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Engaging the Indian Diaspora in International Development

Ari Alexander, Deputy Director of USAID’s Center for Faith-based and Community Initiatives, describes the highlights from a USAID meeting engaging the Indian American community in the US.

USAID held an important meeting last week with 33 members of the Indian American community. The dialogue was part of a day-long session aimed at enhancing partnerships between USAID and the Indian Diaspora in development efforts in India and a recognition that the Indian American community has much to offer, in terms of expertise, understanding, and resources, to development projects.  Following on the Diaspora recommendations of the White House Advisory Council for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, this meeting was a solid step towards better engaging the smaller, grassroots NGO community.

I gladly provided welcoming remarks on behalf of USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah.  USAID India Mission Director Erin Soto also met with the group for an extensive Q&A providing insight on USAID India and listening to recommendations on how USAID can better engage and work with the Indian American community. 

The participants came from a wide variety of organizations throughout the United States.  All groups appreciated the opportunity to come together as a group, to ask questions, and to hear about the programs and priorities of USAID's work in India.  As a part of this meeting, they heard from a variety of USAID experts on the agency's key priorities in India - health, global climate change, and food security.  Other USAID staff joined the meeting to provide the group information on the USAID grant process and potential opportunities. In line with the partnership theme, a leading NGO partner of USAID offered up useful pointers on partnering with larger NGOs and how Diaspora groups can use their unique technical skills and expertise to complement those of the larger NGO. 

Anju Bhargava, a member of the 2009-2010 White House Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, said, “It is amazing to see the recommendations our Advisory Council gave to the President to engage the Diaspora, just in March, being implemented so quickly. The in-depth discussions through the various speakers, as well as with the USAID Mission head, gave us, the Indian American community, an insight into the process. Now we have to develop our capacity and partner with USAID to leverage the talent of our Diaspora to strengthen America's strategic interest.”

Ari Alexander is Deputy Director of the Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships at the United States Agency for International Development