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Director of Insights and Evidence

The Aspen Institute

The Aspen Institute

Washington, DC, USA
Posted on Thursday, June 22, 2023

The Aspen Institute

The Aspen Institute is a global nonprofit organization committed to realizing a free, just, and equitable society. Since its founding in 1949, the Institute has been driving change through dialogue, leadership, and action to help solve the most critical challenges facing communities in the United States and around the world. Headquartered in Washington, DC, the Institute has a campus in Aspen, Colorado, and an international network of partners.

Commitment to Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

To achieve our mission of a more free, just, and equitable society, we commit to working proactively to advance the principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion across our myriad endeavors such as the recruitment, compensation, training, and advancement of staff. The best people-serving institutions make this commitment, and we seek to be a leader in the ways that we do so and learn from others. Visit our website to learn more about our commitment and recent actions taken toward building and nurturing a diverse and inclusive environment.

Program Description:

The Aspen Institute Financial Security Program’s (FSP) mission is to illuminate and solve the most critical financial challenges facing American households and to make financial security for all a top national priority. We aim for nothing less than a more inclusive economy with reduced wealth inequality and shared prosperity. We believe that transformational change requires innovation, trust, leadership, and entrepreneurial thinking. FSP galvanizes a diverse set of leaders across the public, private, and nonprofit sectors to solve the most critical financial challenges. We do this through deep, deliberate private and public dialogues and by elevating evidence-based research and solutions that will strengthen the financial health and security of financially vulnerable Americans.

The Aspen Institute Financial Security Program is committed to having a workforce that reflects diversity at all levels of the program team. We recognize the importance of not viewing individuals based on a single identity, and we thrive on being equitable in our recruitment process as well as in our efforts to be inclusive of all employees. We encourage all applicants regardless of gender, race, religion, age, sexual orientation, disability, or other social identity. While not a minimum or mandatory qualification, we strongly encourage candidates of color, those who identify as Native American, people of low-income backgrounds, and those with first-hand experience of financial security inequity to apply for this role.

Basic Function:

Aspen FSP is seeking an experienced professional to lead a team of talented researchers working to develop data-driven and person-centered insights, knowledge synthesis, and problem solving among a wide cross-section of experts to illuminate and prioritize critical financial security issues and identify solutions that can improve the financial lives of millions of people. The Director of Insights and Evidence (I+E) serves both as FSP’s senior technical expert in research design, analysis, and interpretation, and as the leader of one of FSP’s major functional teams, providing management, oversight, and guidance to a current team of six people.

The Director of Insights and Evidence reports to the Managing Director and is part of the management team for the Financial Security Program, helping to shape the strategic direction of the program. The Director of Insights and Evidence works with research, policy, and program leads, and FSP’s management team, to set strategic direction for FSP research activities and products and to support matrixed staffing of research functions across FSP initiatives and projects.

The successful candidate will be an enthusiastic, collaborative, reliable, and proven professional with broad methodological experience including policy research and business analysis, strong project and relationship management skills, excellent judgement, and deep experience designing and communicating the findings of applied research intended to inform the decision-making of leaders in the public and private sectors.

Please note the expectation is for the person in this role to be in our D.C. office a minimum of 2x a week to collaborate with colleagues. Additionally, this role requires a commitment of up to 15% domestic travel, with occasional evening meetings.

Essential Duties and Responsibilities:

Research Leadership

  • Serve as FSP’s senior technical expert in research methods, design, analysis, and interpretation.
  • Work with research, policy and program leads, and FSP’s management team, to set strategic direction for FSP research activities and products.
  • Provide strategic guidance and thought partnership to I+E project leads, and FSP’s Leadership team, for research related work. Advise on the design of research projects and be a thought partner on the interpretation and communication of research findings.
  • Key areas of technical expertise / oversight / staff guidance and mentoring include:
    • Design of research projects to effectively meet learning goals, uphold quality standards, and produce actionable insights and recommendations for policymakers, executive-level private sector leaders (particularly, but not exclusively, in the financial services sector), and social sector leaders.
    • Standards and practices for quantitative and qualitative research, literature reviews, surveys, descriptive studies, private sector research, and program and policy evaluation.
    • Development and management of research projects, teams, and partnerships.
    • Interpreting and communicating the results of research studies to effectively inform the decision-making of leaders in the public, private, and philanthropic sectors.
  • Backstop I+E project leads on project leadership and specific activity functions (e.g. when one of them is on vacation, unexpectedly away from work, etc., team leader should be able to step in to cover for them or help ensure coverage from someone else).
  • Review, quality control, and approve I+E team work products.
  • In special cases with high-profile or impact research projects, serve as the project lead for individual research projects.

