Deborah (Debby) Bielak


Debby is a partner in Bridgespan's San Francisco office. Since joining Bridgespan in February 2008, she has worked with a range of clients working toward social justice, including philanthropists interested in catalyzing change, education reform organizations, and advocacy organizations working to support sustained change at scale.

Debby is currently leading a major body of research on philanthropic investments which can significantly improve social mobility in the US. She has co-authored "How to Bet Big on the American Dream" (, May 5, 2016). Her philanthropic consulting engagements include program and organization-level strategy for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Lumina Foundation, the McKnight Foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the UN Foundation

As a former teacher, Debby has applied her belief in the transformative power of education in work spanning early childhood education, secondary education, and postsecondary education—where she leads Bridgespan's efforts. Sample projects include creating a place-based early literacy investment, helping the National College Access Network shift their work from access to success in college, and working with more than 70 field leaders to develop a national field strategy for higher education reform.

Debby grew up as an activist and deeply values work with advocacy organizations. Her work has included developing archetypes for legislative advocacy organizations; supporting national networks to amplify their role in advocacy at the federal, state, or regional level; supporting the United Nations Foundation to understand its highest impact roles for advocacy on the global stage; and helping design national grassroots campaigns, including the Center for Community Change's national anti-poverty campaign.

Prior to joining Bridgespan, Debby worked as an engagement manager and Social Sector Fellow at McKinsey & Company. Her for-profit work included international brand strategy, acquisition strategy, stakeholder influence, and pre- and post-merger management in the pharmaceutical, retail, and consumer sectors in six countries.

Debby has co-authored articles in the McKinsey Quarterly and the National Association of College and University Business Officers Magazine.

Debby earned her BS with honors from Haverford College and her MBA from the Wharton School of Business, where she was a co-founder of the Social Impact Management Initiative.