Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Senior Program Officer (US Economic Mobility & Opportunity)

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Job Description

Role Title: Senior Program Officer, U.S. Economic Mobility & Opportunity Division: U.S. Program Group:  U.S. Economic Mobility & Opportunity Location: Washington, DC Travel Requirements: 15% (once travel is approved) Posting Close Date: 12/4/2020

Division Summary

The vision of the foundation’s U.S. Program (USP) works to ensure all students in the US have access to educational opportunities, from Pre-K to postsecondary, that enable them to develop the knowledge, skills, and agency needed thrive as adults and contribute to their communities. Our goal is to make sure more students are on track to obtain a postsecondary credential with labor market value such that race/ethnicity and income are no longer predictors of student success. ​

Team Summary

The U.S. Economic Mobility & Opportunity team focuses on increasing mobility from poverty over the next decade and is informed by three years of learning in more than three dozen communities across the country. Along the way, we’ve met with hundreds of families, advocates, Local Government leaders and experts. From these conversations, we’ve learned that lack of opportunity in America is bound tightly to complex issues around employment, housing, health, family, race, gender, and education. In addition, these conversations deeply informed our conception of mobility, which goes beyond income and emphasizes power and autonomy and a sense of belonging. We also know that where one grows up – the local context – matters greatly when it comes to moving up the income ladder in the U.S. There are no simple answers to poverty and no single funder can do all that is required to dramatically increase mobility. Instead, progress will require actors of all types and at all levels – public and private; local, state, and national – working together to pursue promising ideas.   Our work will emphasize a “public goods” approach. By this, we mean our work will be focused on supporting the development of tools and insights to help all who are ready, willing, and able to take action to achieve the greatest impact rather than scaling a specific intervention. We will partner with leaders in the field to pilot new approaches and invest in platforms to increase Coordination and collaboration among funders, decision-makers, the private sector, scholars, practitioners, and families experiencing poverty. Our approach is organized around five initiatives:
  • Improving Coordination and Leverage: Making it easier for groups tackling the underlying issues of poverty to work together.

  • Increasing Public Understanding: Ensuring we have more accurate stories about why people experience poverty and the nature of pathways out of poverty.

  • National Data and Metrics: Gathering evidence to help diagnose barriers to opportunity and highlight exemplar approaches for increasing access to opportunity.

  • Local Decision Support: Supporting local decision-makers by increasing access to data and other tools that will help them develop promising strategies to increase mobility from poverty.

  • Work and Opportunity: Helping workers in low-wage jobs achieve stability, move up the economic ladder and support their families.

Job Description Summary

The Sr. Program Officer, U.S. Economic Mobility & Opportunity (SPO) is a cross-cutting role that will help lead initiatives to ensure the tools, platforms, and public goods we are building are as accessible and useful as possible to those best positioned to have a direct impact on increasing mobility from poverty in the U.S., including individuals who have or are currently experiencing poverty. The Senior Program Officer will develop strategies for effectively increasing availability and adoption of our public goods across the portfolios that comprise our strategy. This will require close partnership with the members of the team responsible for developing these public goods investments. The role will also provide strategic leadership for the Economic Mobility & Opportunity team with responsibility for ensuring the team’s work is responsive to insights on the users of our public goods, most especially local governments, practitioners (e.g. those delivery services), philanthropy, and employers, and what they need to be successful in their work. The SPO will also be responsible for measuring and reporting on uptake and efficacy of our core investments, with an eye to evaluating how they may be prompting behavior change and contributing to the overall strength of the field. Core Responsibilities Strategy Development and Implementation (60%)
  • Develop dissemination strategies to enhance awareness and adoption of core public goods across the five portfolios that comprise the Economic Mobility & Opportunity program. This work will include deep engagement with a range of partners – from other funders to those implementing services – to pinpoint opportunities for greatest leverage and impact of our core public goods.

  • Develop deep insights on the needs and methods to influence and reach decision-makers, especially local governments, philanthropy and employers, in adopting strategies and tools to increase mobility from poverty.

  • Partner with program officers on the team to develop approaches for reaching critical users with the capacity to positively impact structural barriers to mobility.

  • Identify and engage a diverse set of priority dissemination partners/networks to support work across EMO portfolios.

  • Lead efforts to improve team capabilities in delivering/disseminating public goods, including developing standards, tools and resources that can be deployed by the entire team throughout the end-to-end investment process.

  • Capture data/insights from grants, contracts, partners and use these insights to interrogate team hypotheses and support better decision making.

Measuring and Reporting (20%)
  • Implement framework for measuring and learning about the uptake, adoption, and efficacy of EMO-funded public goods and solutions and assess how our investments are contributing to stronger and more equitable field, and ensuring those data and insights drive continuous improvement to our strategy.

  • Partner with the team on coordination of processes for developing content for annual program reviews with leadership.

