VP of Research and Policy Engagement

17 Mar, 2021


VP of Research and Policy Engagement

Resources for the Future (RFF)
Washington, DC

Full Job Description

Resources for the Future (RFF) is an independent, nonprofit research institution based in Washington, DC. Our staff, from economists and other researchers to communications, fundraising, and administrative professionals, work each day to make RFF the most widely trusted source of research insights and policy solutions leading to a healthy environment and a thriving economy.

RFF operates according to four core values:

  • Balance: RFF focuses on improving both environmental and economic outcomes.
  • Independence: RFF is nonpartisan and its research is nonproprietary and publicly available.
  • Rigor: RFF adheres to the highest scientific and professional standards.
  • Results: RFF’s work leads to better decisions.

Role Description

Reporting to and partnering with the President and CEO, The Vice President (VP) for Research and Policy Engagement provides strategic leadership and management of the research and policy engagement program at Resources for the Future (RFF). The program is an essential component of RFF’s mission to improve environmental, energy, and natural resource decisions through impartial economic research and policy engagement and RFF’s commitment to being the most widely trusted source of research insights and policy solutions leading to a healthy environment and a thriving economy.

The Vice President is responsible for managing and is supported by a growing Research and Policy Engagement team. Of note, RFF recently created an Associate Vice President for Research and Policy engagement role, which will be one of the Vice President’s first critical hires.

The Vice President for Research and Policy Engagement plays a key role in formulating and implementing RFF’s strategic priorities in these areas and acts as a catalyst for new ideas and initiatives that strengthen the institution, increase its impact, and integrate research programs, communications, and fundraising.

  • Produce high quality research products—that are path breaking, practical and responsive to important decisions being made in the public and private sectors—through hiring and management of a diverse, high-skilled and collaborative staff.
  • Expand RFF’s capacity (financial, managerial and intellectual) for strategic, coordinated and focused action through a commitment to priority setting, identification of core research areas, and an emphasis on impactful initiatives. Ensure integration, coordination, and positive collaboration with related communications and development operations.
  • Build a financially sustainable and thriving research and policy engagement program through strategic deployment of unrestricted funds, effective acquisition of restricted funds, and active participation in the cultivation and stewardship of partners, supporters, and donors.

Specific responsibilities of the Vice President for Research and Policy Engagement include:

Research Strategy, Leadership, and Management

  • Engage externally as a thought leader on RFF’s core issues, serving as a connection point for informing RFF’s agenda and communicating RFF’s research. Implement approaches to enhance RFF’s leadership role in identifying critical and emerging issues.
  • Work with researchers at RFF to develop strategies and mechanisms that strengthen RFF’s ability to proactively maximize the impact of its work, through rigorous and practically impactful research on and engagement in relevant decision processes and deliberations in the public and private sectors.
  • Work with researchers to identify and develop new programmatic initiatives and support efforts to build and maintain these and existing research efforts at a world-class level of quality.
  • Provide leadership on fundraising, working with individual researchers, research program staff, and Development staff and in collaboration with government, foundations, corporations, multilateral organizations, and individuals.
  • Oversee the program budget and along with other members of the executive leadership team, institution-wide financial priority setting.
  • In collaboration with other members of the executive team, ensure the integration and coordination of RFF’s research with its communications and development operations, with the goal of maximizing the impact and financial sustainability of RFF’s programs. Work with RFF research and communications staff to identify opportunities for RFF to place its research into action and act as a convener for discussion of important policy issues.
  • Expand RFF’s ability to leverage its position as a Washington-based center of research related to environmental, energy, and resource issues, by strengthening and identifying new opportunities to develop networks and partnerships with universities, think tanks, and other organizations. Work with RFF researchers to evaluate current practices and develop systems/mechanisms to identify opportunities for collaborative research with other institutions.
  • In collaboration with other members of the executive team, provide briefing materials for and design the research and policy engagement components of Board meetings.

Research Talent Management

  • Oversee research and policy engagement program staff and ensure the effective and efficient operation of research personnel management systems.
  • Ensure that the organizational culture, systems, and structure of RFF’s programs and associated researchers maintain intellectual rigor and are strategically focused on high-priority areas of public and private decision-making.
  • Provide managerial leadership in an organization that prizes independent creative scholarship. Exhibit a leadership style that is open and fluid, empowers staff through active communication and collaboration, and promotes teamwork.
  • Develop, sustain, and evolve a set of full-time, part-time, and affiliated research positions and career paths that enable the recruitment, retention, and advancement of a staff with the diverse set of skills needed to both conduct high-quality research on consequential issues and drive that research to impact. These positions currently include Senior Fellows, Fellows, Visiting Fellows, University Fellows, Postdoctoral Fellows, Senior Advisors, Research Associates, and Research Analysts.
  • Foster an environment of achievement, identifying strengths in individual staff members and encouraging the application of those strengths to the mission of RFF. Create and maintain a creative and flexible research work environment that sustains individual researchers, supports innovators, and encourages productive collaboration and strategically-driven research impact at the institutional level.
  • Implement existing and develop new means to effectively hire and integrate new staff to expand RFF’s research capacity and implement key projects and initiatives. With support from human resources, oversee the hiring, performance review, compensation, and promotion processes for research staff and other program staff at all levels to attract and retain high quality talent. Ensure staff accountability for excellence through clearly-defined and measurable goals.
  • Ensure a framework of mentoring and professional development is in place to advance and retain key research and research support personnel

