Brazil, China, Colombia, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Mexico, United States

Managing Growth


Institute for Transportation
& Development Policy

Common Ground was contracted by the Institute for Transportation & Development Policy (ITDP) to develop clear, easy to use, and streamlined management systems in order to build staff capacity and achieve the organization’s goals—systems that would leverage the strengths of their devolved structure while building institutional coherence, efficiency, and effectiveness.

Following two decades of steady, strategic growth and a track record of success, ITDP received a major increase in funding from a new donor network. Their $2 million budget quadrupled almost overnight, sparking expansion into new countries and significant hiring. Their leadership told us that financial and human resource growth had significantly outpaced infrastructure development and they were looking to address some of the major challenges that resulted from their explosive growth.

We designed a process to engage all staff in identifying the most important issues and defining new management strategies that would allow them to adapt to their changing conditions. Our goal was to help them increase their flexibility, regain their passion, become more competitive and more efficient, and, ultimately, embrace the future they wanted for all of ITDP. 


I am not sure we could have found someone better able to first understand the complicated dynamics of our mission-driven organization, then help us sort out our administrative and management structures in a way that was sympathetic to the people and the mission, and finally to make the tough decisions about the new management structures. We were very happy with Common Ground's work. Walter Hook, Founder and (Former) CEO


in annual overhead savings post-engagement with Common Ground

Fortunately, as we conducted our S.T.A.R.T.™ Process with ITDP, we were impressed by their willingness to exercise their change muscle. They stepped into the tough decisions and they allowed us to push them to the less familiar edges of their comfort zones. With senior staff in particular, they largely avoided the cognitive bias which causes most people to prefer that things stay the same or change very little. In fact, at times, we found ourselves running to keep up with how fast they moved to implement our early recommendations. 

The initial five-month engagement comprised visits to six countries, interviews with 67 ITDP staff members, meetings with crucial partners, a review of 200+ documents, the exchanging of more than 1,300 email messages, and 78,655 miles of travel. All of ITDP’s major countries of operation were visited, and the majority of staff in each office were interviewed. Our final report presented a summary of the key issues we identified, an analysis of the data we collected, an explanation of the trends we discovered, and finally the strategic recommendations, action steps and timelines we believed would help guide them through exciting and necessary future transitions.

Throughout the process, ITDP was remarkably transparent and showed a willingness to act expeditiously—indeed, of the 72 action steps recommended in our comprehensive report, ITDP completed 22 of the most important steps before the report was even final.

Since then, the scope of our original engagement has expanded multiple times. We were retained by ITDP as their primary management consultants and helped plan and facilitate all of their key meetings around the world over a period of several years. We served as a de facto member of their Senior Management Team, helping through a retainer relationship to manage several senior staff transitions (including the transition of the founding CEO), provided field office oversight, advised on human resource issues, expanded communications, and supported ongoing operations. Most recently, we were retained to evaluate and coach a new CEO and have been providing counsel to their fundraising team regarding a potential new donor.

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