Senior Policy Officer, State



The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF; the Foundation), located in Princeton, N.J., is the largest philanthropy in America dedicated solely to health. Since 1972, we have been providing funding, assistance, and research for projects and programs to help people, their families, and their communities be as healthy as possible. RWJF is committed to working alongside others to build a Culture of Health that provides everyone in America a fair and just opportunity for health and well-being. This requires removing obstacles to health, such as poverty, powerlessness, and discrimination, and their harmful consequences.

We take seriously our responsibilities, and we pledge to work in ways that reflect our Guiding Principles. These are rooted in equity and influence everything we do at RWJF. Equity, diversity, inclusion, and collaboration allow our staff’s wide range of experiences, passions, and perspectives to enrich our work and strengthen our ability to address our nation’s most pressing health issues. The Foundation offers a collaborative, collegial, and creative work environment. With a career at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, you will make a difference.

Unit Background

The Policy Unit coordinates the Foundation’s efforts to inform policies at the federal, state, and local levels that focus on dismantling structural racism to achieve health equity. It works in close collaboration with Program themes, Research-Evaluation-Learning, Communications, and the Law Department to develop, execute, and assess the Foundation’s policy-related grantmaking and partnerships. Key activities of the Policy Unit include: monitoring the federal and state policy landscape and sharing insights with Foundation leadership and staff; coordinating and aligning the policy-related grants that are made across the Foundation; designing and executing its own grantmaking strategy focused on advocacy, policy research and analysis, and strategic communications; convening policymakers and policy-influencers to discuss critical social challenges and potential evidence-based solutions; and educating decision-makers about the available evidence to inform policy design, implementation, and enforcement. Much of this work is done through partnerships with external research, advocacy, and communications groups.

Scope of Position

Reporting directly to the vice president, Policy, the senior policy officer, State (the officer) will help to coordinate and shape strategy and grantmaking related to policy advocacy and campaigns at the state level. This work will be done in close collaboration with Policy Unit colleagues and Program staff who work on policy issues.

The officer will join a team of professionals working to make grants, disseminate evidence, and build partnerships to inform health, social, and economic policymaking at the state level. By partnering with key internal and external stakeholders, the officer will ensure that relevant and timely research, nonpartisan study, research and analysis, and advocacy efforts work together to contribute to public discourse on some of the most pressing issues in health and social policy. In addition, the officer will help set a strategic agenda for state-level engagement and policy priorities that are reflective of the Foundation’s focus areas and institutional priorities and work closely with colleagues to tie this work to our federal engagement strategies.

The successful candidate will bring an understanding of health equity, racial equity, structural racism, and the social and economic determinants of health. She/he/they will have deep experience working with advocacy groups, organizing and base-building organizations, policymakers, and state and local leaders on health equity and related policy initiatives. In addition, she/he/they will have a demonstrated ability to work flexibly and articulate goals and paths forward in a collaborative manner, while maintaining the ability to pivot their strategies and tactics to fit evolving institutional priorities. The Foundation values a creative and entrepreneurial spirit, superior emotional intelligence, a healthy sense of humor, and a natural collegiality that fosters a close-knit team.

Staff at all levels at RWJF are expected to demonstrate a passionate commitment to equity and the Foundation’s vision, values, and Guiding Principles.

Essential Job Responsibilities

Consistent with the rules that apply to private foundations:

