A New Effort to Embed Systems Thinking in USAID
USAID’s release of Local Systems: A Framework for Supporting Sustained Development reaffirms sustained development as a central USAID goal. The Framework argues that fostering sustained development requires sustained engagement with local systems, which include the constellations of local actors—public and private, national and grassroots, organizations and individuals—whose interactions produce the development outcomes we care about. To support engagement with local systems, the paper identifies four areas that need priority attention: (1) identifying and assessing local systems; (2) designing multi-faceted projects that address identified weaknesses in those systems; (3) deepening and consolidating risk considerations in our decision-making process; and (4) developing monitoring and evaluation tools that can accurately chart progress in strengthening local systems and the sustainability of their results.
The seminar kicked-off a conversation about how to make best use of this new receptivity to systems thinking. Senior Policy Advisor for Local Systems, Dr. Tjip Walker, of USAID’s Bureau for Policy, Planning, and Learning traced the origins and objectives of this effort and laid out the key features of the local systems approach. The seminar concluded by eliciting ideas from participants about how to maximize the impact of this effort.
Dr. Tjip Walker is the Senior Policy Advisor for Local Systems in the Bureau for Policy, Planning, and Learning (PPL) at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). He is currently leading Agency efforts to promote sustained development through greater attention to local systems: the constellations of local actors—public and private, national and grassroots, organizations and individuals—whose interactions produce development outcomes.
Previously Dr. Walker served as the Deputy Director of PPL’s Office of Learning, Evaluation, and Research where he oversaw efforts to promote organizational learning in Washington and in the field. His earlier USAID assignments included Technical Lead for the Office of Conflict Management and Mitigation, Senior Conflict and Governance Advisor and Nigeria Country Representative for the Office of Transition Initiatives, and as a program manager for USAID/Cameroon.
Dr. Walker holds an Masters in Public Administration from the John F. Kennedy School at Harvard University, a Ph.D. in political science from Indiana University, and a life-long commitment to harnessing analysis to improve development practice.