February is Black History Month, and the Meridian Center for Cultural Diplomacy celebrated by highlighting Black leaders in diplomacy, while recognizing the ongoing struggle to advance racial equity here in the United States. On February 11, they collaborated with Flowstate Films to host a panel discussion with government and academic leaders and the filmmaker of the forthcoming documentary Changing State. The film focuses on three Black diplomats – Edward R. Dudley, Carl T. Rowan, and Terence Todman – who were active during the Cold War and Civil Rights Movement and paved the way for a more diverse State Department. To see the film’s trailer and watch the full panel discussion, click here.

Meredian also published a fantastic Black History Month Spotlight Blog Series featuring stories about Linda Thomas-Greenfield, Condoleezza Rice, Dwight Bush, and more. Read more


The Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act of 2018 includes a requirement that each agency develop an evidence-building plan to guide its research and evaluation efforts. This plan is often referred to as a “learning agenda.”

The Office of Management and Budget is requiring agencies to develop their learning agendas now, in conjunction with updates to their quadrennial agency strategy plan, and make them available to Congress in early 2022.

A new report from the IBM Center for The Business of Government describes emerging practices for successfully developing learning agencies that meaningfully engage agency leaders, managers, and key stakeholders. The authors offer a used-centered design sprint approach for developing a learning agenda that attempts to bridge the gap between research users, such as policymakers, and the producers of evidence so that the resulting agenda is relevant and meaningful to decision makers.

The authors conclude with recommendations to agency evaluation officers, the Office of Management and Budget, and the Congress to ensure the upcoming first wave of federal agency learning agendas will be seen as useful and actionable.

Editor’s note: RFG Fellow Madison Chapman recently earned her master’s degree in Development Economics, Humanitarian Studies and Gender from The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, and received a Presidential Management Fellowship, which allows her to work as a civil servant. She also survived lymphoma while in graduate school, and now that she’s been in remission for more than a year, she wanted to get more involved in the cancer advocacy community. She recently published the following article on cancer treatment and fertility in Ms. Magazine.

This article is about health care access, infertility, President Biden, and the big business of fertility preservation and IVF in the United States.

But first, a disclaimer:

In December 2018, I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. It took a month of testing, prodding and scanning to confirm, but a biopsy finally revealed that stealthy stalker—cancer. I was 24 and in my first semester of graduate school.

Days later, I met my oncologists. I nodded robotically as we discussed treatment, survival rates, chemotherapy, nausea, hair loss. Then my oncologists caught me off guard: Did I want to freeze my eggs?

Between 20-70 percent of those undergoing cancer treatment experience infertility, yet only a handful of states mandate that health insurance companies cover the exorbitant fees for in vitro fertilization (IVF). Many of these mandates do not apply to those with cancer or other chronic illnesses. The Affordable Care Act (ACA), despite expanding access to health care, also fails to mandate fertility coverage federally.

Those faced with the harrowing decision to pay out of pocket for fertility treatment—especially transgender folk, queer folk, the chronically ill and Black women, who are at greater risk of infertility—can experience severe physical, emotional and psychological harm as a result.

My oncologists told me that I could undergo precautionary egg preservation. Yet my health insurance company, unsurprisingly, did not insure egg freezing, so I would have to pay the $12,000 sticker price up front. I had nowhere near $12,000 to spend, but with the immense privilege of family and community financial support, I decided to go through with the procedure.

After one month of injecting myself with hormones and feet in stirrups, I was able to harvest 35 eggs before chemotherapy—my own insurance policy on motherhood. Unfortunately, even with a generous subsidy from the Livestrong Foundation, that “insurance policy” cost $5,000 plus a shocking $1,000 annual storage fee—in fine print, of course.

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