Employee Resource Groups at Cambridge Innovation Center

Green is a color associated with the environment and linked with the idea of growth and renewal. The Tammy Dowley-Blackman Group, LLC Green Case Study Series is designed to introduce the types of projects the team lends its expertise to and share some of the resulting questions, ideas, and lessons with a hope that it prompts exploration, growth, and innovation for other teams.

Cambridge Innovation Center (CIC) is headquartered in Cambridge, MA and focused on building and operating innovation campuses that support the growth of entrepreneurs and startups. Founded in 1999, CIC now operates more than one million square feet of workspace, wet labs, and event space throughout the United States, Europe, and Asia that is helping the for-profit and nonprofit sectors thrive. 

Tammy Dowley-Blackman Group, LLC first partnered with CIC in 2019 to complete a company-wide diversity, equity, inclusion, accessibility, and belonging (DEIAB) audit that included scores of internal interviews, a landscape analysis, research, and the creation of an action plan with recommendations as part of Phase I. The project was scheduled to continue with Phase II in March 2020 but was delayed because of the global pandemic.

Wonderfully, Founder and CEO Tim Rowe and his senior team remained committed to DEIAB during the global pandemic while they supported existing CIC companies and simultaneously launched a new company, CIC Health, that focused on ensuring the health and safety of Massachusetts residents by partnering with governmental agencies to detect, contain, and mitigate infectious disease outbreaks.

It was great to reconnect last summer and provide strategic advisory services to help the team execute critical next steps. This included support for the Advisory Council, focused on the implementation of the DEIAB action plan, the design and launch of the Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), and the development and refinement of the company-wide DEIAB Objectives and Key Results (OKRs).

Our team is fortunate to have the opportunity to work with committed teams. There is no such thing as perfection when working on matters related to DEIAB. Many times, it can feel like two steps forward and five steps back. CIC is a company with over 350+ employees of various backgrounds. This means that CIC and our team had to create programming that respected that no community is monolithic and that DEIAB, when truly inclusive, would consider every possible variable, including gender, race, sexual orientation, life experience, etc. To this end, it wasn’t enough to develop training sessions or policies intended to check a list, but rather to consider team member’s voices, concerns, challenges, and needs.

One of the key tools team members expressed an interest in having available was Employee Resource Groups (ERGs). ERGs have been around since the early 1960s, with Xerox credited with launching the first ERG, The National Black Employee Caucus, in 1970. CIC team members ranked ERGs high on the list of the activities they felt would provide a mechanism for team members to collaborate, provide safe spaces to authentically increase DEIAB learning, and help team members further connect with and execute the DEIAB OKRs.

The process for designing successful ERGs includes:

  • Surveying team members to identify the issues they would most like to explore
  • Use of a DEIAB Advisory Council to help consider resources, including the budget to support the design and delivery of ERGs and finalize the list of ERGs to be offered
  • Creating a job description for ERG Facilitators (those that will take responsibility for managing each ERG) and Sponsors (senior leaders that serve as formal and informal support for the Facilitators)
  • Training for both ERG Facilitators and Sponsors
  • Developing an ERG evaluation tool
  • Implementing a system for benchmarking the progress of the ERGs

It is always a pleasure to support our corporate, government, nonprofit, and philanthropic sector partners. Thank you to Tim Rowe and the incredible team he has built at CIC. I look forward to our check-in six months from now to hear of the team’s progress, learning, and next steps.



Tammy Dowley-Blackman Group, LLC is a certified National Supplier Development Council Minority Business Enterprise (MBE), Small Business Administration (SBA) Woman Owned Small Business (WOSB), and Women’s Business Enterprise Network Council (WBENC) woman-owned company. The company is comprised of a suite of brands, including TDB Group Strategic Advisory, a management consulting firm; Looking Forward Lab, a media content company focused on Gen Z, which partners with corporations and higher education systems to offer a full-service learning engagement model that delivers workforce development solutions; and Cooper + Lowe, an incubator for women interested in transitioning to entrepreneurship and thought leadership using the tools of a company that has successfully scaled.

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