Why we’re watching: There are larger and more established advocacy groups focused on U.S. foreign aid. But Unlock Aid is different — it is taking on the establishment from the outside, pushing for a more radical reimagining of U.S. foreign assistance.
Leadership: Walter Kerr, executive director.
Staff: None yet.
$: Not yet disclosed. (The membership fee was advertised as $20,000 per year, although the organization tells us it has moved to a “sliding scale dues schedule.”)
HQ: Washington, D.C.
Tidbit: Sonal Shah and Maura O’Neill are advisory board members.
Follow: Michael Igoe and Catherine Cheney.
Analysis: USAID has had quite a run, from an agency with an annual budget just under $7 billion in 1996 to one that now spends over $30 billion each year. That growth has come in part from hard fought advocacy efforts from the likes of the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition. But all those additional billions have been spent in much the same way as in years past: larger and larger projects implemented by larger and larger NGOs and international development companies. The Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network, a membership group in Washington, D.C., has long lobbied for changes, including localizing aid. But its members come from many of the same large USAID partners. Enter Unlock Aid, an MFAN made up of disruptive, Silicon Valley-style startup social enterprises. It’s new and small, but already getting attention with a more radical view of how USAID needs to fund results by choosing different partners. — RK