Careers at the Aspen Institute
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Aspen Institute employees come from a wide range of backgrounds and possess a unique blend of education, skill, and policy experience. We recognize that our people are our vital resource and we value their knowledge, enthusiasm, and commitment. At the Aspen Institute we offer competitive salaries and a wide variety of benefits to our employees and their families.

If you would enjoy working in a dynamic environment and are looking for an opportunity to become part of a stellar team of professionals, we invite you to apply online today.


Communications Director

Department: ASCEND
Location: Washington, DC

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.

Ascend at the Aspen Institute is the national hub for breakthrough ideas and collaborations to build family economic prosperity and well-being. Ascend embraces a two-generation approach – focusing on children and the adults in their lives together – and is committed to centering gender and racial equity in our work. We believe that early childhood learning and care postsecondary education/employment pathways for parents, economic assets, social capital, and health and well-being are the core elements that enable families to achieve their full potential. As a leading model of social innovation, Ascend has been on the forefront of advancing policies, systems, practice, and community solutions. We have built an ecosystem of diverse leaders and multi-sector organizations through a national fellowship program, an action and learning network, the Family Prosperity Innovation Community, and the Postsecondary Success for Parents Initiative. Ascend engages the perspectives, strengths, and resilience of families with low incomes to inform program design and policy development.

The Position:

As a member of Ascend’s management team, the Communications Director will be responsible for expanding and leading all aspects of Ascend’s integrated communication strategy. You will draw upon the intellectual and convening resources and multi-media platform of the Aspen Institute to expand the conversation around solutions for families with low incomes and advance practical new ideas and systemic shifts to serve children and their families more effectively. You will develop and execute an integrated communications plan for Ascend, focused on promoting and advancing Ascend’s mission, stellar outcomes and profile as a thought leader and national hub for family economic mobility and wellbeing while being a “go-to” resource for leaders from non-profit, business, philanthropic and government sectors.

Reporting jointly to the Executive Director and Managing Director, the Communications Director will supervise 3-4 communications staff as well as several external consultants and build strategic partnerships with Aspen Institute communications team and select senior communications staff of funding partners. The team will be responsive to internal stakeholders/colleagues while providing focus and consistency across the organization for defining and elevating Ascends profile and raising broader awareness and engagement among target audiences. This team will also develop and execute on a bold vision for our 10th year anniversary in 2022, which will be an opportunity for us to highlight our story, our Fellow/Alumni successes and amplify our ability to be a change agent as we head into our next decade. While the role is ideally based in the DC Metro area, we are open to a remote working set up as long as you are able to maintain a strong in-person presence as well.

You should have strong instincts to “catch the moment” with the right messages/angles, as well as a demonstrated track record for building and engaging multiple audiences to advance an organization’s profile as a thought leader in the field. You should lead with a social justice perspective and understand the role of communications in policy, system, and mindset change. You will be curious, ask probing questions that get to the heart of the matter, be solutions-focused, and value the experience and resilience of families.

Essential Duties:

Essential duties and responsibilities include:

  • Develop highly effective media and “high-influence” strategic partnerships to amplify impact and influence of Ascend and priority partners and Ascend Fellows
  • Lead announcement and roll-out of Ascend recent brand refresh strategy and maintain high-quality brand and messaging consistency, advancement of brand awareness, and visibility efforts in the field and across platforms across various mediums
  • Elevate Ascend’s profile and that of its senior leadership, with focus on accelerating Ascend’s impact and raising the organization’s visibility among key target audiences and linked to national priorities;
  • Develop and supervise 2-3 team members and external consultants; promote a culture of high performance and continuous improvement that values learning and high-quality work;
  • Create and manage a robust communications/public relations strategy, focused on cultivating and engaging external audiences (e.g. media, strategic partners and other key influencers) and framing and disseminating field resources to advance thought leadership and innovation in the two-generation field;
  • Oversee development and distribution of Ascend’s owned and earned communications assets: website, social media, external stakeholders (agencies and vendors); digital collateral, e-newsletters, blog, podcasts, presentations;
  • Pitch timely stories, op-eds, and Ascend publications to media outlets; vet media opportunities and serve as the point person on media interactions;
  • Develop talking points, briefing materials, and op-eds for management team
  • Oversee Ascend’s website and social media strategy (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc.);
  • Maintain brand and messaging consistency, advancement of brand awareness, and visibility efforts in the field and across platforms and various mediums; and
  • Contribute to team-wide learning and knowledge management efforts.

Knowledge, Education, and Experience:

  • 12-15 years of experience building and managing comprehensive communications efforts, ideally in a nonprofit / social enterprise. Experience in a start-up is a plus, as is experience expanding the visibility of a niche brand;
  • Demonstrated ability to build and lead a high-performing teams in a lean organization with competing priorities; thrives in big picture possibility and strategy while holding the details needed for high-quality execution;
  • Experience proactively building and sustaining media relationships, shaping opportunities and positioning content to achieve high-impact placements;
  • Consummate influencer and story-teller with a clear, concise and engaging voice, adaptable across audiences. Must be adept at visual storytelling via print and digital, utilizing multi-media channels;
  • Proven ability to engage, inspire, and influence diverse leaders and communities of color and transcend divisive fault lines;
  • Passion for Ascend’s mission, with a deep commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion; and
  • Willingness and ability to travel (occasionally).

To Apply:

Visit our career page at Work at the Aspen Institute | The Aspen Institute and follow the instructions for uploading your cover letter, communication sample and resume. All interested applicants must submit all three: cover letter, sample and resume. Cover letter should highlight applicant’s qualifications and share why this exceptional opportunity is a strong fit. The communications sample is an opportunity to show versus tell about a candidate’s work. The sample can be a relevant article, case study, interview, video, or surprise us.

Applications without resume, cover letter, and sample of work will not be considered.

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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