Mar 02, 2020

Assistant Director of Policy

  • The Aspen Institute
  • Washington, DC, USA
Full-time Community Engagement and Outreach Other

Job Description

About Us:

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

The Aspen Institute Education & Society Program improves public education by inspiring, informing, and influencing education leaders across policy and practice, with an emphasis on achieving equity for students of color and students from low-income families. Aspen Education supports leaders at all levels, from networks of urban superintendents and their teams, to state chiefs and their cabinets, to elected officials and their staffers.

Aspen Education is focused on:

  • Advancing a richer vision of student success that integrates the social, emotional, and academic dimensions of learning as essential to advancing equity.
  • Transforming education systems so that they can sponsor and model exemplary learning and continuous improvement practices.
  • Developing education leaders to achieve transformation in learning, equity, and efficacy.
  • Understanding and addressing poverty in America by fostering connections across education and: housing, health and nutrition, transportation, and criminal justice policy and addressing the impact of race and racism on opportunity in America.

And does this work by:

  • Hosting thought-provoking convenings of diverse leaders from the district, state, national and federal levels that create powerful learning experiences that support and make explicit connections across policy and practice.
  • Developing resources and tools for national, state, and local policymakers, practitioners, and philanthropy leaders to disseminate lessons and promising practices in a nonpartisan, non-ideological way.
  • Cultivating and fostering partnerships to inform and challenge our thinking, surface and spread promising practices and recommendations, and share and apply our resources and tools.

Assistant Director, Policy 

The Aspen Institute Education & Society Program is seeking an experienced and passionate policy professional to lead its policy initiatives. The Aspen Institute Education & Society Program improves public education by creating venues for authentic learning and honest dialogue, and producing a range of resources and tools, for education leaders to invest in their own learning, shift mindsets, and take action.

About the Role:

The Assistant Director will have overall responsibility for the design, planning, and execution of exemplary learning experiences for education leaders, including how various federal and state policies and programs can improve education outcomes and economic mobility. These participants include leaders from education support organizations, associations and nonprofits; foundation leaders; and senior Congressional staff. This work will complement and leverage the program's deep work with education policymakers and practitioners. The Assistant Director for Policy will report to the Managing Director.

Essential responsibilities include, but are not limited to:

Development and execution of policy convenings and Congressional networks

  • Collaborate with the executive director and other members of Aspen Education to develop a strategy and project plan, goals, and timelines for expanding the program’s work to include the new Congressional Staff Network on Mobility from Poverty.
  • Serve as project lead on this portfolio and related topics, including liaising with senior Congressional staff and field leaders; identifying topics, locations, and leaders to advance bipartisan learning regarding Mobility from Poverty and education; supervising consultants and managing timelines/deliverables against established budgets.
  • Work with Aspen team and consultants to oversee the ongoing facilitation of two networks of senior Congressional staff.
  • Conceptualize, research, and create products (e.g., learning memos, case studies, reports/policy briefs, discussion guides, op-eds) related to education policy and the broader the Mobility from Poverty agenda; also, in collaboration with our Senior Communications Manager, commission and edit similar reports and articles from external researchers and authors

Development and maintenance of Aspen’s external profile

  • Collaborate with Aspen team to create a deeper understanding in the field and of the connection between education and mobility from poverty.
  • Build and maintain relationships with Congressional staffers, policy experts, advocates, and researchers to inform the Aspen Mobility from Poverty Congressional Staff Network
  • Help organize and facilitate a 5-day policy workshop in Aspen, CO, in July, including identifying topics and participants, curating background readings, facilitating dialogue, and supporting participants in acting on the commitments they develop during the workshop.
  • Represent the Aspen Education Program externally.
  • Develop and maintain relationships with current and prospective funders

Support internal health of Aspen’s Education & Society team

Manage Policy  Team:

  • Program Associate
  • Program Coordinator


  • Close and ongoing collaboration with the Assistant Director, Practice and overall Practice team to ensure alignment and ability to recognize program opportunities and coherence.
  • Ensure adherence to all ethics rules, including working with Aspen administrative and legal staff.
  • In coordination with Aspen team, manage budgets and grants-management timelines; draft grant proposals and reports, and oversee ethics and contracts relevant to network

About You:

  • Ten or more years working in policy or related role (e.g., Hill staffer, think tank).
  • Bachelor’s degree required, higher education preferred.
  • Expertise in policy, and commitment to increasing mobility from poverty and improving outcomes in public education, especially for students from low-income families and students of color.
  • Has a robust network and deep understanding of Congress, congressional players and policy decision-makers.
  • Excellent project management skills, including but not limited to organization and facilitation of meetings, managing multiple timelines  and leading teams to the successful completion of multi-layered projects.
  • Design and execution of exemplary adult learning experiences, including content development, research, and resource evaluation, and high-quality facilitation.
  • Excellent written and oral communication skills, including but not limited to distilling salient points into summaries and drafting professional correspondence.
  • Committed to advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion across all functions, engagements, and relationships.
  • Ability and willingness to travel up to 20% of the time. Occasional night and weekend work required, usually as part of the planning or execution of site visits.

About the Work:

For nearly 20 years, the Aspen Education Program has led policy development, implementation, and analysis across key issues at the local, state, and federal levels. We identify opportunities to forge coherence and embed a vision of excellence across the myriad policies that shape education and economic opportunity in America. 

We convene seminars, retreats, and site visits for diverse groups of policy and practice leaders to surface practical policy solutions, build trusting relationships, and grow as leaders. Aspen Education draws on the lessons learned in our deep work with urban district leaders to frame learning opportunities for policymakers and to facilitate policy development discussions. We leverage our learning across all Aspen convenings to inform and publish policy recommendations and other resources highlighting emerging issues and promising efforts. 

Aspen Education sponsors two professional learning networks for Senior Congressional staffers, one network on K-12 federal education policy, and a second on mobility from poverty. These Networks provide a much-needed, off-the-record venue and safe space away from the partisanship of Capitol Hill. The Networks have two key objectives: (1) build collaborative working relationships, and (2) establish a shared knowledge base by learning from local leaders and scholars.  Considered one of the premier learning opportunities on the Hill, these engagements also afford Aspen Education a unique vantage on the issues of most interest to Congressional staff and the perspectives of experts in the field regarding the status of federal policy implementation.

While the Education Staff Network has been active for over 15 years, the Aspen Mobility from Poverty Senior Congressional Staff Network is a new ongoing network of 20-25 of the most senior committee and leadership staff. These participants play a pivotal role in drafting and negotiating legislation and appropriating funds related to mobility from poverty (including but not limited to education policy). This network will draw from leadership offices and multiple committees to increase congressional staff knowledge and capacity through learning and relationship-building across parties, committees, and chambers of Congress – as well as with experts from the field. 

Aspen Education is committed to ensuring the diversity of our team. While not a minimum or mandatory qualification, we strongly encourage candidates of color, those who identify as Native American, women, people of low-income backgrounds, those who are differently-abled, and those with first-hand experience of education inequity to apply for this role.

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.

Candidate must have the ability to work under pressure and handle stress. Candidate must also have the ability to meet the regular attendance policy of the Aspen Institute.

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