As of yesterday, the Academy for Educational Development (AED), my employer from December 2000 to February 2008 (and a place in which I remained a consultant from February-August 2008) is on the chopping block. Officially, the website mentioned in a press release that the AED Board of Directors “will pursue a process to sell itself of all of its highly valued programs and assets,” that this is “the only way to ensure the continuity of our programs and projects and to provide a new home and safe harbor for our talented staff within another appropriate for-profit or non-profit organization.” No explanation of why the Board found themselves making this allegedly difficult decision in the first place, however.
After all, as reported in the Washington Post, the Nonprofit News and the Los Angeles Times in December, USAID had put the organization’s $640 million in government grants on indefinite suspension after they learned of millions of dollars of malfeasance with two projects in Afghanistan/Pakistan. But it’s not until the sixth paragraph of its long press release on its website that AED even admits its time in the sun as an international development contractor is coming to a close.
There’s much more to this story than this press release, though. An undisclosed source confirmed that AED’s suspension has become permanent, as the government notified the organization of its decision to no longer do any business with the organization earlier this week. That puts the government grants that AED already administers on a death watch as well.
Despite all proclamations to the contrary, AED’s role since 1969 has been primarily as a government contractor with USAID and the US Department of State. With seventy percent of its business in government-funded international development programs, insufficient program diversification and a top-heavy business model — and not just funny bookkeeping — put AED on this road.
As a tribute to my former employer, below is a YouTube video of Gerry Rafferty’s big ’70s hit “Baker Street.” Gerry Rafferty – Baker Street It seems appropriate, since most of AED’s senior leadership was so ’60s and ’70s in their outlook on international development, education reform, gender and racial diversity and organizational management in general.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of AED’s founding. I started working there during AED’s year forty, and saw plenty of lavish celebrating of the organization’s ability to attract government funding, giving projects like mine — funded by the lowly Ford Foundation and Lumina Foundation for Education — short shrift in the process. Outside of love, friendship, wisdom and redemption, there’s nothing more remarkable in life than irony. I can hear the alto saxophone playing right now.