Call for Senior Leaders in Research and Policy Analysis

Call for Senior Leaders in Research and Policy Analysis

Urban Institute

Washington, DC   |   May 26, 2021

Urban’s Mission and Strategy: At the Urban Institute, 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.

In 2019, Urban launched a Next50 strategy to bring forth evidence to help changemakers catalyze and accelerate solutions by: leveraging cutting-edge technology and data science, understanding and confronting structural racism and inequities of all kinds, and delivering timely, relevant, and actionable research findings to influencers – be they in communities, capitals, boardrooms, or wherever innovators are pursuing bold ideas.

Senior Leaders at the Urban Institute: Periodically, Urban issues an open call like this one, where we seek entrepreneurial scholars, policy experts, and implementers who are excited to devise, build, and lead programs of research and policy analysis for lasting impact. At Urban, leaders will:

  • Be at the forefront of generating and leveraging evidence to improve lives and strengthen communities
  • Have the opportunity to conceive of, develop, and deeply explore new portfolios of work that advance their areas of interest and desire for impact on the federal, state, and local levels
  • Be able to leverage all that Urban’s 600+ staff and affiliates offer – the breadth and depth of social and economic policy expertise, high quality communications and outreach, convening power, and innovative research technology and data science
  • Drive cutting-edge research and analysis that advances equity for historically underserved and overburdened communities

We are looking today to hire several new senior leaders, who could bring their own existing portfolio of work, or the vision and proven skills to imagine and build a new portfolio of work, especially those pertaining to advancing equity. Urban Institute housed in our nine policy centers and Research to Action Lab which cover health and wellbeing, justice, the safety net, education and workforce, housing, tax policy, nonprofits and philanthropy, and more. More at:

A Focus on Equity: In order to make a difference, true racial equity and inclusion efforts must look unlike anything we’ve done at Urban in past decades. Our short-term goal is to work with changemakers to expose and reverse prevailing racist patterns and practices in order to ensure that our nation’s recovery leads to more equitable economic and health outcomes without deepening entrenched racial ethnic inequalities. Ultimately, however, by actively confronting the ways in which public policy has been shaped by racism both in design and implementation, we seek nothing short of achieving long-term, systemic change in policy.

Urban is especially interested in expanding its capacity and building bodies of work that equip leaders and communities with the data and evidence needed to expose patterns of structural racism and advance bold remedies. Like others at Urban, leaders whose work centers on equity will have the opportunity for collaboration with, and support from, a new Office of Race and Equity Research. The office also works with teams from across Urban including our Community Engaged Methods Group, Structural Racism Resource Project, and Racial Equity Analytics Lab.

  • Possess a graduate degree (MA, MPP, PhD) in Criminology, Statistics/Mathematics, Public Policy, Economics, or other similar social science fields and the combination of at least 10 years of post-graduate education and experience in government, practice or philanthropy, and a recognized expert reputation for effectively advancing knowledge, policy, or practice at the city, state, or national level.
  • Established expertise in one or more priority issue areas, as demonstrated by a track record of significant research contributions, policy impact, and/or leadership in government, practice, or philanthropy.
  • Proven fundraising success, including connections with established leaders in philanthropy and/or government, and ability to quickly develop a strategy for supporting new work.
  • Growth mindset with excitement to co-create something new with internal and external partners, ambition for impact, and a strong sense of a theory of change.
  • Comfort and sophistication in applying a race and equity lens to new research and policy questions, analyses, and recommendations.
  • Understanding of and experience applying sophisticated empirical and methodological research in one of the issue areas described above.
  • Desired candidates need not be a researcher but should have an ability to meaningfully engage with highly technical research and create connections between it and other relevant research, social and economic trends, and policymaking.
  • Proven management skills including experience coordinating or staffing high-level advisory groups and interdisciplinary teams.
  • Experience coaching staff and teams to desired outcomes.
  • Outstanding oral and written communications skills, including the ability to produce clear, concise, and compelling analysis of complex policy issues and research evidence.
  • Experience with strategic communications, including outreach to media and target audiences in the public, business, and nonprofit sectors.
  • A collaborative and can-do attitude that will push the project forward, maintain interest and excitement among staff and partners, and capacity to serve as a motivating force for ambitious and complex initiatives.

Portfolio of Work: A successful long-term program or portfolio of work will prove to be more than the research or analysis of one expert. It will generate support for a small group of colleagues at different levels of work experience, call upon colleagues from existing Urban teams for relevant projects and, as a program grows, new hires as well.

To get there requires a vision for how research, evidence, facts, and analysis, applied to real world problems of policy or practice, can drive change, the capacity to excite others about that vision, and to execute on it and lead others.

Many of Urban’s most impactful teams involve members who bring both a deep understanding of the actionable knowledge needed by system actors (policy, advocacy, or practice) to drive change and the ability to produce that relevant information in a timely way (through quantitative or qualitative research, data mining, expert convening, technical assistance, community voice and engagement, and other skills). A senior leader at Urban may have both these skills, or they may be an action-oriented scholar or an evidence-driven policy expert. It is the commitment to integrated work that often yields the greatest impact.

Compensation & Benefits

The expected salary range for this role is between $180,000 and $220,000, commensurate with experience. 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 upon hire 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.


Koya Partners, the executive search firm that specializes in mission-driven search, has been exclusively retained for this engagement. Molly Brennan, Shelby Woods, and Martens Roc are leading this search. Please make recommendations or express your interest in this role here or email [email protected]. All nominations, inquiries, and discussions will be considered strictly confidential.

The Urban Institute is committed to Equal Employment Opportunity without regard for race, ethnicity, gender, protected veteran status, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, or any other protected status under applicable law.

About Koya Partners

Koya Partners, a part of the 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