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Position Available: Communications Strategist and Manager

Washington, DC

Position Title:  Communications Strategist and Manager 
Program/Dept: Ascend
Position Location:  Washington, D.C.
Reports To:  Managing Director
FLSA Status:  Exempt

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, DC. Its mission is to foster leadership based on enduring values and to provide a nonpartisan venue for dealing with critical issues. The Institute has campuses in Aspen, Colorado, and on the Wye River on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. It also maintains offices in New York City and has an international network of partners.

Ascend at the Aspen Institute is the national hub for breakthrough ideas and collaborations that move vulnerable children and their parents toward educational success and economic security. Ascend takes a two-generation approach – focusing on children and their parents together – and we bring a gender and racial equity lens to our analysis.  We believe that education, economic assets,, social capital, and health and well-being are the core elements that create an intergenerational cycle of opportunity. Ascend is one of the leading Aspen institute policy new model of social innovation, we are elevating a portfolio of solutions; building a network of diverse leaders; and leveraging resources for better outcomes for children, parents, and families.

Position Description: 

The Communications Strategist and Manager is a senior position that will focus on identifying, synthesizing and disseminating multi-sector policy and practice solutions that advance child and family economic, educational and health well-being and mobility. In this position, the Manager will work with Ascend Network Partners and Fellows as well as additional experts, thought leaders, innovators and philanthropic partners to provide strategic communications that highlight relevant data, best and promising practices, and timely opportunities and barriers at the state and federal level. Content areas include early childhood development, human services, postsecondary education, workforce development, economic supports and assets, and health and well-being. S/he will be responsible for leading the communications strategy and execution, including web and social media strategy as well as communications to target audiences in policy, practice, research and philanthropy. S/he will be responsible for building and/or maintaining relationships with media outlets to educate journalists on issues facing families with low incomes and Ascend’s work. S/he will liaise closely with Aspen Institute communications team to leverage the Institute’s communications platforms, promote Ascend’s work and contribute to the Aspen Institute’s overall goal to address inequality and advance opportunity.

The Communications Strategist will be a member of the project management team that will implement a new national “policy learning and innovation community” on parent and family work supports.  This three-year initiative will include a regranting and partnership process, policy and message development, and strategic communications.

The ideal candidates must possess content expertise in the area of family economic security and well-being and have a proven ability to take initiative, leverage external expertise and partnerships, cultivate strong relationships and provide strategic analysis. Candidates must have a keen understanding of the interplay of policy, practice and research and the needs of media, policymakers and other thought leaders.

This position is well suited for a mission driven, dynamic, high energy and highly productive professional with good judgment and instincts. Ideal candidates should be intellectually curious with strong analytical skills. S/he must be gifted at working with diverse experts and members of the Ascend Network to identify and amplify innovations, solutions and lessons learned in a way that will drive positive change for families with low incomes. Candidate must also possess strong interpersonal skills that foster strong connections with senior practice and policy leaders in the field.

The Communications Strategist and Manager will advance Ascend’s goals using all facets of public outreach, social media, policy efforts, external communications, event planning and execution, and media relations. Successful candidates will bring outstanding writing and analytical skills, and experience blending policy and communications strategies. Working closely with leadership, s/he will be a critical leader in developing and advancing Ascend’s agenda.

Ascend seeks a passionate and dynamic self-starter with creative ideas and strong attention to detail to both strengthen and support policy and communication efforts and to help launch important new areas of additional work over time.

This position reports to the Managing Director and also will work close with Vice President/Executive Director strategy development.  S/he will join a high-performing team of ten. Qualified candidates must bring superior commitment and skills in policy advancement, strategic thinking, writing, planning and teamwork. Ascend operates with a core set of values – agility, boldness, creativity, determination, and excellence. Candidates should possess both commitment and experience that are reflective of Ascend’s core values and its Strategic Framework.


  • Work closely with the Managing Director and Assistant Director for Leadership and Design in all aspects of communications and policy work
  • Conceptualize, implement and assess annual communications goals and strategies
  • Develop and disseminate timely, high-quality written materials such as memos and briefing packets, reports, news releases, press kit documents, fact sheets, bios, and related correspondence that are of interest to policymakers, practitioners and philanthropy at state and national levels
  • Support Vice President/ED in public speaking, strategic presentations, op-eds as needed.
  • Build and cultivate relationships with key local, state and federal leaders
  • Monitor local, state and federal policies, regulations and legislation related to two-generation approaches and family economic mobility 
  • Support the develop of policy playbooks and training tools for state and local leaders
  • Build and maintain a media database
  • Manage, maintain, and disseminate media/“influence” placements (articles, blogs, etc.)
  • Create, respond and manage media calls and interviews and to general public inquiries
  • Conceptualize, manage production and disseminate Ascend products, including policy reports, info and factsheets, press kits and other written materials
  • Perform research (fact checking, media information, etc.)
  • Edit photos and video
  • Manage and/or support the planning and execution of events
  • Coordinate with Aspen Institute communications team to leverage the Institute’s platforms, including the Aspen Institute Magazine, Journal of Ideas, 5 Best Ideas of the Day, public programs, and other opportunities

Website and Social Media Responsibilities:

  • Key strategist for social media efforts
  • Maintain and manage content on various social media and online platforms, including Facebook and Twitter, with the support of the program coordinator for communications
  • Maintain Ascend website, soliciting blogs and updated content from relevant team members and Network Partners
  • Coordinate with Aspen Institute communications team on social media strategy to complement and increase the impact of existing outreach
  • Draft and disseminate monthly e-newsletter

Shared Responsibilities:

  • Actively participate in program design and strategic planning for Ascend
  • Contribute to effective engagement and stewardship of current and potential philanthropic partners
  • Contribute to team-wide learning and knowledge management, including drawing on and contributing to other Aspen Institute programs and resources
  • Supervise staff and consultants on projects related to communications
  • Identify opportunities to improve the quality and efficiency of the program


  • College Degree and 5+ years integrated communications experience, clear results and advancement required.  Preferred Master’s degree in journalism, public policy, public relations, communications or issue and/or political campaign and demonstrated expertise conceptualizing and advancing policy efforts at the local, state and federal level
  • Outstanding writing skills with a focus on detail and accuracy
  • Knowledge of innovative strategies and tools for media relations
  • Social media and web savvy and experience working with wide range of social media tools
  • Entrepreneurial acumen and drive, ability to see and respond to opportunities to strengthen and/or course correct program plan to increase impact
  • Ability to work autonomously and with a small team
  • Attention to detail and ability to manage multiple tasks
  • Awareness, knowledge, sensitivity and ability to build relationships with people of all backgrounds and communications skills
  • Proven experience in systems thinking, innovation, and/or best practice models
  • Graphic design skills and website development and maintenance a plus
  • Excellent computer skills, particularly Microsoft Office Suite, PPT, Salesforce, and Internet research
  • Strong organizational skills; the ability to plan and follow through with staff and a variety of constituencies in consistent, high-quality manner
  • Thrives in high performing environment and passion for making a difference in the lives of low-income families
  • Good interpersonal skills, including a desire to learn
  • Eager to travel to and engage with Ascend partners and innovators in the field
  • A sense of humor and willingness to be flexible

To Apply:

Visit our career page at https://aspeninstitute.silkroad.com/ and follow the instructions for uploading your cover letter and resume.  All interested applicants must submit a cover letter, resume and writing sample.  Cover letter should highlight applicant’s specific qualifications for this position. Applications without cover letter and writing sample may not receive full consideration.
The Aspen Institute is an Equal Opportunity Employer and complies with all District and federal laws.