People and System Management

  • Work with I+E project leads in developing work plans.
  • Have routine check-ins with all direct reports. Ensure progress is on track for all team projects and deliverables. Help I+E leads troubleshoot and get the resources they need to stay on track.
  • Be up to date on the status of all I+E team projects and initiatives and be able to share that information with FSP’s management team as needed.
  • Accountable for developing and overseeing the process for I+E team staff capacity planning and assigning I+E team staff to projects, in partnership with Director of Programs and other FSP leadership. Help design approaches to and support matrixed staffing of I+E team people and functions across FSP initiatives and projects.
  • Coach, mentor and support the professional development of direct reports.
  • Ensure non-direct reports on the I+E team are getting the support, coaching, training, and developmental opportunities they need (in partnership with their supervisors).
  • Conduct performance reviews and support the effective performance of direct reports. Recommend promotions as well as needs and opportunities around growth and improvement.
  • Ensure consistency of operations across research activities and develop tools and processes to be applied across FSP’s research work.
  • Coordinate and oversee routine Insights + Evidence team functions and ongoing activities such as team meetings, annual work planning, and staff capacity planning.

FSP-Wide Strategy and Resource Development

  • Serve as liaison between Insights + Evidence team and FSP’s management team on FSP research strategy, planning, resource development and management, budget and finance work.
  • Participate in the overall strategy and management work of FSP leadership, bringing knowledge of the needs, preferences, resources, and opportunities on the I+E team.
  • Work with the management team to understand and pitch opportunities for funding for the I+E team’s work and, as needed, lead funding pitches for research-related projects.
  • Work with I+E project leads to develop language and cost estimates for grant proposals.
  • Coordinate, direct, and - as needed, write and edit content for grant reports.
  • As needed, relationship manage key funder relationships with leaders interested in funding FSP’s Insights + Evidence work.

Thought Leadership and External Engagement

  • Present and discuss FSP’s research at external events and meetings and with media.
  • Represent FSP as an advisor to external research projects / organizations.
  • Participate in and advise specific FSP projects as a subject matter and technical advisor, as relevant.
  • Seek and offer constructive feedback on a range of products and projects, contributing to the high quality and standards of the work.
  • Assist in the writing and editing of a range of written products including research reports, articles, op-eds, proposals, and others needed to communicate with a broad range of audiences.

Knowledge, Education, and Experience:

  • Graduate or professional degree in public policy, law, business, or equivalent professional experience with research design, analysis, and communication of key insights.
  • 10+ years progressively responsible experience in research design and strategy, research project development and management, and management of research teams, in the fields of household / consumer finance or financial security.
  • Demonstrated expert level of skill and experience in the areas of technical expertise described in the “Research Leadership” section above.
  • Experience conducting research in support of private sector decision-making is a plus, as is career experience or exposure in banking, asset management, payments, or other financial services.
  • Experience building and maintaining relationships with a wide range of leaders in the public, private, research, and non-profit sectors. Experience with developing research partnerships is a plus.
  • Experience with strategic planning and managing a large portfolio of work and complex projects.
  • Demonstrated strong attention to detail, excellent organization, and outstanding project management skills.
  • Ability to set priorities and meet deadlines and flexibility to adapt to changing program priorities.
  • Demonstrated initiative, vision, and entrepreneurial spirit to build and grow programs.
  • Experience fundraising and managing grant-funded work.
  • Outstanding interpersonal, oral and written communication skills. Ability to conceptualize and draft a variety of written products for multiple audiences.
  • Ability to coach, mentor, and develop staff and manage the work of external consultants. Orientation toward mentoring, supporting, and developing staff.
  • Enthusiasm for the ongoing work of Aspen FSP and a deep passion for its mission of widespread financial security and equitable wealth-building for US households.

The Aspen Institute offers a generous benefits package including health, dental, vision, and prescription benefits, retirement benefits, and paid leave.

The Aspen Institute is an Equal Opportunity Employer and complies with all District and federal laws. All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex, national origin, or protected veteran or disabled status and will not be discriminated against.