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How to hire for diversity and inclusion: Suggestions for German think tanks and foundations

By Susan Bergner, Pradnya Bivalkar, Sarah Bressan, Santiago Cuervo Escobar and Claire Luzia Leifert

This guide aims to provide suggestions and inspiration for more inclusive hiring practices in think tanks and foundations based on a qualitative lived-experiences approach. While diversity encompasses various dimensions and nuances, we focus in this text on young research professionals with migratory backgrounds as the main target group. However, some suggestions might be adaptable to different contexts or other groups.

Our recommendations are directed at think tanks and foundations that want to become more inclusive workplaces. This guide covers the job posting process, candidate screening, interviewing, and the onboarding phase. Our propositions for enhancing inclusive hiring efforts are grounded in the lived experiences of the authors and on interviews with research professionals working in think tanks and foundations in Germany, some of whom have faced hurdles linked to their background or are engaged in creating diversity policies and designing hiring processes.

With this guide we want to contribute to the broader discussion of diversity and inclusion in research institutes and foundations. We hope to stimulate further exchanges and help ensure ongoing diversity policies are grounded in lived experiences. 

Susan Bergner is currently pursuing her PhD on African diaspora organizations in International Relations within the Cluster of Excellence “Contestations of the Liberal Script (SCRIPTS)” at the Free University of Berlin. Prior to joining SCRIPTS, she worked as a research associate at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs in the global health research project. She self-identifies as a Black Woman of Color. Throughout her career she has repeatedly engaged with diversity issues, e.g., by participating in a “Europeans of Colour” initiative within her traineeship at the European Commission to raise awareness for the lack of representation of People of Color in EU institutions.

Pradnya Bivalkar is currently working as a Senior Project Manager at the Robert Bosch Academy of the Robert Bosch Stiftung GmbH. Prior to joining the Bosch Stiftung, she worked as an International Communications Officer with the Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik/German Development Institute in Bonn, as well as at the Eberhard-Karls-Universität Tübingen. She holds a PhD in the field of Media and Film Studies from the University of Tübingen.

Sarah Bressan is a Research Fellow at the Global Public Policy Institute (GPPi) in Berlin, where she contributes to the institute’s work on peace and security. Her work focuses on international security, political violence, conflict analysis and prevention, as well as the role of data, technology, foresight, and evaluation in German and European foreign policy.

Santiago Cuervo Escobar is currently working as a project manager at Stiftung Mercator, focusing on the participation and integration of (low-skilled) migrants in the labor market. Prior to joining Stiftung Mercator’s participation and cohesion department, Santiago worked on foreign policy and international affairs at Körber-Stiftung and on women’s participation and post-conflict reconciliation at Colombia's Presidential Council for Women’s Equity. Santiago holds a bachelor’s degree in social sciences and a master’s degree in sociocultural and European studies. He self-identifies as a person of color. 

Claire Luzia Leifert founded and heads DGAP’s Impact & Innovation Lab, a learning and experimentation space for new approaches to policy advice and public engagement with international politics. She currently also heads the Think Tank Lab, a community of practice and training program for think tankers throughout Germany. Until 2020, Leifert headed the Goerdeler Kolleg for Good Governance, a professional development program and network for public intrapreneurs from Eastern Europe. Before joining DGAP in 2015, she worked at the Heinrich Böll Foundation as a project manager in the fields of social and health policy and education and science policy. Since 2006, she has been a freelance trainer and facilitator in Germany and abroad, focusing on democracy and active civil society, public sector innovation, and organizational development for NGOs and think tanks.