A Letter from Nancy Birdsall

November 16, 2015

Dear friends, colleagues, supporters of CGD,

I am writing to share with you my decision, after a healthy period of careful consideration, to step down as president of CGD in 2016, once a successor is in place. I’m pleased and excited about moving to a new chapter in my work life, as a senior fellow at CGD, with more time for research, writing and collaborating with incredible colleagues; and a new chapter in the other part of life, with more time and flexibility to travel and enjoy a large and still-growing extended family.

The first steps in a global search for my successor have been taken; the Chair of the CGD Board Larry Summers will lead a search committee principally comprised of the Executive Committee of the Board. He and the Board as a whole are committed to a deliberate, open and competitive process of the kind from which CGD can only benefit.

I leave with full confidence that CGD, though still youthful and still a bit of an upstart when it matters, is in fact a mature and established institution. CGD has a small, strong and dedicated team at the management level; a group of high-performing world-class scholars passionate about the purpose of what they do; a communications team expert at backing the “do” part of our think-and-do tank; superb support staff at every level; a savvy and exceptionally engaged board of trustees; and hundreds of generous supporters from all parts of the world. I am proud when I consider what CGD has become and the contributions it has made since I had the great good luck of meeting Ed Scott, our founding chair, almost 15 years ago.

But I find myself also amazed. I could never have envisioned let alone planned for what has sometimes seemed to unfold before me. CGD’s standing today is due to many people — in particular my co-founders, the initial board, and the staff in its early years who defined our evidence-based, passion-infused culture. But perhaps the key to success is CGD’s simple, value-driven approach: top-grade research, in search of practical ideas, to influence policies and practices of rich and powerful countries and institutions, for the benefit of the world’s poor and powerless. That mission and those values have attracted staff and supporters all over the world who have made CGD what it is. Along with respect for evidence and allowance for honest differences and sometimes passionate debate, that approach is hard-wired into the culture of CGD, and ensures the kind of continuity that transcends any leadership transition.

This is an exciting moment for me and for CGD: a transition that will inspire change along with continuity. How fortunate I am to be able (after a decent interval away once a successor is in place) to participate in the next chapter for CGD from a different vantage point.

With my thanks and warm wishes,

Nancy Birdsall


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.