January 18, 2021 – By Megan Nguyen

The 2020 U.S. presidential election occurred during one of the most critical periods of our nation’s history, as our governments simultaneously navigated multiple crises. Especially during such periods of transition, one of our government’s cornerstones is providing stability to our country, and digital technology plays a significant role in making that happen. In November 2020, the Beeck Center’s Cori Zarek led an Ideas That Transform event with government technology experts Cass Madison, John Bailey, Natassja Linzau, and Shannon Sartin to surface lessons and recommendations to ensure data, design, technology, and other modern tools and practices can support key decision-makers during presidential transitions.


Watch Ideas That Transform: What It Takes to Support Data and Tech Capacity in Government Transition

Technology and data are imperative to governments because of how they make policy outcomes possible. Digital services are increasingly used to implement policy. For example, the House of Representatives passed House Resolution 965 in response to COVID-19 to allow for virtual congressional deliberations with remote proxy voting. Another example is found in The Chief Data Officer in Government playbook, which discusses how the data collected from digital channels can then be leveraged “to gain greater insights and formulate better policies.” People moving into government positions should have an understanding of both the priorities and the challenges of technology and data in order to build a more comprehensive roadmap to follow for their agencies, particularly for the early days in their new roles.

Takeaway #1: Guiding Documents Preserve Ideas

A more seamless transition can be facilitated by studying any guiding documents created by outgoing agency teams. This allows incoming teams to preserve the value and ideas of previous teams’ work, which might otherwise get lost during the transition. When incoming teams begin their roles with more insight into their predecessors’ work, they are better equipped to continue or build upon it.

Takeaway #2: Evaluate Continuity Between Outgoing and Incoming Teams

It is also important to be cognizant of who started any work that is intended to be continued. For example, Shannon Sartin shared that political appointees typically stay in their positions for around 18 months, which is enough time to get a specific program started, but may not be enough time to see its complete results. For many appointees, the success of their work depends on their successors’ abilities to carry it forward. Those wishing to continue the work of their preceding political appointees must be mindful that the outgoing and incoming teams may have different capacities, skill sets, and training. It is critical for incoming teams to determine whether they are compatible to advance their predecessors’ efforts, otherwise, it may be necessary to restructure the vision of the work.

Takeaway #3: Embrace Transitions as Potential for Meaningful Changes

Finally, government transitions should be viewed as opportunities for success as much as they are viewed as periods of disarray. Cass Madison described transitions as “the heart and soul of government.” They are opportunities to repitch ideas to incoming government leaders, especially those with aligning interests. The Beeck Center’s 2016 Architecture of Innovation report discusses how transitions should “embrace innovation and build the necessary architecture to promote and institutionalize its use as a means to achieve outcomes.” Transitions can invite moments of crisis that give government agencies the momentum to make immediate, impactful change. Key decision-makers must understand how to mitigate concerns of transitions and leverage these transitions to best serve public needs.

Megan Nguyen is a junior in the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. As a Student Analyst, Megan explores how data practices and digital services can help governments better serve public needs.

December 17, 2020 – By Erika Seth Davies

Read the full series: Part 1Part 2

While we launched the work with the belief in the significance of creating more equitable access to capital markets, the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on BIPOC communities compounded by the country’s racial reckoning in the wake of the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Aubrey, dramatically amplified the urgency of this project. If nothing else, the past 6 months have revealed the system is unfortunately working as it was designed as reflected in policy and practices that create economic inequity disproportionately in communities of color. 

How bad do things need to get before we aggressively make changes? The data shows us that the performance of diverse managers is just as strong as firms predominantly owned by white men. We also know that structural barriers and implicit bias mitigate opportunities for diverse firms to gain access to compete. Throughout the series of blogs and webinars, I have covered the landscape and addressed ways of taking a systemic approach to moving the needle on increasing access to capital markets for BIPOC managers. 


Watch Erika’s conversation with Bert Feuss & AJ Hernandez on this issue

Now that the racism in the room is no longer hiding in plain sight, it is time to act and be accountable for shifting the policies and practices that have held an inequitable system in place for far too long.  

