A Letter from Sarah Rosen Wartell, President, on the Commitment to Greater Diversity and Inclusion at the Urban Institute

The Urban Institute strives to be a vibrant, creative community of skilled and committed people who bring to their work a whole range of different experiences.  That means differences in race and ethnicity, in academic discipline and mode of inquiry, in faith and political perspective, in abilities and disabilities, in service, in gender identification and sexual orientation, and more.  But, like many other research organizations, universities, businesses, and nonprofits, the Urban Institute has far to go in its journey toward full diversity and inclusion.

Our mission is to bring evidence to bear on challenges facing an increasingly diverse country, where inequities persist.  To advance this mission, I believe we must attract and support diverse identities, experiences, talents, and thought processes within our institution. We must work harder to recruit and retain all the talented people who can provide insights and solutions for an increasingly diverse society.  We must think intentionally about how we can learn from and speak to audiences that reflect the rich diversity of America’s communities.  We must create safe spaces for hard but trusting  conversations among colleagues about their own experiences within our community and how its norms and practices may affect different contributors differently. 

For tackling this work, I am grateful to the Diversity and Inclusion Steering Committee and its three subcommittees, a group of thoughtful and committed staff from every level and across Urban's research centers and business units who have come together to help plan and execute a rich program of dialogue, training, analysis, review of current practices, recommendations, and other activities to advance the Urban Institute's diversity and inclusion agenda. 

These efforts are critical to the health, vibrancy, and relevance of our institution and, most importantly, to the excellence of our research. Researcher Scott Page has shown how groups that incorporate a range of perspectives outperform groups of like-minded experts, suggesting that “diversity powers innovation.”  Diversity and inclusion bring value by causing research teams to ask different, and in some cases, more precise questions, allowing us to relate to the experiences of more of the people whose lives we study, and providing context that helps us better interpret findings.  We must ensure that our own people, audiences, and partners know that the Urban Institute community honors these differences and understands the value that diverse contributors bring to our work. 

Urban is entering a new era—one that requires a consideration of new challenges, emerging technologies, demographic shifts, and evolving political, economic and cultural forces.  Diversity and inclusion are critical to preparing us for the work ahead and ensuring our capacity to elevate the debate, strengthen communities, and improve lives.

Please react to, engage with, and help inform what we do.  I welcome your thoughts, encouragements, and challenges as we continue to learn.  I hope you will join us as a partner, contributor, or colleague in this important work.