Dr. Julia Stamm, the CEO of The Data Tank and Founder of The Futures Project, is a prominent voice in the European debate on social impact. With over 15 years of experience in leadership positions focusing on science, policy innovation, and technology for the common good, Julia is driven by a quest to discover innovative approaches to address the challenges our societies encounter. Starting her career in a members-based pan-European organization in Brussels, she has continued to work – and thrive – in international settings ever since.

Julia Stamm
CEO of The Data Tank and Founder of The Futures Project

Julia’s Story: Discovering my passion for associations

Working in the international space, whether in the associations sector or other sectors, brings me joy. This is where I thrive; this is where I feel at home. I take great pleasure in working with colleagues and stakeholders from around the world, listening to them, collaborating with them, and learning from them. When I once attempted to return to a national context, I quickly realized it was no longer for me. I enjoy working with individuals who have backgrounds very different from my own, as they bring in unique perspectives. This diversity not only helps me better understand where I come from but also encourages me to remain open to learning, questioning, and being challenged. Upon assuming leadership positions, I made a conscious effort to foster this culture within the organizations I worked for or founded. Therefore, I wholeheartedly recommend this path, but with a word of caution: it’s very challenging to ‘go back to normal’ afterwards! 🙂

Julia’s Approach: How to #InspireInclusion through our work and actions

Inclusion must be ingrained in the DNA of every organization that aims to play an active role in shaping our future. It’s not an option, it’s a necessary condition. It involves not only bringing diverse voices to the table but also giving them with the space to express themselves and to actually talk and being listened to. In my experience, it helps organisations be grounded. It can also help organisations get a better understanding of the people and constituencies they want to serve. This is true both the forprofit and not-for-profit sector.

How can you inspire inclusion? Well, there are so many ways. And it’s actually quite simply. Pay attention to this aspect in every part of the organisation and make sure it’s part of your policies, both informal and formal. Think about it when you hire new staff. Take good care not to fall into the trap of only bringing on « mini-me »s. Ensure your boards and councils are truly inclusive – not only on paper but also in practice. Refuse to attend « manels ». As a team or organisation leader, you make sure to give your team the space to bring in their ideas, perspectives. Ask. Listen. Provide tools for your team members to feel empowered.

For me, having inclusive teams is a no-brainer. It’s what I strive for. This is not about tokenism; it’s about genuine inclusion. When it comes to strategies, keep it simple. Be gentle yet firm. Demonstrate the value and benefits of inclusivity without becoming fixated on it. Lead by example.

Julia’s Perspective: On the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion for associations

I believe I’ve already addressed this in my previous answer 🙂

Perhaps I could add that in my experience, embracing DEI as an active policy within your organization integral the organisation’s ability to innovate and to grow. Innovation, be it small or big, can come from a broad range of perspectives. It’s is strengthened through fostering a culture of open exchange, of constructive feedback, of encouragement. It allows organisations to connect better and more deeply with the communities they seek to serve.

I’m so often in awe of the ideas coming from my diverse teams. As a leader, I think it’s important to also be humble. You don’t know it all. But you can make your organisations and your purpose stronger by fostering a culture where diversity, equity and inclusion are promoted. And by providing your team and stakeholders with the space to contribute and feel acknowledged and respected.

Julia’s Initiatives: Actions and Inspirations for fellow association leaders

Here are two concrete examples:

  1. The Data Tank is an organisation based in Brussels – with the ambition to work globally. To do do, we engage with practice partners from around the world. Right now, we run a project that, geographically, focuses on the global south. It’s success depends on our ability to bring in local partners and to establish trusting relationships with them. To these parters, it’s important to see that the team they are working with can actually understand where they come from, what their local contexts are and how to best support them. Having a team that is diverse and, in that example, also includes team members from the global south who actively engage and take the lead, is essential in this context. It strengthens our credibility and also our ability to successfully implement and nurture this collaboration.
  2. In my work with The Futures Project, having a diverse and inclusive team and Advisory Council was instrumental in expanding our reach and establishing global partnerships. Without them, our programmes would not have had the reach and impact they had.