BerlinRosen acquires DEI consulting shop Onward

Onward founder Thaly Germain joins BerlinRosen as its first MD for transformation and culture.

by Diana Bradley for PR Week, July 06, 2022

NEW YORK: Following a major investment by O2 Investment Partners this year, BerlinRosen has acquired diversity, equity and inclusion consulting firm Onward. 

Onward founder Thaly Germain was named BerlinRosen’s first managing director for transformation and culture as part of the deal, which took place last week. She is reporting to BerlinRosen principal Andy McDonald.

Onward designs learning experiences that build personal and organizational capacity for change through DEI consulting focused on testing various solutions for issues of equity.

The agency will help BerlinRosen drive coordinated DEI engagement strategy for clients and develop the firm’s cultural competency division, which focuses on counsel, strategy, messaging and communications guidance for organizations handling complex cultural challenges.

BerlinRosen principal and cofounder Valerie Berlin said her firm has been working with Onward internally and in partnership for the last few months with clients such as the New Commonwealth Fund.

“As we experienced first-hand Onward’s super-skillful work to transform BerlinRosen into a more equitable organization, we started to see how extraordinary they are and realized how they could work with our clients on the challenges they are facing on DEI issues,” Berlin said.

Germain said that Onward agreed to be acquired because of the firms’ experience working together. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

“We had a lot of access to each other and to the work and the values we both espouse,” she said. “That made this a seamless opportunity and transition.”

Germain said that Onward is a small company by design, but through the deal, it will be able to grow its impact and create practice areas in partnership with BerlinRosen.

“We are working on a new practice that will allow companies to build their cultural competence,” she said. “That is a new work stream for us and BerlinRosen that we are partnering on. That is only possible because of all the skills, tools and resources they have to offer.” 

Onward will keep its branding, and there will be no layoffs or changes to the firm’s leadership. The shop has 10 employees who work across projects and partnerships. They all work remotely.  

No client conflicts will result from the deal. All clients have been informed of the acquisition. Since its founding in 2016, Onward has worked with clients such as Nike, One Design, Only One and the Gates Foundation.

“We look to work with clients who want to create meaningful change; not just clients who want to check a box,” said Germain.

Founded in 2005, BerlinRosen has more than 300 communications and campaign strategists in New York, Washington, DC, and Los Angeles.