By Fiona Macaulay, CEO, the WILD Network

The saying goes that you can only really manage what you can measure. That you can only address a problem when you truly understand its scope.

Yet, despite it being a problem in our sector for decades, there is surprisingly little understanding of the scope and reasons behind the lack of diversity, equity and inclusion and the dearth of women leaders at the top among US-based development and humanitarian organizations.

We all know that our sector has problems – racism, a legacy of colonialism, white supremacy and leadership teams that don’t represent the diversity of people who enter the global development sector or the people we are serving.

These issues became more pronounced in the wake of the George Floyd killing – an event that mobilized millions of new voices, and forced our sector to recognize its own shortcomings, especially when it comes to racial and gender injustice.

True, some organizations responded admirably, not just condemning the violence and pledging change, but also taking tangible steps to change how they work, how they are led, and how they make decisions. And many organizations had already begun this work.

Hear honest accounts from leaders of global development companies about the journeys their organizations are on to address equity, diversity and inclusion in the global development sector.

But again, you can only manage what you can measure – and absent a true understanding of the scope of the problem across the sector, we can’t make informed, sector-wide change.

This is what makes collecting the data so important.

WILD, working with several partners, is sending out the inaugural BRIDGE survey on March 15 —the first ever sector-wide survey aimed at Benchmarking Race, Inclusion and Diversity in Global Engagement.

Disseminated to approximately 400 global development organizations headquartered in the US, it will provide a diversity snapshot of organizations’ staff, leadership, and boards, as well as provide details on the types of strategies and approaches organizations are taking to improve DEI.

The survey comes as a collective response by a small group of industry leaders from WILD, Social Impact, IREX and Humentum in an effort to finally understand, and then begin to address the diversity data gap in the sector.

The group was supported by InterAction and PSC/CIDC who helped to ensure broad dissemination of the survey, while representatives from Dexis Consulting Group, National Endowment for Democracy, and EGPAF all provided guidance and advice.

For WILD, helping lead the development of the survey was a natural evolution of the work we have been doing for years to support women in the global development sector to scale their impact and thrive. Since 2018, WILD had been a convening a wide-ranging, and impactful network of development sector professionals committed to advancing women’s leadership, and sector-wide DEI.

With the BRIDGE survey, we are hoping that we can reinforce the voices of our members and others calling for change across the sector with irrefutable data. But the survey itself is hopefully just a starting point. A measurement for the change we need to make.

Once we have the results, a baseline to gauge our success against, the hard work will really begin. The advocacy, the engagement, the networking, the ideation and the innovation. This data will accelerate the type of change we all know we need. As I say that, I also invite us to celebrate those organizations across the global development sector who are already doing the hard work.

Moreover, organizations themselves will be able to (and should) compare their own data to the industry benchmark and identify areas where improvement is needed. I know there is high demand for this – annually, when I convene the annual Women in Global Development Leadership Forum, numerous people ask, “Where’s the data?”

At the sectoral level, the data could point to gaps where joint action is required to achieve meaningful and lasting change. And, as BRIDGE is released next year, and the year after that, the data will also provide a basis for mutual accountability – setting a standard.

Finally, for me, as a serial social entrepreneur, educator and field-builder for over 20 years, and someone who started several organizations and platforms committed to helping other women make their mark in the social change sector, BRIDGE represents a moment of affirmation of that work.

As a woman in global development, I have seen our sector change, but also not change. I’ve seen women of color succeed, but to a point. I’ve seen the voices of women from the Global South being included, but not always heard.

But more change is coming. And, with the BRIDGE we can make sure that it is informed, insightful and impactful.

The BRIDGE Survey is open to US-based development and humanitarian organizations. The more participants we have, the better the data we collect, and I encourage you to participate, whether you are a non-profit, foundation, for-profit, a research entity, or an advocacy organization. 

Click here to take the survey or reach out if you want to participate.