  • Be intentional about transformational change for racial equity. Taking the same approaches to decision making will result in more of the same outcomes. As an advocate for racial equity, I am pleased to work in solidarity with a group of BIPOC managers to craft and share the Due Diligence 2.0 Commitment to set new norms and challenge the oft-cited criteria and risk-assessment frameworks that keeps less than 1.5% of assets with diverse firms. To achieve a change in outcomes, decision makers in the ecosystem must be willing to make changes to their assumptions and processes for identifying, evaluating, and hiring managers.
  • Seek out, engage, and invest with BIPOC managers. Diverse managers do exist with the ideas, networks, and capacity to deliver strong performance and expand the universe of investment opportunities. With the presence of affinity groups in the financial services industry as well as the recently-released Diverse Manager Directory from Emerging Manager Monthly listing over 100 firms, it is simply no longer acceptable to claim ignorance of where to find diverse firms. 
  • Hold every firm accountable for advancing diversity, equity,, and inclusion in the investment management industry. As recently shared in the Wall Street Journal, Yale University with one of the largest university endowments at $31B has put the asset management industry on notice that diversity in the ranks matters to performance and future opportunity with the institution. With resources like the Diversity Metric Score released by Lenox Park, there are ways of measuring the relative impact of diversity beyond firm ownership and considering the essential components of inclusion at all levels in the industry. Without large-scale commitment to increasing the presence of racial and gender diversity as a basic expectation for generating performance, simple inertia will allow the industry to continue moving under its current conditions and widen the gap between access and opportunity.

Equitable access to capital markets for diverse-owned asset management firms requires consistent, informed, and intentional decision making that must begin now. An industry that relies on hard data can no longer ignore the numbers, and must create lasting, equitable solutions for all.

Erika Seth Davies is a Fellow in Fair Finance at the Beeck Center. Follow her on Twitter

February 24, 2020 | By Alberto Rodriguez Alvarez

So, why did you choose to apply for the Beeck Center Student Analyst position? As a grad student at the McCourt School of Public Policy, I get asked this question pretty often. And the answer is always the same: “Because it is and continues to be the best place to learn new skills as a student, while working to make an impact with the skills you already have”. I’ve been working as a Student Analyst at the Beeck Center since February of 2019, participating in four cohorts and supporting a variety of projects and initiatives. While the focus of my work has shifted over time, what has remained constant is that I’ve had the opportunity to learn and contribute in impactful ways. 

My work in the Beeck Center is within a project called the Digital Service Collaborative which is part of the center’s Data + Digital Portfolio. In this project, I lead action-oriented research on how governments are approaching digital transformation across the United States and around the world. My initial project was under the Exploratory phase of the Beeck Center framework and allowed me to tag along on more than 40 interviews with leaders in federal, state, and local governments who have been part of digital transformation efforts. I learned as they explained how digital tools were transforming their work, identified their pain points on using technology in public service, and developed an understanding of their views of how the government would adapt in the future. 


Related Story: Work With Purpose – The Student Analyst Program


Before coming to Georgetown, I worked in the Office of the President of Mexico at the National Digital Strategy supporting digital transformation efforts in my own government. My work at the Beeck Center offered me a chance to use my past experience to analyze and contextualize our findings and experience a level of access and direct engagement that is difficult to get in any job, let alone on a part-time position or an internship. But at the Center, the process went even further: under the guidance of my supervisors — expert practitioners in the public interest technology field including designers, data scientists, policy makers, and more — I learned human-centered design techniques to synthesize the data and information we collected from more than 70 interviews and turn it into a concise set of learnings and recommendations now published in Setting the Stage for Transformation: Frontline Reflections on Technology in American Government.  

Last summer, I had the opportunity to work at the Beeck Center full-time with new student analysts from other schools across the country who were also excited to work on making an impact through public interest tech. Being a part of this team allowed me to immerse myself in the civic tech ecosystem, this time on the Incubation phase of the Center’s framework. This started with the formal launch of the Digital Service Collaborative. To say that it was one of the best experiences I’ve had as a student is frankly an understatement. I piloted and used the HCD techniques that I’ve previously learned, I got to meet amazing teams doing great work, but most importantly I was pushed to create tools that could help other people, both inside and outside government, to enact change using digital tools for government. I even got to build a strategy around case studies to document how governments in Latin America are approaching policy innovation and speak in a national conference on Decolonizing Civic Tech which started a conversation still taking place today. 

