An Inclusion, Diversity & Equity in American Life (IDEAL) Commission

Author: Robert Shea


Collaboration among federal, state, local, and other stakeholders is essential if real progress is to be made in healing racial divisions in our country. The federal government invests billions in programs aimed at improving equality and diminishing substantial barriers to progress by racial and ethnic minorities. There is scant evidence, however, about which programs are most effective at achieving diversity, equity, and inclusion goals. Creating a temporary commission consisting of officials from relevant agencies can fill this gap. It can begin the process of building a body of evidence about what works and reinvesting in more effective practices. The commission would be responsible for inventorying programs designed to improve diversity, equity, or inclusion; assessing the body of evidence about them; and clarifying common goals. The Inclusion, Diversity & Equity in American Life (IDEAL) Commission would make an important contribution to finding more effective remedies to some of our country’s most lasting, difficult wounds. In fact, it would reinforce the Biden-Harris Administration’s recent executive order, “Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government,” which stated unequivocally that “[a]ffirmatively advancing equity, civil rights, racial justice, and equal opportunity is the responsibility of the whole of our Government.” A close working relationship between the commission proposed here and the Equitable Data Working Group established by the executive order would be essential.

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About the Author

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As National Managing Principal, Public Policy, Robert Shea serves as Grant Thornton’s primary liaison with members of Congress. He is also a principal in Grant Thornton Public Sector LLC. Robert has been working to improve government performance for 25 years — including 10 years at Grant Thornton and 15 years in the federal government. Most notably, he served for six years as the associate director for the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB). While at OMB, he led an initiative to measure government programs using its Program Assessment Rating Tool. The effort received an Innovations in American Government Award from Harvard University. At OMB, he oversaw programs to implement large-scale personnel reform at the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security; and he launched a federal government-wide effort to measure and reduce improper payments. Prior to his time at OMB, Shea served as senior management counsel for the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs, and, before that, as the legislative director for Congressman Pete Sessions. In addition, he has served as a professional staff member for the House Committee on Government Reform.

Shea is a leading proponent of evidence-based policymaking: He is a fellow and former chairman of the National Academy of Public Administration and he served on the Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking. Shea received a bachelor’s degree from Connecticut College and a law degree from the South Texas College of Law. He has won a range of awards, including twice receiving a Fed100 award. He has also won the Andy Barr award and the Elmer B. Staats Award for Public Accountability.