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Policy Area Director, Families

New York, United States
Salary Not specified
Posted Date
Jul 5, 2024

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Position Type
Administrative, Other Administrative
Other Fields
Employment Type
Full Time

Policy Area Director, Families & Children

About MDRC

Founded in 1974, MDRC is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to building and applying reliable evidence about effective education and social policy programs that can improve the well-being of people with low incomes. We not only carry out the research but also strive to make sure policymakers and practitioners understand and can use our research findings. MDRC designs promising new interventions, studies existing programs, and provides technical assistance to help practitioners build better programs.

With an annual budget of about $100 million, a staff of more than 300 people, and offices in New York City, Oakland, Washington, DC, and Los Angeles, MDRC seeks to provide reliable, nonpartisan evidence to its public and private partners. We constantly seek ways to do our work better, including designing new tools to help partner organizations improve their programs and pioneering new quantitative and qualitative research methods.

About the Families & Children (F&C) Policy Area

MDRC is deeply committed to shaping the future of early childhood and family development to enhance long-term well-being. A core pillar of MRDC's expansive policy expertise, the Families & Children (F&C) policy area is a critical component of MDRC's research portfolio. F&C is a leader in developing and evaluating initiatives that improve family and child well-being through rigorous, evidence-based research. F&C's research agenda focuses on a range of programs designed to improve the well-being of families and enhance child development, including:
  • Early Childhood Development and Education
  • Parenting and Relationship Programs
  • Integration of Services for Families
  • Home Visiting Programs
  • Social and Emotional Learning
  • Economic and Employment Support
  • Cross-System Collaboration

By developing innovative interventions, conducting rigorous evaluations, and offering world-class technical assistance, the F&C team enhances early childhood systems and services to drive long-term systemic change, lay a solid foundation for sustainable improvements, and benefit families and children across diverse communities.

You can find more information on MDRC at and our Families & Children Research Agenda at

The Opportunity

MDRC is seeking a Director for the Families & Children policy area. This is a unique opportunity to positively impact family and child well-being through rigorous, evidence-based research. The Director manages a team of 40 professionals, including five direct reports, and oversees a $15-million budget derived from both public and private sources.

This role oversees two critical bodies of work: Family Functioning and Early Childhood Education, both dedicated to enhancing the structures and systems that support families and children's earliest stages of learning and development. This position offers an exceptional opportunity to lead a team of skilled researchers and shape a research agenda that employs transformative strategies and cutting-edge scientific methods. The Director's work will drive real-world applications and influence policy decisions, with the goal of creating significant, systemic impact on the lives of children and families.

Key responsibilities include, but are not limited to:

Policy Area External Strategy

  • Collaboratively design and direct plans for developing new work within the F&C research portfolio.
  • Support fundraising from public and private sources by cultivating contacts in the field.
  • Oversee communication with those outside the organization, including disseminating findings and using evidence to influence policy and practice.
  • Develop and maintain strategic partnerships with key stakeholders, including government agencies, academic institutions, and other relevant organizations to enhance policy advocacy and research impact.
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of policy initiatives and research outcomes to ensure alignment with MDRC's objectives and partner's needs.
  • Ensure the rigorous implementation of metrics and key performance indicators for assessing project impact, particularly how projects improve outcomes for children and families.

Project and Personnel Management
  • Support the hiring, supervision, and professional development of individuals on the F&C team.
  • Ensure that projects meet their goals on time and within budget while upholding MDRC's high quality standards.
  • Continue MDRC's commitment to inclusivity by further incorporating the voices of children and families who are directly affected by systemic inequities and continue to develop and apply a racial equity lens to MDRC's work.
  • Ensure that all policy research and advocacy activities comply with relevant laws, regulations, and ethical standards.
  • Stay updated on legislative changes that could impact research activities and adjust strategies accordingly.

Staff and Culture
  • Develop and strengthen a culture that aligns with the MDRC Commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI)commitment by continuing to incorporate antiracist practices, high expectations, and collaboration to create a positive, inclusive environment.
  • Build internal communication strategies that ensure all staff members are informed about organizational changes, project updates, and strategic decisions.
  • Encourage a culture of transparency where staff feel comfortable voicing their ideas and concerns, contributing to a more inclusive and collaborative workplace.
  • Monitor and proactively manage staff workload to prevent burnout and ensure a healthy work-life balance. Implement tools and systems for effectively tracking project demands and personnel capacity.

Organizational Leadership
  • As a senior leader on MDRC leadership team, actively contribute to leadership and strategic initiatives to drive organizational success.
  • Bring substantive content area knowledge to other policy areas by reviewing their strategic plans and serving as a reviewer on related projects.
  • Act as a thought leader, representing MDRC at public forums, conferences, and media interviews to enhance its profile and influence in policy discussions.
  • Write and publish articles, white papers, and reports that highlight research findings and recommendations.

