The center evolved from inception to website launch over the past 7 years under the leadership of the CSWE Commission for Diversity and Social & Economic Justice (CDSEJ). CDSEJ is rooted in advocacy to retain the visibility and importance of diverse constituents while moving toward increased ongoing understandings of intersectionality. In February 2004 the CSWE executive director and Board of Directors made a committment to establish a Center on Equality and Social Justice. In May 2006 that vision was further articulated in a proposal by the Steering Committee on the Center for Diversity and Social & Economic Justice with the support of CDSEJ. The original Steering Committee was composed of six members: co-chairs Marcie Lazzari and James Herbert Williams, Mimi Abramovitz, Diane Elze, Jenny L. Jones, and Salome Raheim. By unanimous vote, the CSWE Board of Directors accepted the steering committee's plan to establish the Diversity Center in June 2006.
Starting in April 2008 the CSWE Sponsored Diversity Conversations engaged members of the CDSEJ, its councils, and affiliated groups in discussion about the meaning of power differentials, intersectionality or the overlap of issues facing diverse groups, and the meaning of social and economic justice for all. One of the defining results of these inclusive conversations was Diversity, Critical Multiculturalism, and Oppression: Interaction and Transformation, a report prepared by CSWE Scholar Cathryne Schmitz. As a result of this report, it was agreed that a website would be the best way to realize the goal of an interactive, dynamic, and engaging resource that could remain responsive to the fluid context surrouding diversity and to address the complex issues that face social work educators, students, practitioners, and the population as a whole.