  • Help represent strategy and investment portfolios to leadership.

Grantmaking and Management (20%)
  • Make investments to mobilize additional capital and reach priority adopters of solutions/tools such as local decision-makers.

  • Consult with grantees and other partners to generate creative and high impact projects and ensure grants are meeting outcome goals. This may include: site visits, providing operational guidance and convening meetings of key partners.

  • Build relationships/connections and approaches to engaging the field (e.g. scholars, practitioners, community voice) that will enable efficient landscaping of investment opportunities linked to pillars of strategy.

  • Represent the team and foundation to key program-related internal and external constituencies, as appropriate, on committees related to area of expertise and responsibilities of the position.

  • Review letters of inquiry and grant proposals; provide clear, concise and insightful written analyses and recommendations for funding, including drafting and editing proposal summaries and progress reports for review by foundation leadership.

Other Critical Responsibilities: Team Building and Culture:
  • Help cultivate an inclusive, welcoming team culture.

  • Works with Director and Deputy Director to help ensure consistent approach to strategy development and Analysis across portfolios

  • Collaborates with other US Program strategies on areas of programmatic alignment.

Core Knowledge and Skills
  • Experience and track record of impact in designing and implementing strategies to launch and disseminate “public goods” – tools, platforms, collaborations – as widely as possible, inclusive of public and social sector actors, with a keen understanding of what it takes to change behavior

  • Expertise in deeply understanding the primary audiences for our public goods, creating actionable audience segmentations, and articulating value propositions of services and solutions intended to achieve social impact goals.

  • Track record leading strategy development, execution, and monitoring: guiding implementation, delivery, and impact measurement of approved strategic objectives.

  • Demonstrate excellent leadership, intellectual quickness, creativity, curiosity, and resourcefulness.

  • Demonstrated excellence in clear written communication and Data Analysis and experience advocating and communicating with a broad and diverse audience.

  • Creative problem solved with a rigorous approach and an aptitude for quantitative analysis.

  • Demonstrated record of working in a collaborative fashion in previous “cross-team” role.

  • Experience connecting to/working within communities, the private sector, or the public sector on addressing systemic barriers to opportunity.

  • Familiarity with the field of potential investment partners (public and private) for Economic Mobility’s public goods.

  • Experience working on dimensions of poverty and barriers to opportunity within the U.S.

  • Demonstrated expertise on social impact delivery and familiarity with primary economic mobility barriers that contribute to persistent poverty in the U.S.

  • Preferably, expertise working with private sector actors or sources of capital to achieve social sector goals

Core Capabilities for Success in This Role

  • Analytical Thinking: Uses facts and available information to develop logical assumptions. Discriminates between important and unimportant details, recognizes inconsistencies between facts and/or data, and draws correct inferences from information (includes differentiating, comparing, contrasting, linking, researching)

  • Collaboration/Relationship Building: Develops and maintains effective working relationships with team members, internal partners and others using strong interpersonal skills.  Encourages win-win alternatives. Works effectively with people outside formal authority to accomplish goals. Solicits participation, challenges ideas and summarizes accomplishments and planned actions.

  • DEI Mindset: Seeks input from and values the uniqueness of people of different groups and cultures. Works effectively with individuals of diverse cultures, interpersonal styles, abilities, motivations, or backgrounds. Challenges practices or policies that may be exclusionary.

  • Leadership Skills:  Cultivates individual and team capabilities and focuses on staff professional development. Capable of moving between “out in front” leadership and “leading from behind” as the situation necessitates.  This is a cross-functional role and a successful candidate will be able to engage across different issues (from data to workforce to narrative change) and collaborate with a range of working styles.

  • Presentation Skills: Presents ideas in a clear, succinct, organized, and engaging manner. Is effective in a variety of presentation settings inside and outside the organization (formal and informal, one-on-one, small and large groups, with peers, direct reports and leadership).

  • Problem Solving / Results Orientation: Asks good questions and probes all sources for answers; sees underlying or hidden patterns; looks beyond the obvious and doesn't stop at the first answers. Uses rigorous logic and methods to analyze and understand why problems occur; generates and implements creative, cost effective and realistic solutions.

  • Subject Matter Expertise – Economic Mobility and Access to Opportunity: Knowledge in the field of economic mobility funders and implementation organizations, their cultures and areas of opportunity for collaboration.


9+ years of experience. Two years of experience may be substituted by attainment of an advanced degree.

As part of our standard hiring process for new employees, employment with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will be contingent upon successful completion of a background check.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is dedicated to the belief that all lives have equal value. We’re committed to creating a workplace where employees thrive both personally and professionally. We also believe our employees should reflect the rich diversity of the global populations we aim to serve—in race, gender, age, cultures and beliefs—and we support this diversity through all of our employment practices.
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