Our Ongoing Commitment to Racial Justice

New York, NY (July 19, 2021) — A year ago, we listed seven concrete ways we would support racial justice in our work, as calls for racial justice rang not only in the United States but around the world. Now, a year later, we are holding ourselves accountable to those commitments, and taking a moment to report on the initial progress we have made while acknowledging there is still more work to be done.

In all that we do as we strive to achieve our mission of improving lives around the world, we aim for diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice for all. It is our hope that sharing our efforts will not only serve as an ongoing commitment device for ourselves but encourage others to be explicit with theirs.

Below are the commitments we made in 2020, and how we took action over the last year. There is a fair amount of detail on the specific actions we took and data on progress towards our goal when those goals are quantitative. We feel it is important to be specific and transparent with our progress, whether that progress is good or not.

Commitment #1 – As a means of greater accountability, we will publicly report annually on the progress we have been making on our existing internal commitments to increase our team diversity, and specifically to have a senior team and board of directors that reflect the populations we serve, both in the United States and around the world.

  • Action: Proactively sought diverse and underrepresented voices from the communities we serve to help guide our organization as board members. We have joined the Board Challenge as a Charter Partner. Our board is now 33% female, 17% Black, and 8% Southeast Asian. We currently have no Latino board members. We have more work to do to reach gender parity and make our board more representative of the people and communities we work with, and that continues to be our goal.
  • Action: Updated our recruiting process to further reduce biases, including re-writing the standard cases we use as screening mechanisms during our hiring process, expanding the channels through which we share our open positions, and requiring that at least one candidate in the pool of three finalists for each position we hire for be from an underrepresented group before we can make a decision. These efforts have helped us to diversify our senior team. Our senior team is now 35% members from underrepresented groups, and more than 50% female. While we have met our gender parity target, we have more work to do on achieving even greater diversity on our senior team so that it is more representative of the people and communities we work with. This will enable us to do even better work in the service of improving the lives of millions.


Commitment #2 – We will adopt a more race-conscious and anti-racist lens in project selection and project execution.

  • Action: Developed our own training and behaviorally designed tools (e.g. pre-mortem, checklists, etc.)—to be used in all of our project work going forward—that will improve our ability to apply an equity lens as researchers and designers in the field of behavioral science. These trainings and tools explore how identity, privilege, and power can affect our research and the impact we have on individuals and structures within our different issue areas. All team members will receive this training and regularly use these tools in our work by the end of 2021.
  • Action: Hired an ethics consulting firm to help us establish new principles, checklists, and an escalation review process for our business development and project selection processes. These tools will ensure that we engage in projects that live up to our values and mission, of which a commitment to doing work that promotes equity and inclusion is central.


Commitment #3 – We will increase by eightfold the number of Black scholars in our academic affiliate network.

  • Action: Expanded the network of academic affiliates who inform our work with an eye toward ensuring that our network of scholars reflects the diversity of the populations we serve. Since last June, we have onboarded 21 new academic affiliates, moving closer to gender parity (now 44% female) and increasing the number of Black scholars by 7.5x. We look forward to learning from our newest affiliates and continuing to expand the diversity of scholars who contribute to our work along multiple dimensions.


Commitment #4 – We will conduct more applied research in the service of designing anti-racist interventions in all of the policy areas in which we work.

