Joint Center Updates


Our January 2021 Work: New Development VP & Staff Diversity Report Cards of New Members of Congress

Happy New Year! This is our regular monthly newsletter, which reviews the Joint Center’s work over the past month.

The Joint Center’s New Vice President of Development

Welcoming our new Vice President of Development: Emily Perkins will lead the Joint Center’s fundraising efforts and development strategy. Prior to joining the Joint Center, Emily served in several positions at the Brookings Institution, most recently as Senior Director of Development for the Governance Studies program. She has also held program management and business development roles in the private sector and international development. Emily earned a B.A. in Political Science from Boston College and an LL.M. from the University of Kent’s Brussels School of International Studies.

Joint Center Makes Top Think Tank List

2020 Global Go To Think Tank Index Report: The University of Pennsylvania released the 2020 Annual Global Go To Think Tank Index Report. There are 2,203 think tanks in the U.S. and 11,175 in the world, and the Joint Center ranked No. 46 in the U.S. generally, No. 37 for social policy, and No. 48 for best quality assurance and integrity policies and procedures.

Economic Studies

Joint Center analyzes December job loss: In this post, Joint Center Vice President Jessica Fulton observed that Black and Latina women accounted for nearly all of the jobs lost in December.

Supporting Black-owned businesses: The Joint Center, the US Black Chambers, and Reimagine Main Street co-hosted a Black small business focus group discussion to discuss policy priorities in the Biden-Harris Administration. Attendees included Black state and local policymakers, Black business owners, and leaders from local Black Chambers of Commerce.

Joint Center talks to NPR on Biden racial equity orders: Jessica joined NPR’s Marketplace to discuss President Biden’s recent racial equity orders. “We have a number of laws that … have intentionally or unintentionally excluded entire communities,” said Jessica. “And a lot of those policies are still on the books…our agencies are still enforcing them. And we have not yet done the work to identify those policies and rectify them.”

An Equitable Recovery: Joint Center President Spencer Overton joined WorkingNation Editor-in-Chief Ramona Schindelheim to discuss the issues facing Black Americans in the workforce on An Equitable Recovery’s latest podcast episode. The podcast series is hosted by WorkingNation and CWI Labs.

Tech’s role in systemic racism: Joint Center Technology Policy Director Dr. Dominique Harrison joined a Kapor Center panel entitled “Do You See It Now? Tech’s Role in Upholding White Supremacy.” (image above) Other speakers included Brookings Center for Technology Innovation Director Dr. Nicol Turner Lee, Congressional Black Caucus Fellow Jared Lewis, Kapor Center CEO Dr. Allison Scott, and Electronic Frontier Foundation Federal Affairs Director India McKinney.

Building an equitable tech culture: Dominique also joined the Aspen Digital roundtable entitled “Building an Equitable and Inclusive Culture in the Tech Industry: Industry Collaboration.” Participants included representatives from Aspen Digital, Comcast Corporation, DoorDash, Ford Foundation, GitHub, Google, Google Ventures, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Intel, LinkedIn, Microsoft, National Women’s Law Center, Nextdoor, Netflix, PwC, Snap Inc., Target, Twilio, LinkedIn, PayPal, and Vimeo.

Latino digital inclusion: Dominique also moderated Aspen Institute’s “Inclusion of Latinos in the Digital Economy,” a conversation exploring the unique needs of Latino workers. Over 20 tech experts participated in the conversation.

Engaging the FCC: Dominique also participated in a meeting with FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks to discuss a plan for sharing information on the Emergency Broadband Benefit to communities, and to better understand “the challenges and opportunities of the program.” The Emergency Broadband Benefit is “a monthly discount on broadband internet access service for low-income people.” Other participating public interest groups included Benton Institute for Broadband & Society, Free Press, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Libraries Without Borders, Media Justice, National Consumer Law Center, National Digital Inclusion Alliance, Next Century Cities, Open Tech Institute, and Public Knowledge.

Political Studies

PoliticsNation: Spencer appeared on Rev. Al Sharpton’s MSNBC show, PoliticsNation, to discuss the lack of congressional staff diversity in Washington, DC personal offices and explain what can be done to fix it.

Establishing a U.S. Senate Diversity and Inclusion Office: In a Morning Consult op-ed, the Joint Center Senior Fellow of Diversity and Inclusion Dr. LaShonda Brenson and President Spencer Overton argue for the Senate to establish a Bipartisan Diversity and Inclusion Office after Black voters enabled Democrats to control the U.S. Senate after the Senate runoff race in Georgia. The op-ed also urges the Senate to prioritize diversity in hiring and promotion, and eliminate the vestiges of excluding top staff of color by supporting strong candidates of color to chair agencies like the FTC and the FCC.

Report card of new Members on staff diversity hiring: As of January 26, the Joint Center’s report card tracking top staff hires by each new Member in the 117th Congress illustrates that 177 of 210 (or 84.3 percent) of the possible positions have already been filled. Of Members who have hired all three top spots, so far Alex Padilla (D-CA) leads in the Senate and Marilyn Strickland (D-WA) leads in the House. Those at the bottom of the lists are Senator Mark Kelly (D-AZ) and Rep. Jay Obernolte (R-CA). Of the top staff hired by new Members so far, 26.6 percent are people of color, and 6.2 percent are African American. People of color account for 40 percent of the U.S. population and African Americans account for 13.4 percent of the U.S.

LaShonda also found that while there are less than 20% of top spots still open, there are about 75% of mid-level spots (e.g., legislative assistant, press secretary) that are still open in new Members’ Washington DC offices. Diversity in mid-level spots is critical because these spots make important decisions and often serve as a feeder position to top staff positions.

Black Voters Matter on congressional staff diversity: The National Newspaper Publishers Association hosted an online event to discuss the issue of a lack of congressional staff diversity and explain how local advocates can make their voices heard. Guest speakers included Joint Center President Spencer Overton, Black Voters Matter Fund Co-Founder LaTosha Brown, and National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) National Correspondent Stacy Brown. Watch the discussion here.


Spencer joined Blue Tent and Inside Philanthropy’s podcast, Inside Change, to discuss the increase in financial support for Black-led organizations with host David Callahan.

In Case You Missed It

Our 2020 Accomplishments: Click here to view our annual report reviewing our 2020 accomplishments and our 3-minute video of 2020 highlights. Thanks for allowing us to do this work, and please contribute and continue to support the Joint Center’s efforts to provide data, ideas, and solutions to advance Black communities.

Support the Joint Center: Western Union Chief Corporate Affairs and Communications Officer Nicole Vogrin encouraged employees, Agents, and customers to engage with and support the Joint Center, Race Forward, NAACP, and Urban Leadership Foundation of Colorado for Martin Luther King Jr. Day.