New Leadership in PD&R’s Innovation Shop
Salin Geevarghese, Deputy Assistant Secretary for International and Philanthropic Innovation. As the newest member of the Office of Policy Development and Research’s (PD&R’s) leadership team, I want to introduce myself to The Edge community and express how honored I am to advance the work of PD&R’s Office for International and Philanthropic Innovation (IPI) as its new Deputy Assistant Secretary.
When Secretary Donovan asked me to lead the innovation team, I knew that I could not have asked for a better opportunity. I am thrilled to carry on the legacy of my predecessor, Ana Marie Argilagos, whose intelligence, creativity, and leadership helped found IPI’s office and the innovation team. As I begin my third week with IPI, I am evaluating every part of our title: the Office for International and Philanthropic Innovation. I look at international and philanthropy as sources of relationships and ideas not limited by sectors or borders. I see innovation as the opportunity to reimagine our strategies and rethink the ways in which we operate. Under my leadership, then, we will continue to position this office as a sphere of inclusion, ensuring that multiple perspectives are represented. With rigor and discipline, we will ask the critical questions: Are we in the best possible position to advance HUD’s mission and achieve the maximum possible impact from our initiatives? How does our work help more people in more places grow and prosper? Are we looking everywhere to discover best practices and more effective policy ideas? I invite my colleagues from PD&R, HUD, other agencies, and the administration to join us in this conversation.
Much of my life’s work has focused on addressing issues of equity, access to opportunity, and strengthening our economy. [Prior to my work with HUD, I had the chance to pursue these interconnected missions from various vantage points: from being a lawyer to working in corporate management, management consulting, nonprofit leadership, and eventually in philanthropy. It’s been a real privilege to explore perspectives and best practices from across these sectors. Each position has equipped me to pursue the same mission from different venues.] As a senior program executive at the Annie E. Casey Foundation, I was deeply engaged with the foundation’s early work on neighborhood redevelopment, regional equity and opportunity, anchor institutions, and efforts to improve the quality of life outcomes for low-income children and families. I joined the Obama administration in the summer of 2009 just as HUD, under the leadership of the recently appointed Secretary Donovan, began thinking about revising its agenda.
For some time, researchers, leaders, and other external stakeholders had been urging the federal government to break down silos and reframe its views on housing, economic development, transportation, health, and education and their implications for placemaking and the built environment. It became evident that federal agencies needed to collaborate more effectively. In response, Secretary Donovan tapped me and other colleagues in December 2009 to form a small team that would create and design a new office at HUD, the Office of Sustainable Housing and Communities (OSHC). In the spirit of innovation and collaboration, the Partnership for Sustainable Communities was launched, and we laid the groundwork for the Sustainable Communities Initiative with our partners at the U.S. Department of Transportation and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. I most recently served OSHC as its Acting Director, where I was responsible for advancing housing and communities that increase affordability, efficiency, and quality of life while also expanding regional economic growth and opportunity.
IPI will continue to serve as a liaison for substantive partnerships among thought leaders and innovators from across the public, private, and philanthropic sectors, both at home and abroad. I want IPI to be HUD’s hub for sharing new bold ideas and innovative strategies on how best to address complex policy research and development questions. Over the past few weeks, I have found tremendous interest in sharing new ideas, tools, and knowledge to help people think differently about how we should use our time and resources. Transforming our thinking will require that stakeholders from across society come together to deeply understand, plan, and take responsibility for their communities in new ways. That commitment to openness, collaboration, and innovation is what I bring to IPI’s table.