in 2011. They had travelled there to assess the drought situation
and the humanitarian response.
OFFICIAL WHI TE HOUSE PHOTO B Y DAVID LIENEMANN
munity has made with leaders in politics, in media, in community service, in so many other walks of life.
I think that is appropriate because it’s a community that
has a lot of knowledge, some financial success, the ability to
give back and a strong ethic of responsibility that plays out
in so many different examples around our country.
Whether you admit it or not, you are a role model, particularly for young Indian Americans contemplating public
In this regard, do you feel a deep sense of responsibility?
I certainly enjoy having the opportunity to speak with
young people who will often ask how do you build a career
that’s focused on service and what advice do I have for
I don’t usually have great advice other than to say that if
you do something you are passionate about and you love, if
you take your work seriously and commit yourselves to
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