It’s been two years since the Population Council launched our Agenda for Change—a commitment to becoming an antiracist organization and addressing wider issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI).

Today, we continue to make progress, address challenges, and expand our efforts. In an ongoing commitment to foster transparency and accountability, we are sharing what we’ve learned since our one-year update, and where we see ourselves headed in this important journey.

Our Second Year

A vital component of the Agenda for Change—and a notable aspect of progress in and of itself—is the high level of staff contribution and leadership. This includes several internal working groups led by colleagues across the Council, as well as a President’s Advisory Council formally established in the last year to provide guidance, champion our efforts, and increase transparency and accountability.

Driven by the ideas, energy, and dedication of our colleagues, key achievements of the past year include:

  • Accelerated efforts to be “location neutral” in our hiring (within the US and globally), enabling us to operate in an even more globally collaborative and inclusive way.
  • Selection of a second cohort of our Accelerated Talent Development Program (ATDP), which was launched in early 2020 to cultivate and develop the next generation of Council leaders through mentorship, individual learning opportunities, and leadership development. Both the first and second cohorts (totaling ~30 colleagues) comprise a diverse group of colleagues across our offices, programs, and operations.
  • A revised statement on Trustees’ commitment to Board diversity, which includes targets for age, gender, and geographic representation and strengthens accountability.
  • commitment to DEI in our two scholarly journalsPopulation and Development Review (PDR) and Studies in Family Planning (SFP), including actions to tackle biases that perpetuate injustices in scholarship.
  • The appointments of new editors for PDR following more open calls for candidates and new editorial committee members for both PDR and SFP.
  • A soon-to-be launched Strategic Plan 2030, the development of which was overseen by a representative group of staff, and includes refined vision, mission, and values that reflect who we are today and who we will be moving forward.
  • Joining BankFWD to accelerate the banking sector’s alignment with global climate goals—part of our efforts to support progressive changes in the wider world through means including leveraging our resources.
  • Recognition by Global Health 50/50—an initiative to advance action and accountability for gender equality in global health—as a “high performer” and a “fast riser” for the improvement the Council has made in recent years.

We have acknowledged from the outset that the Agenda for Change will involve difficult conversations, examining ourselves and our organization through new lenses, and challenging how we think and work. We fully expected we would make mistakes and encounter obstacles along the way.

Recognizing that we could not rely on existing staff and knowledge alone to advance our agenda, we committed to hiring a DEI leader—a dedicated staff person with DEI expertise focused on accelerating and advancing our efforts. The recruitment process has taken longer than hoped for, as we navigate a competitive environment for this expertise as well as our complex needs given the different dimensions of DEI across the Council’s operations, programs, offices, and geographies. We recently reposted the position with a revised set of specifications, in hopes that we will identify a successful candidate in the near future.

We have been able to bridge this gap through two consultants, one in the US and one based in India, to identify a set of priorities that encompasses both the US and international offices’ perspectives—recognizing that dimensions of DEI vary across countries and cultures. This work provides the bedrock for an organization-wide DEI strategy, which will be integrated into our new strategic plan to institutionalize our efforts.

Looking Ahead

We are mindful that it will take intentional effort to sustain momentum after these initial two years. To achieve our goals we must continually strive to be open and honest about where we are and where we can do better. In the months ahead, we will:

  • Continue efforts to shift our center of gravity to the places we seek to have the most impact and become even more globally collaborative and inclusive.
  • Share further and more regular details on our Agenda for Change externally through a dedicated section in an upcoming redesign of our website.
  • Systematically measure and share our progress against our commitments, leveraging the monitoring and evaluation framework for our new strategic plan, and course-correcting as needed.
  • Continue to contribute to wider efforts in our field, such as participation in the TIME (Transforming INGO Models for Equity) project, which is supporting work on how our sector advances and adapts to the decolonizing global health movement.
  • Use the opportunity of our 70th anniversary in November 2022 to reflect on the evolution of our organization and to renew our commitment to who we strive to be.

September 30, 2022

By: Private: Julia Bunting

in News and Views