Nov 29, 2022

Urban Institute WorkRise Research Director

  • Urban Institute
  • Remote (Washington D.C., DC, USA)
Full-Time General Management

Job Description

WorkRise Research Director

Urban Institute Flexible, Washington D.C. Preferred


About Urban Institute


At the nonprofit Urban Institute, we believe in the power of evidence to improve lives and strengthen communities. Our employees are empowered to open minds, shape decisions and offer solutions. We encourage intellectual honesty, innovation, diversity, and mutual respect, and our analysis elevates the debate, wherever it takes place.

Urban’s greatest asset is our people. We strive to attract and cultivate a vibrant, creative, and diverse community. Our employees drive Urban’s mission through entrepreneurship, innovation, leadership, effective communication, results-orientation, and relationship cultivation. Our success depends on engaging individuals who possess and value these attributes.


Our Mission


To open minds, shape decisions, and offer solutions through economic and social policy research.


Our Values


Collaboration: Whether working with fellow Urban Institute colleagues or partnering with communities, we strive to build teams with diversity of thought, background, and experience. We seek to maintain a culture of mutual respect where everyone feels their contributions are valued.


Equity: Our staff members are united by the belief that all people—regardless of income, race or

ethnicity, education, or zip code—should have the chance to achieve their highest potential. We are committed to interrogating and mitigating structural racism in society and within our workplace.


Inclusivity: In our research, we embrace lived experience as a form of evidence, knowing it is important for conducting high-quality, authentic analysis. Within Urban, we seek to build a culture of belonging, where people feel they can bring their whole selves to work.


Independence: Urban does not have an agenda, ideological or otherwise, nor do we take institutional positions on issues. Staff members have the autonomy to pursue new ideas, and they are empowered and supported to share their own evidence-based views and policy recommendations.


Integrity: Experts are committed to following the facts wherever they lead, offering solutions to societal and policy challenges that are rooted in rigorous research. Our strong policies and cultural norms ensure the conclusions of our experts are rooted in evidence and free from outside influence, and that we are transparent about our funding sources.


For more information on the Urban Institute, please visit


About WorkRise


WorkRise, hosted by the Urban Institute, is a national platform for identifying, testing, and sharing bold ideas for transforming the labor market. We aim to be a trusted resource for the data, evidence, and tools today’s leaders need to shape a more equitable, inclusive, resilient labor market and improve the lives of historically marginalized workers with low wages. We do this by funding research and building evidence on promising practices, policies, and programs that can strengthen employers, inform policymaking, and provide genuine economic mobility and security for workers—especially Black workers and others who face systemic barriers to opportunity—and convening and collaborating with often-siloed groups—employers, worker advocates, practitioners, policymakers, scholars, and philanthropists—to ensure the solutions we deliver are relevant and scalable.


The Opportunity


The Research Director (Director) will join’s senior leadership team to lead the research component of WorkRise’s research-to-action platform. Working closely with senior leadership and WorkRise’s Leadership Board, the Director will develop and implement WorkRise’s research agenda and related research priorities, and will ensure that the evidence developed and elevated via the platform is aligned with the priorities identified by the initiative’s diverse networks of labor market stakeholders. The Director will provide leadership and research oversight for WorkRise’s competitive grantmaking programming, as well as for commissioned research and related stakeholder working groups. Working in close collaboration with the WorkRise Engagement team, including communications and external relations experts, the Director will play a pivotal role in ensuring that WorkRise creates a productive feedback loop between research, policy, and practice.


The Director will manage a growing team of research staff and will play a central role in talent development for junior staff. In collaboration with the Engagement team, the Director will cultivate and nurture WorkRise’s growing network of external researchers across the United States, with a particular focus on developing, supporting, and elevating BIPOC researchers and scholars housed in Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs), especially HBCUs. The Research Director will lead WorkRise’s engagement with scholars across the Urban Institute, including senior fellows and others in the Center for Labor, Human Services, and Populations, the Income and Benefits Policy Center, the Policy to Action Lab, the Racial Equity Analysis Lab, the Tax Policy Center, the Health Policy Center, and the Center for Education Data and Policy.


What You’ll Do:


Research Agenda

• Manage the development of WorkRise’s research agenda, in close collaboration with the Executive Director, Deputy Director, and Engagement Director.

• Serve as lead liaison to Leadership Board regarding research priorities.

• Determine which elements of the research agenda should be prioritized in competitive grantmaking, commissioned research, and internal research efforts.

• In collaboration with the Engagement team, provide guidance/approval on public-facing versions of the research agenda, including high-level summary, versions for segmented audiences, etc.