Travel Requirements: The position is ideally based in MDRC's New York City; Washington, DC, or California offices with relocation assistance offered. New York-based candidates are preferred. MDRC is also open to remote work. However, MRDC requires monthly travel to foster collaboration, enhance accessibility to MDRC staff, and engage with donors and funders effectively.

Candidate Profile

Ideal candidates will have demonstrated experience in a leadership position in an environment that engages in, supports, or applies research, such as a nonprofit organization, government agency, or academic institution - as well as relevant knowledge and expertise that enables effective innovation and leadership within the policy area and MDRC broadly.

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 display the following professional and personal qualities, skills, and characteristics:

Content Area Expertise and Credibility

Ideal candidates will be nationally recognized experts in child development, family studies, or related fields, with distinguished records as a researcher, policymaker, or practitioner. They possess deep knowledge in key policy areas, using their expertise to expand the scope and impact of their research agenda.

Leadership and People Management

Ideal candidates will have a proven ability to manage diverse teams and lead projects effectively. They know how to foster high staff engagement and a collaborative environment while meeting timelines and achieving ambitious goals. They maintain transparency and accountability, promote open communication, and empower team members by delegating authority responsibly and ensuring professional development for staff at all levels. They lead with humility, celebrate team successes, and are committed to their organizational values and objectives.

Research Administration

Ideal candidates will possess extensive experience in leading research or policy teams. They excel in developing and implementing policies that ensure projects meet quality standards, deadlines, and budget while modulating staff capacity to meet project demands.

Resource Development

Ideal candidates will bring a track record of success with resource and business development, including the ability to cultivate and grow relationships with supporters and partners. They will be skilled in communicating research findings and translating those into policy initiatives and ensuring projects attract and secure future partnerships and funding opportunities.

Strategic Vision and Decision-making

Ideal candidates understand how to strategically align a research agenda with long-term organizational goals and mission. They work with senior and executive leaders to continually seek improvement by identifying efficient processes, navigating organizational challenges, and providing critical feedback on strategic priorities for both their policy area and enterprise.

In addition, strong candidates will offer:
  • A terminal degree (Ph.D., Ed.D., or equivalent) in a relevant field is required.
  • Candidates with deep Family Functioning and/or Early Childhood Education experience are highly valued.
  • Policy and research experience at both the state and national level are strongly preferred.
  • Commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB) and antiracism frameworks and experience applying equity-based and culturally responsive approaches in research and technical assistance are nonnegotiable.

Compensation & Benefits

The salary is competitive and commensurate with experience. MDRC offers a salary range of $200,000 - $225,000, with a comprehensive benefits package that includes extensive insurance (medical, dental, vision, life), disability leave, telemedicine options, employer-contributed pension, and generous vacation time. Benefits extend to family leave, partnerships, adoption support, identity theft protection, legal services, and extensive professional development opportunities.


Koya Partners l Diversified Search Group has been exclusively retained for this engagement, which is being led by Molly Brennan and Malissa Brennan. Submit a compelling cover letter and resume by filling out our Talent Profile. All inquiries are strictly confidential.

Koya Partners l Diversified Search Group 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.

MDRC is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action employer. MDRC does not discriminate, and all qualified applications will receive consideration without regard to race; color; national origin; religion; creed; sex or gender (including sex stereotyping and gender identity or expression); sexual orientation; citizenship status; pregnancy; disability; age; military or veteran status; marital or partnership status; genetic information, genetic predisposition, or carrier status; prior unemployment status; consumer credit history; status as a victim of domestic violence, sex offenses, or stalking; or any other category protected by applicable federal, state, or local laws. Legal work authorization is required.

MDRC's dedication to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion exceed compliance requirements. We believe that recruiting and retaining a diverse workforce of all backgrounds and perspectives improves the quality and relevance of our research, as well as the daily experiences of our staff. By fostering an equitable culture of inclusivity and belonging, we seek an environment in which staff feel welcomed, valued, and engaged in their work.

About Koya Partners l Diversified Search Group

Koya Partners, a Diversified Search Group company, is the nation's premier search firm dedicated to mission-driven leadership. Since its founding in 2004, Koya has had an exclusive focus on mission-driven clients and was founded on the belief that the right leader can transform an organization and have a deep and measurable impact on our world. Koya works with nonprofits & NGOs, responsible businesses, and social enterprises in local communities and around the world.

Diversified Search Group is consistently recognized by Forbes on its top 10 list of "America's Best Executive Recruiting Firms" and is an industry leader in recruiting transformational leaders for a changing world. The firm is deliberately different in its approach, with best-in-class teams who have decades of experience in cultivating inclusive leaders, understanding the dimensions of diversity, and building equitable teams.

Learn more about Koya Partners l Diversified Search Group via the firm's website.

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