Money to Good Use

Maria Rendon works to optimize the role of innovation in USAID investment projects.

Maria Rendon

With a long career in economic development, most of it at USAID, Maria Rendon ’96 PhD (PA) knows the promise of international investment. But now, at USAID’s U.S. Global Development Lab, the emphasis is on innovation — the integration of science, technology, and partnership to accelerate and boost development impact.

The lab, based in D.C., is an internal innovation hub, and Rendon, an internal “coach, trainer, and facilitator,” she says. Within USAID’s hundreds of projects, serving 90-plus nations, she finds opportunities to instill innovative outlooks and practices. “Incentive-driven practices and outcome-based financing,” she explains, are a key to “host country partners financing their own development journey.”

She connects the work with her Maxwell PhD program, which exposed students to clients from the International Monetary Fund and European and African Unions. “We were doing very, very practical studies and analysis and reports,” Rendon says.

This article appeared in the winter 2019 print edition of Maxwell Perspective © Maxwell School of Syracuse University. To request a copy, e-mail