Arlene Lear

In 1992 when the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) tapped the Foundation for the Peoples of the South Pacific to “go global” and help determine a role for U.S. nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in the former Soviet Union, Father Stan Hosie handpicked Arlene Lear to join the Counterpart team.

Arlene helped to map out a strategy for civil society support and managed the USAID-funded Volunteer Executive Service Teams, (VEST) program, a public/private partnership model for rapidly responding to the challenges facing newly emerging democracies and economies in the former Soviet Union. Among many significant achievements of VEST, 34 partnerships were designed and funded to support NGO capacity building, microenterprise development, women and reproductive health, environmental protection, social services and education.

In his book, The House that Betty Built, Father Stan called out Arlene in particular: “It would not be realistic to overlook the essential and ongoing role of the Counterpart VEST initiative manager and later senior vice president of Counterpart, Arlene Lear … Hands Across the Table to Arlene Lear for what she achieved in those four incredible years in the nineties.”

Counterpart was at the forefront of civil society building in the former Soviet Union, and particularly in Central Asia. As part of civil society programming, Arlene designed a successful capacity building methodology that Counterpart continues to use around the world. This “cascading model” trains intermediary Civil Society Organizations in capacity building who in turn train other organizations. The goal is to maximize outreach and sustain that outreach over time.

Under Arlene’s leadership, a network of 35 Civil Society Support Centers was created throughout five Central Asian countries, reaching thousands of organizations. Those networks still exist in four of the five countries.

Arlene also launched Counterpart’s food security and local economic development programs. For more than two decades, Arlene has been known for her single-minded dedication to Counterpart’s excellence, always with an eye out to find what will make Counterpart even better.

Now post-retirement, Arlene continues to provide her expertise and institutional knowledge to Counterpart. As one staff member noted, “Arlene can’t walk away from this team. If anyone at Counterpart needs her, she will always step up. Arlene was a force when Counterpart started and she still is. Her commitment is so deep.”

In recognition of 23 years of unwavering commitment to Counterpart, Arlene Lear is a very special 50FORWARD Hero.

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