Director of Applied Research

Director of Applied Research

Director of Applied Research 150 150 Jessica Shatzel
Prosperity Now
November 1, 2021
Job Type


About Prosperity Now

Prosperity Now works to build a fair and just economy free from structural inequity and racism -- an economy where everyone can fully participate across their life cycles and low-income individuals and families can prosper without exception. Founded as CFED in 1979, Prosperity Now recently underwent a strategic planning process to refresh its vision, brand, position, and programming model.


The Director of Applied Research leads the strategic development and execution of the applied research function at Prosperity Now, which seeks to identify and better understand both the barriers to prosperity in LMI communities and communities of color and the promising solutions and strategies to help households overcome those barriers. Reporting to the Interim VP of Policy, the Director serves as the spokesperson of applied research for Prosperity Now both internally and externally. The work of the team includes:

  • Producing case-making data and data analysis—namely our flagship Prosperity Now Scorecard to illustrate conditions within communities and about the racial wealth divide;
  • Conducting qualitative and research-based human center design projects to ensure that solutions are created with the experiences and voices of LMI and communities of color in mind;
  • Supporting the development and measurement of promising practices and effective solutions for Prosperity Now’s program and policy teams and field of practice



  • Participate in the implementation of organizational initiatives and strategies
  • Direct and oversee the business of the team’s portfolio through effective leadership and management of strong internal and external relationships, quality control, marketing, and responsible fiscal management
  • Participate in the development of team strategic plans, goals, and objectives, ensuring alignment with those of the organization
  • Ensure strong and open communications channels between all team members and across the organization, including the appropriate dissemination of program information to staff as needed

 Team Management and Development

  • Provide support and guidance to team members, including communicating team goals and emphasizing the organization’s guiding principles
  • Develop and implement a system to evaluate and address the skill, experience and professional development needs of team members
  • Ensure and promote the development of team succession planning through coaching, training, and leadership development
  • Work with team members to develop objective performance measurements across all projects to ensure consistent, high-quality goal setting and fair evaluation metrics
  • Instill a sense of accountability among team members by modeling close oversight of individual and organizational performance standards
  • Actively seek to resolve any team concerns while adhering to the organizational policies and standards of behavior
  • Oversee the recruitment, hiring, training and orientation of all department team members
  • Conduct team meetings to update members on best practices and continuing expectations

Portfolio Management

  • With the Chief Strategy & Innovation Officer, set the strategic direction for the applied research work at Prosperity Now and ensure that it advances the mission of the organization
  • Oversee execution of applied research strategy, ensuring the integrity and quality of research is maintained and projects conform to timelines and budgets
  • Serve as the senior technical expert on research methodologies, research and evaluation design on projects across Prosperity Now, and with outside experts and consultants as needed
  • Conduct research and analysis that support new and existing projects as needed and coordinate all the work of the Applied Research Team across the organization
  • Supervise the production, launch, and rollout of the Prosperity Now Scorecard and all its various aspects across the organization and all relevant teams
  • Provide expertise on human insights research methods, and project design and execution
  • Author and edit research publications, briefs and blogs that communicate project findings, insights and implications
  • Ensure that the applied research work incorporates a racial equity lens and is coordinated with the larger work of the organization on this topic
  • Expand the team’s work by connecting it to broader efforts in the field and other emerging opportunities
  • Establish and maintain strategic relationships with external stakeholders to identify opportunities for collaboration, growing the team’s capabilities, and engagement on current issues impacting the field
  • Work with Prosperity Now’s Development Team and the interim Vice President of Policy to identify new opportunities, steward funders, and create grant proposals
  • As a member of the Senior Management team, represent the team at internal leadership meetings; provide input and advice on organizational policies and priorities; effectively communicate organizational policies and priorities to the team; build team culture and connection to organization-wide strategy and mission
  • Supervise a team of staff, fostering diversity, equity, inclusion, and trust within team spirit; providing direction and mentorship, and supporting team members’ professional development
  • Serve as a representative of Prosperity Now with the media or at conferences as relates to applied research
  • Speak at meetings, convenings, conferences, and workshops to a broad range of technical and non-technical audiences
  • Stay on top of all the latest development, research and work in the financial health field
  • Other duties as assigned


  • Advanced degree (MA, MPP, PhD) in economics, political science, sociology, public policy, behavioral or decision science or similar social science fields preferred
  • Minimum of ten years of related work experience, demonstrating experience with quantitative and qualitative research methods and ability to understand how research questions affect programmatic outcomes along with ability to articulate the impact of research
  • Experience interacting with community-based organizations and social service providers, including nonprofit organizations of color, to implement or interpret research and design research questions preferred
  • Knowledge of human-centered design
  • Commitment to diversity and inclusion as key strategies toward broad-based institutional excellence, representing a range of perspectives, thought, and actions
  • Expertise with using Excel and STATA or other statistical analysis software required
  • Experience effectively managing projects, budgets and prioritizing work to meet deadlines required
  • Experience with and commitment to effectively managing and developing people to meet organizational goals and support inclusion and professional development required
  • Familiarity with asset building, savings, racial wealth equity, and consumer finance fields, preferred
  • Ability to communicate well interpersonally using tact and diplomacy to effectively manage relationships
  • Demonstrated proficiency in writing, editing, and presenting to address, inform, and influence a wide variety of audiences
  • Ability to thrive in a collaborative work setting; sharing and fostering open discussion of ideas and collaborate around action plans

Supervisory Responsibility

Directly supervises the Associate Director and other Research staff as needed.

Work Environment

This job operates in a professional office environment. This role routinely uses standard office equipment.

Physical Demands

The physical demands described here are representative of those that must be met by an employee to successfully perform the essential functions of this job. This job description is subject to change at any time.

While performing the duties of this job, the employee is regularly required to communicate and exchange information. The employee frequently is required to remain in a stationary position and constantly operate computer and other office productivity machinery.


Ability to travel occasionally


Prosperity Now is proud to be an Equal Opportunity Employer.  We believe that diversity of background and perspective are strengths, and seek to continue to grow a diverse, highly committed, skilled, and collaborative staff. We encourage candidates from various backgrounds to apply.


How To Apply