New Approaches, New Tools

Kara Helander
2 min readNov 28, 2017


In an earlier blog post, I wrote that we need new approaches and new tools to drive sustainable change in inclusivity, diversity and belonging in the workplace. Specifically, I believe we should be:

  • Tapping solid evidence about what works
  • Improving the design of our systems, practices and decision-making processes
  • Using contemporary computational and communication tools
  • Leveraging cross-sector insight and expertise
  • Empowering allies to be effective partners in change

Earlier this year I founded The Science of Diversity and Inclusion Initiative (SODI) with two behavioral economists, Jeff Flory and Andreas Leibbrandt . We pair leading companies with top researchers in diversity and inclusion to form a “living laboratory”. This coalition of innovators designs, tests, and scales new models to accelerate diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

SODI launched at the University of Chicago Department of Economics in September 2017. Executives from five innovative companies, representing over 500,000 employees, came together with 22 behavioral scientists from around the globe to share insights and to identify opportunities to collaborate.

Why is this coalition important?

  • Transformative insights from research too rarely translate to action in the real world. SODI seeks to close the gap between knowledge and action.
  • Tighter collaboration between company practitioners and researchers will spark faster discovery, adoption, and traction of cutting-edge methods for success in diversity and inclusion.

Since our launch, companies and researchers are already collaborating on a wide range of experiments. One study seeks to improve recruitment of professionals from underrepresented groups. Another seeks to make the allocation of work assignments needed for promotion more equitable. Others are redesigning performance evaluations to make them more effective and objective.

This is a learning journey. As with all cutting-edge research, there will be breakthroughs and disappointments. But we are all committed to experimenting and sharing insights so that practical solutions — those that really work — can be disseminated broadly.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, progress has been excruciatingly slow to date. SODI aims to turbocharge progress, and to write some new, exciting headlines. Stay tuned.



Kara Helander

CSR and Inclusion & Diversity Strategist — driving transformational initiatives at the intersection of business and social impact