All of this work takes place under the guidance of the Beeck Center Fellows who coach us every step of the way, and Beeck Center staff that hold workshops to teach us new skills and provide space to reflect on our journey towards social impact, through offerings like the Discern & Digest series where students gather each week to reflect on our unique journeys through school, work, and life.

As I complete my last semester as a student in Georgetown I am also finishing my journey in the Beeck Center, this time with the opportunity to lead a working group made up of government professionals, leaders from civil society, companies, and academia focused on Delivering Better Outcomes through User-Centered Policy Making, in partnership with New America’s Public Interest Technology team, the National Conference on Citizenship, and The Rockefeller Foundation. This working group now lets me apply skills that I acquired both in my classes as a Master’s in Public Policy Student and in my time working at the Center, all in the service of creating tools for public servants who want to have a greater impact on their communities.

As I look back and try to synthesize my journey at the Beeck Center, I find myself truly grateful for the opportunity to be in a space where great ideas are discussed, talents are fostered, and friends are made. I also see myself challenged by a cohort of experts and learners that perfectly complement my time as a student, without losing sight of working purposely to achieving a positive impact. And I honestly think there is nowhere else I could’ve done that. 

Alberto Rodriguez Alvarez is a Student Analyst, currently pursuing a Masters in Public Policy at Georgetown University. Follow him on Twitter at @arodalv

 

February 21, 2020 | By Diana Acosta

Communities have voices, narratives, and histories that are powerful and steadfast. Way too often, we choose to ignore the voices of historically overlooked communities, perpetuating inequities throughout generations. Despite these challenges, communities persist and resist as I have witnessed and experienced throughout my life. This is why engaging with Georgetown TEDx’s Persist and Resist event was so important to me. It highlighted the resilience of many communities and experiences through the voices of inspiring speakers who were willing to share stories intimately tied to pressing themes of our time. Watching and listening to each speaker’s honesty, words, pain, and strength was a reminder that fortified the importance of each of their calls to transform the world. 

The talks throughout the day had a general theme: it is not enough to just be aware of or aligned with a cause. We must act now, continue to learn, and truly partner alongside each other because whether we acknowledge it or not, the pain spread affects all. In my story, I wanted to highlight communities’ resilience and power as strong foundations that continue to raise generations upon generations. The intentional, hard work of community-building that has been a key mechanism of survival within our experience and identities. The amazing power of comunidad and the humanity that propels it. The people who form part of such a transformative learning space and share that wisdom with others. Thank you for all you are. 

I am grateful to the people in my communities, from El Salvador, to Columbia Heights, to Hyattsville, who have shaped my journey. Through them we have learned the importance of seeing each other and taking action to create lasting change. Muchísimas gracias por lo que son y toda la fuerza y el corazón que le ofrecen al mundo.  

 

Diana Acosta is the Beeck Center’s Program Associate in Fair Finance. She is a graduate of Harvard University, and is involved with a number of youth development and mentoring programs in the DC area. 

 

January 15, 2020 | By Nate Wong, Sheila Herrling & Audrey Voorhees

As public trust of business and markets wanes, there’s an ever important call for everyone to play a critical role in reforming the system “so that it delivers prosperity for the many, rather than the few.” The Beeck Center has been observing the trends in the corporate social impact (CSI) space for the past few years as mainstream rhetoric has shifted from a shareholder to stakeholder-centric view of capitalism, most importantly seen in the recent United States Business Roundtable announcement

The question remains, where does the CSI movement stand and where do we go from here? As a “grasstop” player, the Center links grassroot and institutional efforts poised for action, and puts our energy toward the messy infrastructure work that can accelerate and sustain positive social impact movements like corporate social impact. It’s what we’d call “Impact at Scale.”


CSI Defined: The increasing recognition that corporations need to rethink their role in society and embed social purpose into their business model in order to manage risk, maintain market share, and secure competitive advantage. For those more bullish, you could be more specific that purpose will drive higher profit.


We set out to explore the topic – who is doing what – and to identify gaps in the CSI landscape that require concentrated action to accelerate impact at scale. My colleagues Sheila Herrling and Audrey Voorhees conducted this analysis to consider potential roles for the Center, but believe it serves as a “global public good” for all interested parties to help move this movement forward.  

