Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at CGD: Successes, Challenges, and Future Plans

For the last four years, CGD has been involved in a range of activities in a bid to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), both internally and externally. This blog outlines some of these activities, what we at CGD have been learning, and what our plans are going forward. We would love input as to what more we could do, so please do get in touch.

What CGD has done

CGD has long aimed to improve DEI issues internally, most notably in the wake of an organizational review in 2018. Yet it was in late 2020, responding to the murder of George Floyd and increasing discussions among staff, that CGD developed its first formal DEI Strategy. This Strategy was designed to advance DEI issues both within the organization and in the wider field of development economics.

CGD identified a number of priority objectives that were grouped under five themes: (1) recruitment, onboarding, and induction; (2) learning and development; (3) leveling the playing field; (4) research: events, papers, and partnerships; and (5) our voice in the development industry. Staff at all levels, within all departments, and across both the London and Washington DC offices, volunteered to lead implementation of the various objectives.

By March 2022, of the 44 objectives proposed, 38 were completed. For example, we:

  • Created a new internal DEI Committee. The voluntary Committee initially met monthly, overseeing the implementation of the DEI Strategy and thereby accelerating progress on these issues internally. The Committee also brought in external speakers to understand how CGD can best influence DEI issues externally. 

  • Developed new policies and training modules. We developed a new, more transparent, pay and promotions policy, one part of which requires staff to report on their DEI activities in performance reviews; new recruitment guidelines which aim to, among other things, attract a more diverse range of candidates to CGD; an internal style guide which advises on the most advisable terminology to use within research products; and internal training modules to support line managers and provide information on DEI issues. 

  • Diversified who we engage with, including across events and research. We completed a baseline assessment on the diversity of our past events as well as created a list of potential experts to call upon and new guidelines. We prompted researchers to think about DEI issues, both in terms of diversifying who they cite and encouraging reflection ahead of internal research presentations. We have also been intentional about diversifying our community of non-resident fellows.

Other objectives were not achieved within the two years or were set aside. For example, we had a discussion internally as to whether CGD should provide scholarships to encourage more diversity in the development economics field. However, it was decided that this was not CGD’s core business, but something we can better support through partner organizations.

In mid 2022, CGD developed its second DEI Strategy. It aimed to build on the successes of the first Strategy, address some of the gaps, and add new objectives where relevant. The second Strategy has three themes: (1) external engagement; (2) data; and (3) learning and development.

For example, one of our aims is to entice a more diverse set of candidates to apply to work at CGD. To achieve this, we are doing student visits; advertising roles more widely; and partnering with less-represented universities. Other activities include developing skill-based tools to make our recruitment process less biased; implementing a new mentoring program; and improving our digital accessibility (such as providing captions and transcripts for events).


In the implementation of these objectives over the last four years, we have learned a lot. We hope that, in being honest about these challenges, we can support not only our future engagement on these issues, but also other organizations who may be struggling with the same things.

  • Getting buy-in from staff. As was evident in the wider discourse, there was a groundswell of enthusiasm for engaging with DEI issues in late 2020. CGD was no exception. A large number of staff were interested in both proposing and advancing objectives, internally and externally. Leadership also made advancing DEI an institutional objective. Yet, over time, enthusiasm has waned. While we feel staff are still excited about advancing these objectives, activities are voluntary, and it is getting more difficult to prioritize objective implementation unless they comprise formal assignments (indeed, our role as co-chairs of the DEI Committee is also voluntary).

  • Identifying resources. Relatedly, identifying both people and money to work on DEI issues has been a challenge. The former has been adequately covered above, yet the latter is more difficult. Unless formally counted as part of indirect or administration costs, we do not have any grant resources to advance DEI internally and externally, which makes it difficult to implement certain activities such as trainings. One thing we have prioritized is paying people for their time, such as external speakers and job candidates, but this has come out of overhead resources.

  • Knowing our limitations. As a modest-sized think tank, we have struggled to identify how we meaningfully influence DEI issues externally. For example, we would very much like to see a more diverse pipeline of talent in development economics. Yet influencing the factors that make someone enter the field versus other fields is largely beyond our control. We also tried some initiatives, such as our Summer Delegates Program, which were deemed not sustainable and doable for an organization of our size at this time.

DEI is a work-in-progress. We have learned much over the last four years, and continue to update and refine our ways of thinking as well as our policies and procedures to better reflect DEI issues internally and externally.

Future plans

So what are our plans going forward? Some of the objectives identified in our second Strategy remain extremely relevant and have widespread buy-in. For example, we have now set up our mentorship program which received substantial interest from a range of different mentors and mentees. The first round of connections have been made, and we plan to evaluate the program.

We have also tried to do more to promote our engagement on DEI issues, to benchmark our progress against others and get ideas of what more we could do. This blog is part of these efforts. We have also updated the section of CGD’s website which publishes our internal DEI information; and created a DEI ‘tag’ so that people can easily find CGD research most relevant to DEI issues, which we are also launching today. For example, see our research exploring women’s underrepresentation within the leadership of the international financial institutions (IFIs); how to improve racial diversity and inclusion in US development policy; and how to decolonize humanitarian governance

Yet there are other things we haven’t made as much progress on. Historically, we have closely collaborated with other organizations such as Women of Color Advancing Peace, Security and Conflict Transformation (WCAPS) to advance DEI issues in the wider community. We would like to reignite some of these collaborations, and speak to other organizations who may be interested in working with us. We would also love to hear from other organizations, particularly think tanks, as to what they are doing to advance DEI issues and lessons they may have for CGD. At a time when discussions about DEI seem more polarized and sensitive than ever, it seems connecting, communicating and having a dialogue are of the essence. 


We invite you to get in touch to share your comments and suggestions. As we go forward, we are excited to welcome two new DEI Committee co-chairs, Radhika Nagesh and Gabriella Smarreli. We would also like to thank Kehinde Ajayi, Ranil Dissanayake, Susannah Hares, Eeshani Kandpal, Ana Marriaga, Patsy Mills, Ellen Mackenzie, and the DEI Committee for their helpful comments on this blog.


CGD blog posts reflect the views of the authors, drawing on prior research and experience in their areas of expertise. CGD is a nonpartisan, independent organization and does not take institutional positions.

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