The Foreign Service Journal, May 2020

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | MAY 2020 59 Achieving Transparent Promotions by Promoting Transparency Each USAID Foreign Service officer has unique stories, experiences and accom- plishments—these are part of what makes our career choice extremely rewarding. But throughout our varied careers and postings, we all undergo the excitement and stress that comes with promotion season. Fortunately, FSOs are becoming more comfort- able with USAID’s still-new promotion system. USAID’s Office of Human Capital and Talent Management has continued to roll out training sessions and hold webi- nars, and has built a helpful intranet website with myriad resources. One critical area where the agency must do more is in providing information—to the public and to FSOs—on promotion data. “Why?” I’m glad you asked. USAID is a trailblazer in program data transparency and has been a leader in making its program data sets, assessments, evalua- tions and budget informa- tion accessible, discoverable and usable. Well-known data sites include the Foreign Aid Explorer (https://explorer., the Development Experience Clearinghouse ( home/Default.aspx) and Making program data publicly available is criti- cal, because as the agency notes in its development data fact sheet, open data fuels entrepreneurship, innova- tion, scientific discovery and enhanced development outcomes. Open data contributes to improved design and imple- mentation of development programs, while reducing expensive and duplicative data collection efforts. I believe the agency and the public would reap similar benefits from promotion data transparency. “Like what?” I’m glad you asked. Accessible, usable and robust promotion data would help agency leadership, staff and the taxpayer better understand the history and structure of USAID’s Foreign Service, including demo- graphics and trends. A common and accessible data set would also provide the basis for informed dis- cussions critical to effective operations at any modern institution. The agency’s ongoing efforts toward strategic work- force planning would benefit from accessible promotion data, helping forecast future promotion opportunities and recruitment needs. But there are countless other applica- tions and uses, as well. “Such as?” I’m glad you asked. Data alone may not produce definitive answers to questions by itself, but robust data (always protect- ing personally identifiable information) can provide entry points allowing all stakeholders to ask tough questions and engage with one another in a transparent and well-informed manner on issues such as these: • How do different back- stops fare in the promotion process? Are there trends that suggest advantages or concerns? • How do promotions break out by diversity at varying levels—is there some inherent bias in the promo- tion system? • Do presidential/Admin- istrator initiatives in certain technical areas have an impact on promotions? • What is the average time-in-class by backstop this year? Last year? Over the past five years? • I’m interested in joining the Foreign Service: What do promotions look like over time in the different USAID FS career paths? • What does the data sug- gest about promotions and location? Everyone says it’s hard to get promoted from Washington. Is that really the case? Are Critical Priority Countries better for promo- tions? The agency must have the commitment and capacity to produce, publish and respect data. We need to integrate agency-internal data into how we operate—how we recruit, achieve equity, maintain career paths, offer professional development opportunities, retain staff and shore up morale. We promote transpar- ency in our efforts to help countries progress along the journey to self-reliance. Let’s model good behavior with our promotion data. n USAID VP VOICE | BY JASON SINGER AFSA NEWS Contact: | (202) 712-5267 Accessible, usable and robust promotion data would help agency leadership, staff and the taxpayer better understand the history and structure of USAID’s Foreign Service, including demographics and trends.