Marketing and Communications, Nonprofit and Social Impact, Politics/Policy, Social Justice and Advocacy

Director of Strategic Partnerships and Engagement

  • Urban Institute
  • Flexible, Washington DC Preferred

This position has been filled.

About Urban Institute

At the Urban Institute (Urban), we believe in the power of evidence to improve lives and strengthen communities. As a nonprofit focusing on social and economic policy, our researchers and policy entrepreneurs open minds, shape decisions, and identify transformative solutions to the most pressing issues of our time.

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 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

The Opportunity

Urban recently launched WorkRise, a major, multi-year initiative focused on jobs, workers, and mobility. The Director of Strategic Partnerships and Engagement (Director) will join WorkRise’s senior leadership team to conceive of and drive the “action” component of the bold research-to-action WorkRise platform. The Director will ensure that WorkRise’s research and evidence reach those who influence the practices, policies, and programs that strengthen economic security and accelerate economic mobility for low-wage workers. The Director will develop, implement, and assess comprehensive plans for engaging WorkRise’s stakeholders and stakeholder networks across the employer, advocacy, practitioner, and policy communities, and will play a pivotal role in ensuring that WorkRise creates a productive feedback loop between research, policy, and practice. 

The Director will forge and prioritize new strategic partnerships with leading and influential organizations as well as lead WorkRise’s engagement with federal, state, and local government officials and policymakers. Additionally, the Director will develop and strengthen a robust network of partners and influencers who are not traditionally included in the conversation, including nontraditional organizations and BIPOC led and focused organizations. Given the WorkRise mission of developing a robust and diverse network of labor market stakeholders, the Director will foster collaboration by proactively identifying opportunities that support the needs and ideas of external stakeholders and seek connecting opportunities, when possible, with Urban scholars housed within various Urban Centers.

What You’ll Do:

  • Identify and engage a cross-sector network of labor market stakeholders, with a focus on research consumers (employers, small businesses, workers and worker advocates, practitioners, and policymakers at the local, state, and federal level), especially those rooted in Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) communities.
  • Develop, activate, and deepen strategic partnerships between WorkRise and key stakeholders in applied policy and practice, including employers, worker advocates, and government at the local, state, and federal levels.
  • Facilitate partner engagement in the development of research, including surfacing priority questions and cultivating participation in research design and implementation.
  • Work with the Research team to strengthen connections between WorkRise and a diverse network of researchers including BIPOC scholars, especially those at Minority-Serving Institutions.
  • In conjunction with members of the Executive, Research, and Communications teams, develop and implement partner-informed dissemination strategies for research findings, including both WorkRise-funded insights and WorkRise-curated evidence from other sources, in order to ensure that actionable evidence is in the right hands at the right time.
  • Develop and manage partner agreements, including developing metrics and frameworks and reporting on strategic partnership activities.
  • Serve as a liaison between WorkRise and other Urban research initiatives on economic mobility, racial equity, and labor market outcomes (e.g. the Mobility Alliance, Building America’s Workforce, the Racial Equity Analytics Lab, the CTE CoLab), in service of expanding opportunities for deeper impact across institutional priorities.
  • Manage, lead, coach, guide, and supervise staff and consultants on projects and programs across various teams and provide mentorship to junior staff.
  • Meaningfully engage with Funders Advisory Council and Leadership Board to optimize external engagement approaches.

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.

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 rebuild 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 negotiating and 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 + Policy Competency

You have recognized expertise in key U.S. labor market issues and demonstrate fluency in policy and/or applied evidence pertaining to labor market challenges facing low-wage workers. Demonstrated experience and commitment to the role of evidence in informing policy and practice. An excellent communicator, you possess substantial public presentation skills targeted to professional associations, practitioner organizations, technical working group funders, policymakers, and others with whom WorkRise seeks to influence or engage.

Organizational Effectiveness

An experienced senior leader, 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 reaching 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 and facilitate reciprocal partnerships by engaging highly developed professional networks centered around one or more WorkRise topical issue areas. You are a vociferous 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, you build relationships across industries to coalesce diverse voices, facilitate the free exchange of ideas, and apply best practices and thought leadership to shape and impact research or policies around labor market barriers, trends, and opportunities.

In addition, strong candidates will offer:

  • Post-graduate degree in public policy, economics, sociology, or a related field preferred. (Required education and experience may be substituted by an equivalent combination of education and experience deemed sufficient for qualification in the position).
  • Demonstrated leadership experience developing, implementing, and managing high-impact cross-sector partnership strategies.
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. Urban features a competitive compensation for this position, commensurate with the candidate’s skill and experience.


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 here.

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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