As an entity within USAID, the U.S. Global Development Lab seeks to end global poverty by testing scientific and technological solutions. However, an additional factor is crucial to achieving such a goal, as demonstrated by USAID’s immense impact over time — partnerships.

Known as Global Development Alliances, partnerships between USAID and private sector organizations are meant to combine corporate interests with global development goals. The influence of these partnerships extends much further than the impact of just one organization alone. In total, USAID has formed over 1,500 partnerships with corporations, foundations, universities and local businesses.

One of the most successful partnerships within the U.S. Global Development Lab includes Fighting Ebola: A Grand Challenge for Development with Contributions by the CDC, the USAID Global Health Bureau, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the U.S. Department of Defense. The result was a protective suit to be worn by health care workers.

Ann Mei Chang, executive director of the U.S. Global Development Lab, finds promise in collaborative action. “The day is over when there’s one game in town,” said Chang, who was a Google executive and engineer prior to being hired by USAID. “Partnerships are crucial. Ideally, USAID will be more of a catalyst for solutions than a lone provider.”

The profound impact of partnerships will not dwindle any time soon. Recently, Chang headed to Chicago to meet with businesses willing to contribute their technical findings to halting global poverty.

Included in the roundtable discussion was ReliefWatch, a cloud-based system made for health centers in developing countries to easily track medical supplies and disease outbreaks. The simple process requires clinic workers to make daily recordings of the supplies that they need. Immediately, supporting organizations receive the information and subsequently send the necessary provisions. No Internet connection is required, and because 90 percent of people in the developing world own cell phones, the system is readily accessible. Daniel Yu, the program’s developer, is hoping to expand operations to aid in food disasters as well.

LuminAID, a startup that makes inflatable solar-powered lighting systems, also attended Chang’s partnerships meeting. LuminAID was developed after Haiti was devastated by an earthquake in 2010 when the creators, Anna Stork and Andrea Sreshta, saw access to light sources just as important as access to food, water and shelter. Stork and Sreshta found that there were no lighting systems compact enough to be sent in bulk to countries in need; 50 solar lights can be packed in the amount of space needed for eight flashlights. They soon developed the waterproof, inflatable LED balloon that is solar-powered. Since its start just five years ago, LuminAID has reached 50 countries.

While both USAID and businesses across the country are capable of making a difference on their own, partnerships between the two make for a stronger effort to ending global poverty.

– Jordan Reabold

Sources: The Guardian, USAID 1, LuminAID, USAID 2, Chicago Inno
Photo: USAID