Gratitude at 20—and looking ahead with urgency
As Dalberg marks its 20th anniversary, I feel a deep sense of gratitude that so many people and organizations have joined us in our mission to create a more inclusive and sustainable world where all people, everywhere, can achieve their fullest potential. Our staff, clients, and partners are the core of who we are, and I’m immensely thankful for what we’ve accomplished on this remarkable journey together.
And yet, many of the challenges that have consumed us for two decades are becoming more critical each year. As issues like climate change and vast wealth inequality have moved from niche to mainstream, however, both the need and opportunities for large-scale solutions are greater than we’ve ever seen. We know that no single actor or platform alone can make an impact on the scale needed. But reflecting on Dalberg’s journey gives me confidence that we can collectively rise to the challenge.
Growing into ourselves
Dalberg started as a tiny group of passionate folks crammed into a small office space in New York working on UN reforms. Out of the first ten people who joined Dalberg, only one was born in the United States. Representing the diverse communities we served was important for us from the get-go. Our first staff took a leap with us—but they also pushed Dalberg to take a leap as an organization: to use our skills in innovative ways to push for social impact at scale; to reinvent and reimagine the roles and values of traditional management consultancy.
Today, Dalberg has a presence in close to 30 cities and we have completed more than 3,000 projects in 100+ countries. As our staff has grown (we are now more than 700 strong), the majority of our footprint (and leadership) has shifted to Africa and Asia while our portfolio has expanded to address issues such as economic justice in the US. Today, we are a global network of local knowledge and local relationships, with both specific and expansive insight into some of the most challenging problems the world faces, and a shared experience base of best practices to draw upon.
We’ve grown more numerous, diverse, and geographically dispersed—but we’ve grown in other ways, as well. We’ve expanded our understanding of who we need to work with—from our start with multilaterals to forging relationships with corporations, foundations, investors, governments, non-profits, research institutions, and even individual changemakers. At the same time, we’ve resisted committing to a single set of approaches or business model, and instead have continued to expand our capabilities to include primary research, data analysis, design, media, implementation, and incubating and launching new solutions.
Partnering for greater impact
I’m especially proud of our work with our partners to stand up new organizations, such as the Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs (ANDE) platform to support small and growing businesses; launch new products, such as DigiFarm, which gives farmers accesses to inputs, advice, and loans on their 2G phones; and create new public goods, such as The Human Account’s unique dataset that is helping financial service providers create the kinds of products that unbanked people actually need and want—to name just a few. We have also launched new initiatives like Preventing Pandemics at the Source which aims to save lives by preventing the spillover of zoonotic viruses from animals to human in the first place.
The experiences we’ve garnered and the impact we’ve seen over the past twenty years are due to the talent and passion of our staff, clients, and partners. This is work we are proud of; at the same time, we know it isn’t enough.
Our shared road ahead
With the UN’s 2030 development goals fast approaching, and the catastrophic effects of issues like climate change and public health crises already posing an imminent threat around the world, our challenge will be to build and launch solutions with the potential for exponential impact. It’s clear to us that we will need to aggressively expand and deepen our partnerships to tackle these global challenges.
At Dalberg, our third decade is poised to be a daunting and exhilarating one. Our motivation, our hope, and our sense of urgency are only growing. The journey doesn’t get any easier, but we are eager to work together to find solutions that can match the scale of the challenges we face. We hope you will join us on our journey towards driving bigger and more equitable impact in the years to come.