  • Build out relationships with advocacy and organizing groups and networks effecting change at the state and local levels. Continuously assess the field for the most important established and emerging organizations and networks. Understand how the Foundation funds these networks and identify funding gaps. Work with other funders to ensure these organizations and networks are funded flexibly and with an eye toward long-term capacity and structural change, centering the priorities and solutions of directly impacted communities.
  • Lead the refinement and implementation of a strategy to align RWJF’s state policy investments across the Foundation. Develop a clear agenda for state work that focuses on cross-cutting issue areas, cross-cutting strategies, and in states where Foundation investments could be more effectively coordinated. Ensure collaboration and alignment with state policy priorities and Foundation-wide policy initiatives. In addition, the officer will lead and manage special policy projects that advance recommendations from the Policy Unit’s strategic planning efforts.
  • Collaborate with internal stakeholders to carry out policy priorities. Inform and provide strategic guidance about relevant policy developments and opportunities. Liaise with managing directors of our Program themes; regularly partner with Research-Evaluation-Learning and Communications staff; and consult with Communications, the Law Department, and other relevant resources to consider and mitigate legal and reputational risks. Serve as a key connector between Policy Unit and Program themes, seeking opportunities for synergy, identifying and filling gaps, and sharing best practices and lessons learned.
  • Oversee a portfolio of policy and advocacy-related grantees. Identify potential policy and advocacy partners; assess their alignment with Foundation priorities; evaluate their capacity; manage resulting grants; and assess their performance over time. Direct and inform key state policy grants emerging from Policy Unit and Program themes that leverage RWJF’s investments for maximum impact in creating systemic change. Maintain strong, authentic relationships with grant seekers and grantees, ensuring mutual understanding of the Foundation’s program and policy directions, goals, and expectations.
  • Conceive and facilitate new formal and informal learning opportunities for internal and external audiences. Use allowable public education tools such as briefings, convenings, social media communications, tailored training and development opportunities aimed at specific populations or constituencies, and other innovative approaches to promote information sharing and health equity. Facilitate internal communications to assist colleagues in understanding and evaluating state policy landscapes and opportunities. Represent the Foundation at key state and local policy meetings including relevant events.
  • Recognize and synthesize high-leverage, timely opportunities to inform state and local policymaking and help to mobilize Foundation resources to meet those needs.

Minimum Requirements

  • Demonstrated flexible, multidisciplinary thinking required to address the social and economic determinants of health, structural racism, and the drive to shape and inform work based on the immediate issues and longer-term opportunities found in state and local communities; understanding of the broad social and economic forces that affect the health of communities and families, and shape policy efforts.
  • Demonstrated personal and professional commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion with knowledge of and commitment to the use of policy to promote health equity.
  • Deep knowledge of and fluency with major issues and trends related to health equity and the evolution of policies to advance systems change, counter structural racism, and address the social factors that influence well-being and drive inequities.
  • Significant experience with the policymaking process, particularly policy advocacy, policy campaigns, policy design, and organizing and base-building. Experience working in state advocacy and/or with state advocacy groups and policymakers is desired.
  • A collegial style and demonstrated success working across internal and external teams and inspiring others to work toward shared goals. Successful experience fostering an inclusive environment working as part of a multidisciplinary team and working effectively with persons from diverse cultural, social, and ethnic backgrounds.
  • Creativity and flexibility to think imaginatively about opportunities, to create and respond to novel and innovative approaches to addressing an issue, and to inspire others to work toward achieving team goals.
  • Strong interpersonal and influencing skills and a collaborative, energetic approach. The proven ability to develop productive relationships with colleagues, policymakers, grantees, consultants, funding partners, and others who contribute to policy and program development and management.
  • Strong project and people management skills, including demonstrated ability to think independently and with limited supervision; comfort working in ambiguity, adaptability/flexibility, and the ability to juggle multiple priorities.
  • Impeccable writing, presentation, and oral communication skills. The ability to synthesize complex, interrelated material and focus quickly on the essence of an issue while maintaining clarity on the big picture. Demonstrated persuasive and respectful presentation skills for communications with internal leadership and external high-level stakeholders.
  • Maturity, good judgment, keen analytical and strategy skills, and the ability to think critically, make decisions, and justify recommendations and results based on data and analysis. An ability to drive multilayered conversations to consensus and make decisions in the face of competing priorities.
  • Commitment to the Foundation’s mission and vision and alignment with our values. Demonstrated qualities of honesty, integrity, enthusiasm, and perspective.
  • Minimum of five years of demonstrated experience with policy advocacy and campaigns related to health equity at the state level.
  • Education and/or experience equivalent to an advanced degree (MA/MS) plus six years of relevant experience.
  • The ability and willingness to travel, including for site visits and representing the Foundation at outside meetings.

Physical Requirements/Working Conditions

The officer will perform job duties in a typical business office environment. Specific physical abilities required by this job include operating basic office equipment. She/he/they will be required to attend meetings, potentially both on-site and off-site, via phone or videoconference.

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The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is an equal opportunity employer and strongly encourages applications from people of color, persons with disabilities, women, and LGBTQ+ and other underrepresented applicants.

How to Apply

RWJF has partnered with Search Light Solutions to fill this position.

Please email your resume in confidence to Andrew P. Zalman, Search Light Solutions, A cover letter may be requested later in the process.

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Application Deadline: Noon, Monday, July 26, 2021

(Post Date: June 14, 2021)

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