The U.S. Global Development Lab is an innovation hub inside America’s foreign aid agency, which is tasked with taking “smart risks” that can unlock new and innovative approaches to tackling development challenges. Over the past few years, one of the challenges the lab has taken on is the U.S. Agency for International Development’s lack of options for deploying its people to insecure and conflict-affected environments.
For years USAID has struggled with a conundrum: to contribute to U.S. national security objectives the agency needs to be able to operate in places that present national security risks; but a culture of risk aversion — which has intensified since the 2012 attacks on a U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya — often restricts U.S. civilian officials to capital cities where their security can be better guaranteed. That tendency to confine U.S. civilians to secure areas — sometimes referred to as “fortressification” — creates distance between USAID personnel and the communities they strive to serve.
The gap widens when those communities are located “outside the wire,” in places where violent extremism, instability, and state fragility pose additional risks.
In Feb. 2018, the Global Development Lab quietly released a series of reports it had commissioned from the Frontier Design Group to undertake research and development on new approaches to countering violent extremism
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