USAID Foreign Service National Spotlight: Rebecca Guieb

November 14, 2018, marked the United States Agency for International Development’s (USAID) first annual Foreign Service National Recognition Day. To honor the dedication and efforts of our foreign service nationals, we are highlighting Rebecca (Becky) Guieb, who works on biodiversity programming for sustainable and equitable development in the Philippines.

Adaptive management plays a major role in Becky Guieb’s work, even at unexpected times. As a USAID Foreign Service National in the Philippines, Becky was leading a theory of change workshop in Batangas when a strong storm descended. The resort’s electricity cut out, but the group of stakeholders continued their discussion and improvised along the way. Becky says, “It was a true lesson on adaptive management that nature taught us!”

Becky focuses on supporting and leading her team in implementing effective adaptive management. Through trainings and meet-ups with development colleagues, Becky says her training in adaptive management “is empowering because of the new knowledge and experience that I was able to bring to the [Philippines] mission.” Part of Becky’s work in the Philippines has been with USAID’s Ecosystems Improved for Sustainable Fisheries (ECOFISH) project, which concluded in 2017. Becky is now using her learning and best practices from ECOFISH to kickstart the five-year Fish Right program, a new partnership between the government of the Philippines and USAID. Fish Right aims to enhance the sustainable use and resilience of critical coastal and marine resources that provide food, livelihoods and coastal protection to communities.

Becky names several relevant takeaways from ECOFISH that she hopes will inform and improve planning for Fish Right. After the electricity-free workshop in Batangas, the team presented a very intricate theory of change to the Philippine government partners—who found the details intimidating at first, especially for those unfamiliar with the concept. Becky learned from this experience that it can be difficult to tell a story with a complex theory of change, which may may need to be simplified for some audiences. With discussion and collaboration, government partners embraced the usefulness of theories of change for programing and monitoring, and requested training in the approach.

During ECOFISH implementation, Becky and her team had to shift their mindset away from the direct outputs of their work and toward the outcomes or effects of that work. “With this mindset,” Becky says, “we focused on understanding the early fisheries management results of the local government units. We realized that a strong foundation for a comprehensive ecosystem approach to fisheries management process is built when local government units become more confident from early interventions.” The Fish Right team will expand on this idea. The University of Rhode Island, an implementing partner, will set up partnership labs to help local government units receive active, early assistance from universities, nongovernmental organizations and the private sector. “It is the route we are taking to advance the Philippines’ journey to self-reliance,” Becky says.

The importance of learning will also carry over into Becky’s work with Fish Right, particularly spending more time and effort on the monitoring, learning and evaluation (MEL) plan. While building the ECOFISH theory of change, the team’s understanding of the approach evolved and sparked questions about basic assumptions, such as: Is a change in fish biomass associated with a change in fishing income? Is a change in illegal fishing violations and fishing effort associated with a change in fish biomass? Looking forward, Becky is enthusiastic about bringing these reflections to build a better Fish Right program to improve development outcomes in her home country.

Thank you for your service, Becky!