The ideal candidate will be a person of stature and recognized authority in environmental and/or resource economics, deeply respected for his/her intellectual contributions to the field, independence of thought, and integrity of character. S/he will be credible across the nexus of research, policy, and implementation and will demonstrate not only intellectual curiosity and rigor, but also an understanding of how to bridge research with policy engagement and impact.

We seek an individual with a highly developed intellect, superior analytical and conceptual thinking ability, a deep respect for the importance and validity of scholarly research and, ideally, an impressive and visible body of work. S/he will be an inspiring, inclusive and generous leader committed to an inclusive and collaborative work environment, and will have the intellectual self-confidence to let the program flourish while containing a diversity of views.

In addition, the Vice President must be an able and disciplined manager capable of steering the program towards maintaining its strategic focus, delivering on its commitments, and expending its financial and other resources efficiently. Above all, s/he must be able to direct, promote and safeguard RFF’s reputation for integrity, impartiality and impactful, evidence-based research.

Personal and professional competencies/experience requirements:

Intellectual Leadership and Passion for the Mission

  • An advanced degree in the social sciences is preferred, with a PhD in economics or closely related discipline and a distinguished record of research desirable. An advanced degree in the natural sciences with experience in policy and a desire to work with economists and other social scientists is also acceptable.
  • Respected expert, with substantial knowledge and network related to environmental, energy, and resource issues.
  • Understanding of domestic and international policy and politics, with a demonstrated ability to engage critical decision makers in constructive dialogue.
  • A personal track record of persuasive engagement of external stakeholders; experience of creating and managing sensitive, strategic relationships.
  • Interest in working with the President of RFF to develop and execute strategy on an organizational level and to lead through change.

Management of Teams and Resources

  • Ability to translate overarching strategy and vision into executable plans for the team; can act as a catalyst with vision, energy and focus; anticipates issues and opportunities and encourages the development of strategies and initiatives to address them.
  • Maintains a clear focus on goals; has the capacity to prioritize effectively and deliver on commitments.
  • Welcomes the managerial commitments of the role and is committed to a culture of collaboration, transparency, excellence and accountability.
  • Confident and experienced organizational and team leader; a “player-coach” able to foster a culture of collaboration, mutual respect and teamwork. A skilled and proactive manager who is thoughtful and decisive in her or his actions.
  • Ability to work collaboratively with a group of diverse and complex stakeholders in the development and articulation of a strategy for RFF’s research agenda.
  • Must be able to hire, engage and manage a high performing internal team, as well as external partners and advisors.

Building Relationships and Using Influence

  • Proven experience as a relationship builder with a strong high-level network across sectors.
  • Excellent public speaker. Highly articulate; makes arguments in a clear and compelling manner and is able to motivate others to pursue common goals.
  • A proven convener, mediator, and negotiator who readily connects with others and can build trust to move forward an agenda. Has the presence and gravitas to convene and engage diverse constituencies in a common dialogue.
  • Culturally astute and aware. Has a true appreciation of the issues and cultural contexts facing policy makers in various cultural and political settings.
  • Diplomacy; flexibility; warmth; drive, passion and determination; cultural sensitivity and a commitment to inclusion and diversity.

Resource Development

  • An interest and ability to actively fundraise with successful track record.
  • Embraces the role of “Chief Fundraiser” for RFF’s research and policy engagement work.
  • Able and willing to engage with a diverse group of donors including government, foundations, corporations, multilateral organizations, and/or individuals.

Interpersonal Acumen and Character

  • A thinker and a doer who effectively implements change and resolves conflicts.
  • A powerful intellect. Has strong analytical and conceptual skills. Can identify and understand the impact and implications of new information and events. Quickly grasps the essentials in complex situations.
  • A convener and bridge-builder able to bring different parties together in constructive dialogue.
  • A high degree of emotional intelligence and excellent interpersonal skills. Attentive and responsive listener demonstrating genuine interest for diverse views and opinions.
  • Has excellent judgment; makes decisions that fairly balance a variety of factors and points of view; navigates confidently in ambiguous situations.
  • Rightfully perceived as genuine and trustworthy. Has integrity and lives by the highest ethical standards.
  • Confidence, maturity. Has a strong, healthy ego and the humility to admit failures and identify learnings gained from them.

Russell Reynolds Associates has been exclusively retained for this search. Prospective candidates are invited to reach out directly to our search consultants at ResourcesfortheFuture@russellreynolds.com with a CV and statement of interest.

Job posted: 2021-03-17