Competitive Grantmaking

• Own the research component of all RFP-driven grantmaking, including recruitment/outreach to research communities, research review, consultations with invited applicants, and follow-up with grantees (e.g. re: future research ideas stemming from initial funding, etc.), with operations and logistical/project management support from project manager/associate director.

• Collaborate with the Engagement team regarding engagement/outreach strategy (e.g., how we should engage with research conferences to elevate our grantees’ work, lift up issues on the WorkRise research agenda, and bring new insights back to the WorkRise team.


Commissioned Research

• Manage the development and execution of WorkRise’s commissioned research (projects on which WorkRise set the research question, methods, and scope of work via contract with researchers and practitioners).

• Collaborate with the Engagement team regarding the development of an outreach and engagement strategy for each piece of commissioned work.

• Manage commissions vis-à-vis regular check-ins with commissioned authors; provide substantive feedback on draft publications.


Internal Research Content

• Manage the development and execution of WorkRise’s internal research agenda, i.e., work that we have determined is best done by in-house staff.

• Provide supervision, timely guidance, and oversight to junior research staff and oversee all research products, including data features, briefs, infographics, and other work.

• Collaborate on the development of templates for products, provide support on recruitment of external authors, actively contribute ideas for content (e.g. journal articles of interest, think tank or other reports of relevance, events, etc.).

• Contribute to content for the WorkRise website (e.g., research summaries and briefs, data features/visualizations/tools, etc.)


Leadership, Management, and Mentoring

• Manage the internal research team (including both WorkRise staff and other Urban staff dedicating part of their time to WorkRise efforts); execute key research priorities on-time and with an unwavering commitment to high-quality, evidence-backed deliverables.

• Help other WorkRise researchers develop their research skills and relevant practice and policy expertise.

• Serve as WorkRise’s lead liaison with other mid- and senior-level Urban researchers, including Senior Fellows and Senior Research Associates across Urban’s centers and offices: LHP, IBP, Lab, REAL, OPRE, HPC, TPC, and EDP.


General Research-relevant Outreach and Networking

• In collaboration with the Engagement team, develop and execute a strategy for bringing new researchers into WorkRise’s network, with a particular focus on supporting BIPOC scholars, in part by engaging in major research conferences (ASSA, APPAM, SOLE, NEA, ASHE, ASA, etc.).

• Engage in the ongoing scan of the horizon for new/innovative/next-frontier research questions and potential opportunities for the development of new evidence.

• Support fundraising efforts for WorkRise with expertise and strategic engagement around research/evidence.

• Serve as a public-facing expert for evidence on actionable, evidence-backed policy and practice solutions advancing economic security and labor market mobility for low-wage workers, especially Black workers and others who face structural disadvantages.

Hiring Organization

Urban Institute


Candidate Profile


We recognize that there is a spectrum of lived and professional experience that will set candidates up for success in this role. While no one candidate will have every experience outlined in the position description, ideal candidates will have the following professional and personal qualities, skills, and characteristics:


Passion for the Mission

Mission-driven at your core, you believe that WorkRise’s research will help build a more equitable and resilient labor market that expands opportunity and economic mobility for low-wage workers everywhere. A visionary leader, you bring a strong track record of collaborating with senior-level thought leaders, preferably those with a focus on labor market policy, improving the economic well-being of low-wage workers, and/or building coalitions between employers, worker advocates, practitioners, policymakers, scholars, and philanthropists.


Research and Policy Competency

You have recognized expertise in key U.S. labor market issues and demonstrate fluency in applied evidence pertaining to labor market challenges facing low-wage workers. You demonstrate experience and commitment to lifting up evidence in order to inform policy and practice. An excellent communicator, you possess substantial public presentation skills with an emphasis on making complex data accessible to non-research audiences including workers’ advocates, employer networks, and philanthropy. You excel at identifying key actionable takeaways from research as it pertains to one or more of the following areas:


• Employer Practices: Hiring; promotion and career ladders; benefits and compensation policies; on-the-job training; diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives; and other workplace supports.

Job Search and Matching: How workers search for jobs and find employment and how employers post and fill job openings.

• Macroeconomic and Labor Market Trends and Policies: Effects of federal, state, and local policies and regulations; productivity, technology and automation; the influence of climate change on labor markets; regional economic dynamics; market structure and market power; demographic changes; labor supply and demand and labor force participation.

Skills and Training: How workers acquire skills and knowledge through education and training; credentialing programs and technologies; training services supported through workforce and economic development systems and sectoral programs.