Analysis highlights include:

  • The CSI movement arguably began over 12  years ago… with at least 11 key flashpoint events that have been foundational in building momentum, but there is still more work to do to tip the movement. 
  • 22 actors stand at the forefront of accelerating this movement and their efforts are worth looking out for.
  • There are 4 major gaps standing in the way of mainstreaming this movement that require attention.

We have 7 gap-closing ideas. Dive deeper here.

Our hope is that this will ground people’s understanding no matter where you may sit in the space – a corporation finding its position relative to others, a policymaker navigating the shifting system, or an academic seeking to teach business through a more current lens – and empower coordination.

With all of the Beeck Center’s work, we pair learners and expert practitioners. Watch MBA candidate and Student Analyst Audrey Voorhees’ capstone presentation as she shares her own journey and some of the research highlights.

Engage with us. 

This is our first pass at creating a comprehensive landscape analysis of the corporate social impact movement. As a community of practitioners driving impact at scale, we want this analysis to provide value along the learning continuum, from initiate to expert. How does this analysis resonate with you? And the market? We’d love your feedback.

The potential for corporates to drive social impact is scale is enormous. If partnerships can be leveraged, strategic alliances formed and critical gaps in the movement filled, this movement just might tip!

Sheila Herrling is a Fellow at the Beeck Center, where she pursues initiatives in impact investing and measurement, inclusive entrepreneurship and social innovation at scale.

Audrey Voorhees is a Student Analyst at the Beeck Center. She is currently pursuing an MBA at the Georgetown University McDonough School of Business.

Nate Wong serves as the Interim Executive Director at the Beeck Center, where he leads the Center’s pursuits and thinking on social impact at scale across its major portfolios. He previously helped launch social impact units at Boston Consulting Group and Deloitte Consulting LLP.


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August 30, 2019

On August 6, 2019, the Beeck Center’s Fair Finance team and a Georgetown Law professor toured seven projects in Opportunity Zones in Baltimore City. These projects included vacant lots, refurbished rowhomes, and newly developed mixed income apartment buildings. At the conclusion of the tour, the Hotel Revival in Baltimore hosted a community dinner with Opportunity Zones Investor Council members, local faith leaders, and community organizers where Beeck Center Student Analyst Donovan Taylor presented his personal story and why social impact is invaluable to him.

The following is a transcript of Donovan’s speech.  

When I was 12 years old, my mom used to wake my sister and me up at 9 am to take us to church in East Baltimore. On Hillen Road, Lake Montebello was surrounded by beautiful single-family homes and lush grass. Driving down Harford Road toward North Avenue, things were a little different. There were brick row houses, concrete, and check cashing expresses. As my mom turned onto North Caroline St, the neighborhood was inundated with abandoned buildings, liquor stores, and potholes. The tension in the air was palpable. This community is juxtaposed with Harbor East’s cobblestone streets, extravagant fountains, upscale restaurants, and Whole Foods less than a mile away. How could anyone find purpose or joy in a world plagued by so much inequity and suffering? Baltimore is struggling to survive. In 2017, 342 people were killed in this city compared to 290 in NYC, a city with nearly 14 times the population. The issue of gun violence affects many families personally, including my own. In May 2014, my uncle was shot in the face and killed instantly, and the police still don’t know who’s responsible. 

Since 5th grade, I attended a summer program for talented Baltimore youth called Bridges at St. Paul’s School. St.Paul’s is a prestigious private school in the Baltimore suburbs with a huge campus that was once a slave plantation. I remember being absolutely amazed that students could drink from water fountains and had central air in their classrooms. Baltimore City Public Schools are struggling to meet the needs of the next generation of students, including providing a comfortable learning environment. In the winter of 2018, Baltimore made national news as a photo of preschool kids in heavy coats in their classroom went viral online, exposing just how poor conditions are in some Baltimore City schools because the city fails to provide adequate heating. If you’ve been exposed to gun violence, you must figure out ways to cope and heal from this trauma. If you don’t have access to healthy food, you will deal with an increased risk of obesity, hypertension, and heart attack. If your zone schools are underfunded, you have limited opportunities for upward mobility. In some of these communities, people are dealing with all these issues. Some people from outside of Baltimore can sit in their prestigious office and write these communities off as “rat infected, rodent infested mess(es)” that no-one wants to live in. But, Tupac lived in Baltimore for a part of his life and I believe it was in these communities he got the inspiration to exclaim “long live the rose that grew from the concrete.” My grandfather calls us “God’s miracle people” because even though we’ve been through so much, we always find joy and the will to press forward.

