On May 8, the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy rolled out its report, “The Changing Landscape of U.S. Cross-Border Philanthropy,” in partnership with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Office of American Schools and Hospitals Abroad (ASHA). We wanted to discuss the partnership between the school and ASHA, benefits to both parties, and why it’s important to connect higher education and government institutions.
To do so, I sat down with Dr. Glenn Rogers, Senior Partnership Advisor for USAID/ASHA and a USAID Foreign Service Officer since 1992. Dr. Rogers has a wealth of field experience across West and Central Africa, Egypt, India, and rural Wisconsin, and has authored papers on impact evaluation, rural finance, and spatial analysis.
Can you tell us about the ASHA program and its history?
Dr. Glenn Rogers (GR): Sure. ASHA’s partners are American nonprofit organizations and the set of schools and learning institutions, medical centers, and libraries abroad that they support. American private citizens helped set up and continue to support these institutions abroad, some dating back to before the U.S. Civil War, though half were established in the past 50 years.
Leading up to World War II the American government became more involved in supporting these institutions, especially in Latin America. During the 1940s to 1960s, U.S. Foreign Assistance was repeatedly restructured with management of United States government contributions to these private schools abroad transferring first to the State Department in the 1940s and transitioning to the new USAID where it has remained since the 1960s.
Most importantly the word “mutual” is central to the definition of our mandate in the 1950s legislation: “(ASHA will) increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries.” This framework identities “mutual understanding” as the overall goal of the program and that’s what we seek to promote to this day.
What was the office’s impetus behind the partnership with the school on this research project?
GR: USAID/ASHA directly funds and engages with partners that are U.S. 501(c)(3) organizations. They and the American citizens associated with them are the key bridge in American support for these institutions abroad. Overall, the universe of these organizations has rapidly evolved and expanded over the last 30 years. So, USAID needs to understand these trends of U.S. nonprofits’ engagement abroad and the school was seeking to strengthen the cross-border dimension of their philanthropic studies field. This common interest was the impetus.
ASHA has a very large number of applicants, often five times more than we can fund. As a result, we began asking questions such as, ‘who are our current and potential partners? What’s the new landscape of the nonprofit world that’s engaging in these activities abroad? How can we be more strategic in engaging to support our partners, but also learn more about these new, emerging partners?’
We wanted to understand that part of the U.S. nonprofit world, and that’s the heart of what this school does.
How do you hope to utilize the research in continuing ASHA’s work?
GR: There are three broad areas. One, we’d like to educate ourselves and academic researchers working in this space about overall trends.
Second, we’d like to help our partners see themselves in context of those same trends, as well as disseminate critical information that they want to know as they seek finance and non-financial partnerships.
Finally, there’s a third set of institutions who do great work and deserve funding, but we’re unable to fund them. We need to constantly ask how do we help them grow and achieve their goals that the school and USAID share?
How has this research partnership with the school assisted ASHA in carrying out its mission?
GR: For ASHA, it helps us better understand the sector as we strive to be more data-driven in our strategic planning process. It also frames current and future practices of accountability, evaluation, and monitoring.
We also hope it helps our partners become better grantees. There’s an ongoing learning curve in administering and managing grants, and we hope that this information will help them learn as well.
Finally, it’s helping us open up other sets of educational and resource partners to bring into this space faster than would have happened otherwise. We hope to be able to report on those successes next year.
On the flip side, how does the school benefit from this partnership with ASHA?
GR: I think some of the ways the partnership benefits us, benefits the school as well. We want better quality analytical work and data-driven understanding of the issues. The school does too.
It also brings a different set of actors into this space that perhaps are one or two layers below the Global Indices* and a way to understand the space in which they operate. I think that helps the school strengthen its analytic toolkits and capacities to interpret the broader indices.
Then, similar to us, networking is important as well. Our abilities to network and disseminate this project in various ways also benefits the school and makes both of us stronger.
Dr. Una Osili, associate dean for research and international programs, also added her thoughts as to the benefit of the school’s partnership with ASHA.
UO: We appreciate the opportunity to collaborate with USAID/ASHA to study these factors and provide insights into how they are shaping the evolving picture of cross-border giving.
How do you think partnerships like this one between higher education institutions and government offices and programs broadly benefit society?
GR: In order for USAID/ASHA to improve our programs on the ground and track fast-evolving ideas and topics, we need to have a competitive market for ideas and data, and tools to understand the data. You need competition in order to produce the best ideas.
It’s the same with education and learning institutions more broadly in society. How do specific new ideas apply to challenges we see in Country X in the immediate or distant future? What are the trends that we need to be aware of, and how do they impact program implementation and future research?
Overall, a partnership among institutions will produce better ideas on how to achieve our mutual short-term and long-term goals.
*The Global Indices produced by the school provide a comprehensive understanding of the global giving landscape to help increase philanthropic engagement and create positive and lasting change in the world.