Social Determinants of Work/360° Perspective on Workers: Influence on labor outcomes of personal and community factors outside of work, such as mental health, housing, health status, and health care access, caregiving responsibilities, and financial well-being.

• Worker Power, Voice, and Representation: Pathways workers can use to exercise their power and voice to achieve higher wages and better working conditions.


Organizational Efficacy

As an experienced leader of research teams working to inform action in the public and private sector, you drive strong operational results by coordinating and aligning cross-functional teams and extending a vision that breaks down silos and fosters communication, transparency, and shared accountability. You drive organizational strategy and alignment in a fast-paced, high-growth, mission-driven environment, and guide both people and projects to collaborate on results-oriented work. An exceptional and adaptive communicator, you have a record of accomplishment in research that reaches internal and external audiences; managing

conversations with diplomacy; synthesizing multiple points of view and perspectives; aligning your organization’s mission, goals, and direction, and reaching a range of audiences (from grassroots community organizations to global executives) to facilitate dialogue at all levels of the organization.


Strategic Networking

A natural collaborator, you value community engagement in the development of both high-level research priorities and targeted research projects. You have a proven track-record of engaging non-researchers in reciprocal partnerships that generate new research questions and/or evidence. You are a voracious learner and continuously grow strategic networks to funnel innovative ideas, research, and relationships into your work to maximize your organization’s impact. A connected leader in the world of labor market research, you build relationships across scholars and research institutions, in service of coalescing diverse voices, facilitating the free exchange of ideas, and applying best practices and thought leadership to shape and impact research informing policies and practice around labor market barriers, trends, and opportunities.


In addition, strong candidates will offer:

• Ph.D. (or an equivalent combination of education and experience) in public policy, economics, sociology, or related field.


• Demonstrated leadership in developing, implementing, and managing high-impact labor market research projects with a clear impact on policy and/or practice.


What You’ll Experience

• No matter your role with Urban, you will contribute to meaningful work that makes a difference for people and communities across the country. And whether you call the Washington, D.C. area or elsewhere home, you can expect to be part of a welcoming and hybrid workplace. We are committed to cultivating a community and working in a manner defined by collaboration, equity, inclusivity, independence, and integrity.

Industry/Service Area





Compensation & Benefits


Urban’s greatest asset is our people.

Urban is committed to supporting our staff’s physical, emotional, and financial well-being through a robust benefits package for yourself, eligible dependents, and domestic partners. It includes generous paid time off, including nine federal holidays, medical (including prescription), dental and vision insurance, and transit benefits. Urban is unique in that we offer 403(b) retirement plan participation immediately after you’re hired and a generous employer contribution after five months of service and 1,000 hours, with immediate vesting. You’ll also have access to a health advocate, personal finance coaching, an Employee Assistance Program, and educational assistance for undergraduate and graduate degree programs. The salary range for this position is between $160,476 – $200,000 and is commensurate with experience.

Application Instructions



Urban Institute has exclusively retained Koya Partners to help in this hire. To express interest, please submit a compelling letter of interest and resume to Molly Brennan, Malissa Brennan, and Dafina Bobo


Koya Partners is committed to providing reasonable accommodation to individuals living with disabilities. If you are a qualified individual living with a disability and need assistance expressing interest online, please email If you are selected for an interview, you will receive additional information regarding how to request an accommodation for the interview process.


The Urban Institute is an equal-opportunity employer and is committed to a diverse and inclusive workplace. All qualified candidates will receive consideration without regard to race, color, religion, national origin, gender or gender identity, age, marital status, personal appearance, sexual orientation, veteran status, pregnancy or family responsibilities, matriculation, disability, political affiliation, or any other protected status under applicable law.


As a federal contractor, Urban will comply with Executive Order (EO) 14042 that requires federal contractors, subcontractors, and their respective employees to comply with Covid-19 vaccinations. All Urban Institute employees must be fully vaccinated against Covid-19 and comply with masking and distancing requirements, regardless of responsibilities or work location. New hires must also be fully vaccinated before starting work. Employees may request exemption from vaccination against COVID-19 based on either a medical condition or a sincerely held religious belief that prevents them from being vaccinated. Where such an exemption is approved, Urban will discuss with each employee potential accommodation.


About Koya Partners


Koya Partners, a part of Diversified Search Group, is a leading executive search and strategic advising firm dedicated to connecting exceptionally talented people with mission-driven clients. Our founding philosophy—The Right Person in the Right Place Can Change the World—guides our work as we partner with nonprofits & NGOs, institutions of higher education, responsible businesses, and social enterprises in local communities and around the world.


For more information about Koya Partners, visit

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