This is a critical point in our society. Our generation has seen the impact of fear and hatred on a global scale. We’ve seen a few people amass great wealth and power, while some parents abroad are forced to feed their children dirt patties. Today, we have an opportunity to change the world for the better. We can choose to see the value of these communities and equip them with the tools to recover from decades of apathy and exclusion. 

Impact investing is a relatively new perspective on investment through which social and environmental outcomes are just as important as financial returns. In the US, impact investors manage over $255 billion in assets. Opportunity Zones are a federal tax incentive that allows investors to defer taxes by investing their capital gains in low-income communities. Through the combination of impact investing and opportunity zones, with a clear focus on community empowerment, the narrative can be changed. The next generation deserves to live in a world free from the pain and trauma of today’s youth. The children of Sandtown should live in a community that they are proud of and afforded the same opportunities as those from Roland Park. Your passion and dedication to investing in Baltimore Opportunity Zones will lead to real change in communities that are desperate to be heard and healed. It is important to exemplify the adage “nothing about us, without us” and actively seek to understand community need. There are invaluable insights that residents can offer in this work that are equal to those of ivy-league educated professionals. To continue with the words of Tupac, these community members, these roses, are grounded in the reality of their lived experiences. Therefore, it will take the collaborative efforts of all to create a more equitable society. That rose in the concrete should live without fear that a stray bullet will kill it. That rose should have access to the best food, housing, and education available. That rose deserves the highest respect for embodying resilience and surviving the impossible. Eventually, that rose will no longer struggle from the weight of systematic injustice and the concrete will no longer exist.


Donovan Taylor is a Student Analyst supporting the Fair Finance team, and this fall will return to Georgetown University, where he will be a senior majoring in International Business and Management. Follow him on Twitter @donovantaylor01.

 

 

Interim Executive Director Nate Wong shares his vision of the Beeck Center’s mission.  

Solving complex social problems requires a joint effort across partners. Impact at scale goes beyond growing the efforts of any one organization or program, instead demanding collaboration within a system of players and groups. As Nate Wong takes the helm at the Beeck Center with founding Executive Director Sonal Shah’s leave of absence, he shares the Center’s reinvigorated mission and program goals. 

The Beeck Center’s mission is simple yet ambitious: we exist to help scale social impact globally. This goes beyond replicating the success of a single organization or program. Impact at scale requires cross-collaboration and ultimately behavior change. Societal problems are increasingly complex and cannot be solved in silos. Business, government, and social programs alone will not be able to fully address these issues. We need models where collaboration can flourish, and a new way of training people to adequately solve these intractable problems, using the tools of interdisciplinary and experiential education.

The Beeck Center solves these two needs as an experiential hub located at Georgetown University. To spur greater impact, we hold up scalable models where multiple sectors are solving societal problems. We do this through our two portfolios, fair finance and data + digital, which house our projects that we incubate and eventually scale out of the Center. Using our perch at Georgetown University, we serve as a truth-teller and impact broker to showcase truly emergent impact models and the leaders making an impact through their work. We also are a training ground for students, teaching them the importance of a human-centered, interdisciplinary problem solving approach. Through our experiential programs connected to our real-world problems and our world-class problem solving practitioners, we prepare students with the tools to truly make an impact now and into the future.  

I am excited for the fall not just because students will be coming back to campus, but also because we will be showcasing the full breadth of what we have been incubating over the past few months. A few highlights include:

  • New models for how local governments can better collaborate and use the power of people-centered design and technology to better improve services like foster care or disaster relief. 
  • Emergent collaborations around how investors/ developers can responsibly deploy capital to designated locales called Opportunity Zones.
  • Piloted navigation tools to help students better navigate the impact space by cataloging key skillsets and mechanisms for the 21st century leader.

This is an exciting time here at the Beeck Center, and I’m looking forward to sharing updates throughout the year.