This is the fifth blog of our 12-month series on deep dives into BRIDGE 2.0.  Check out our previous blogs on what we learned and actions organizations can take to advance equity and inclusion. Benchmarking Race, Inclusion, and Diversity in Global Engagement (BRIDGE) is an institutional survey that assesses the state of diversity, equity, and inclusion in the global development sector. Read the full report: BRIDGE 2.0 report


Data is the backbone of successful diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives. It gives us a clear, factual snapshot of where we stand with diversity and helps guide our decisions, track our progress, spot any gaps, and, importantly, hold ourselves accountable. In the global development sector, the BRIDGE initiative has been a game changer, providing us with the essential data that we need to reflect on our current practices and drive meaningful progress.

What we learned from BRIDGE 2.0 is that while development organizations are making some headway in their DEI efforts  – particularly in establishing DEI governance structures and embedding goals into their organizational strategies –  BIPOC staff continue to remain underrepresented, particularly at leadership and board levels.

One observation, however, is that Asians are overrepresented in the global development workforce, a trend consistent across both BRIDGE 1.0 and BRIDGE 2.0. What does one make of this? While it is positive to see Asians well represented in the sector, this phenomenon could lead to them being overlooked in DEI conversations. More concerning is that this overrepresentation could perpetuate the “model minority” myth, which falsely suggests that because Asians have “made it,” other BIPOC groups do not encounter barriers or discrimination, thereby invalidating their struggles and obscuring the need for DEI initiatives.

As we celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, it’s vital to explore the complexities behind the term “Asian,” which encompasses a wide tapestry of cultures, experiences, and ethnicities. While aggregate statistics may paint a rosy picture of Asian American’s educational and socioeconomic achievements, these averages mask significant disparities among Asian subgroups. In fact, Asians are the most economically divided racial group in the United States, and several ethnicities in the community, including the Burmese, Hmong, Mongolian, and Cambodians, experience higher poverty rates than the US average of 12 percent. This means that when we fold everyone under an umbrella group of “Asian,” the success of a few subgroups can easily overshadow the struggles of others.

These disparities underscore the importance of disaggregating data and acknowledging the diverse experiences and challenges faced by different Asian subgroups. Our efforts must go beyond recognition. In BRIDGE 2.0, organizations were asked whether they obtain information on Asian subgroups, and only a tiny fraction of organizations did so. This gap in data collection undermines our ability to truly understand and address the DEI implications of our Asian colleagues but also perpetuates the invisibility of certain subgroups within the community.

Of course, gathering such granular data may present its own practical challenges – including potential issues around data fragmentation, resource strain, and privacy concerns. But the benefits far outweigh the risks. By obtaining data both comprehensively and responsibly, we can ensure that the diversity of Asian experiences is properly represented and that we are practicing our commitment to nuance throughout our DEI efforts.



Laura Kim is a Senior Consultant at Canopy Lab, supporting clients in their monitoring, evaluation, and learning (MEL) endeavors. Additionally, she works on Canopy’s Inclusion and Leadership series, exploring the factors influencing access to and advancement in international development. She serves as a member of the Advisory Council for the BRIDGE 2.0 Initiative.