  • Action: Launched our new Policy Lab with an initial focus on the development of new policies, rules, and regulations that explicitly improve the financial health of families struggling to make ends meet, address racial and gender disparities in financial health, and narrow the racial wealth gap in the United States.
  • Action: Explicitly tackled racial inequities in the United States as part of our Economic Justice work. Select projects include:
    • Partnering with experts to ensure our efforts to redesign aspects of WIC were tailored for the realities faced by Black families.
    • Working with the state of Michigan to identify ways to reduce racial disproportionality at the “front door” of the child welfare system.
    • Launching a five-city initiative aimed at using behavioral insights to shift narratives surrounding poverty in the United States, many of which are deeply intertwined with narratives about race and nationality.
  • Action: Explicitly focused on inequities in accessing quality care and staying healthy for individuals from lower resource communities in our Global Health work. Select projects include:
    • Designing and implementing approaches with midwives in remote, rural clinics with no electricity in Madagascar to address postpartum hemorrhage—a major killer of women in the Global South.
    • Tackling child malnutrition and stunting by improving complementary feeding practices for children under 5 in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
    • Adapting solutions developed in Zambia to Liberia to decrease incidents of mistreatment and promote respectful care during labor and delivery—a worldwide phenomenon that happens even more often to women of lower socioeconomic status.
  • Action: Targeted creating more equitable health outcomes, experiences, and costs as a central goal of our U.S.-focused health portfolio. Select projects include:
    • Supporting the design of Get-Out-the-Vax programs with the most effective messengers and motivational interviewing techniques to engage Black and Latino communities in cities and states like Montgomery, Alabama, to increase uptake of COVID-19 vaccination rates.
    • Supporting the design of outreach to health providers—like doctors and nurses—in New York City and Los Angeles and community health workers in New Jersey and Virginia around not repeating misinformation myths. The outreach was easy to digest and allowed health workers to engage their peers and patients to increase COVID-19 vaccination rates.
    • Working with the University of Chicago to write a playbook on fixing racial bias in health care algorithms, and then with health systems, insurers, and businesses to start to implement it.
  • Action: Explicitly supported more equitable representation in our democracy in the United States as a central goal of our Civic Engagement work. Select projects include:
    • Supporting the design of an NAACP relational organizing program in which recruited volunteers did targeted outreach to mid- and low-propensity Black voters in states like Georgia for the 2020 election.
    • Publishing a report ahead of the 2020 elections on common contextual and psychological reasons for why members of Latino communities may or may not value their vote.
    • Partnering with the California Secretary of State’s office to design and implement a voter outreach campaign to help people navigate voting during the COVID-19 pandemic, placing a special focus on reaching and supporting communities of color.
  • Action: Focused on helping more people from underrepresented backgrounds complete higher education and access the myriad benefits of a college degree as a core focus of our Education portfolio. Select projects include:
    • Securing funding to work with two partner states’ school systems to enroll or re-enroll more adults in good fit bachelor’s degree programs with a focus on Black, Latino, and Indigenous adults.


Commitment #5 – We will challenge our funders and our partners to adopt similar diversity and inclusion practices in their internal and external structures, and also to consult viewpoints that are more representative of the populations they serve when setting their research and development agendas.

  • Action: Candidly, we have not yet figured out a good way to further challenge our funders on these issues, a reflection of the current power dynamics between funders and grantees in philanthropy around the world that needs addressing. This is still an area of opportunity for ideas42 to improve.


Commitment #6 – We commit to expanding our existing Safety & Justice work and continue to focus on fighting racial injustice in the broken criminal justice system.

  • Action: Explicitly tackled racial inequities in the policing, judicial, and probation spaces in the United States as part of our Safety & Justice work. Select projects include:
    • Working with the Judicial Council of California and six county courts to improve a new online system that reduces traffic fines for people with low incomes, and with the ACLU and Southern Poverty Law Center to redesign notices to help people in North Carolina get their drivers’ licenses back.
    • Researching and designing strategies to reduce probation revocations with the Spokane Municipal Court Probation Department in Washington.
    • Creating designs with the MacArthur Justice Center to increase the use of court diversion programs in Gretna, Louisiana.
    • Working with the New York City Law Department to identify the behavioral drivers leading to conflict between police and protestors during the NYC George Floyd protests
    • In partnership with Harris County, Texas, redesigning all communications associated with misdemeanor court notifications and launching new research to more deeply understand and address challenges to appearing in court.

Over the next year, our Safety & Justice work will center on two main efforts designed to generate significant impact at scale, which is an area where ideas42 can make more of a difference in the lives of those affected by the criminal legal systems in the United States. These efforts include:

  • Vergil, technology designed to help parolees and those on probation set and achieve positive goals. It connects users with desired and available social services, all in the service of helping them avoid incarceration or reincarceration.
  • Driving adoption and adaptation of our New York City Summons work where our redesign of the citation and behaviorally informed reminders led to 36% reduction in failures to appear in court. We will continue to expand these interventions to other jurisdictions with similar or related practices, such as Harris County, in service of helping people avoid arrest warrants, fines, suspended drivers’ licenses, increased bail, and/or incarceration.


Commitment #7 – We commit to partnering with more organizations on the front line of this battle.

  • Action: We remain committed to partnering with more organizations on the front lines of the battle for racial justice in the United States and around the world. We welcome partnerships with fellow non-profits, governments, and any organization committed to change, dialogue, and actions that move us closer to racial justice. By June 2022, we will publish a list of organizations with whom we have or are currently partnering in this effort.


We know this progress is still not enough, and while we have more clarity around concrete steps that can be taken a year into our efforts, we still do not have all the answers. In the coming months and years, we will make additional commitments. Now more than ever, we know it will take all of us continuing to push for change to dismantle and rebuild our failing systems. We will report again on our progress one year from now.

Words without action are just a wish, and social proof is an effective behavioral principle. Not just by organizations like ideas42, but by those who work to legislate, protect, and serve society. Please email us at racialjustice@ideas42.org or contact us on Twitter @ideas42 if you have ideas or opportunities to partner in the fight for racial justice.