Senior Program Officer, Leadership for Better Health


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 focused on developing and promoting innovations in health and healthcare to improve the lives of millions. In partnership with others, we are working toward a nation that is rooted in equity, compassion, and respect. A nation that provides everyone in America a fair and just opportunity to thrive, no matter who they are, where they live, or how much money they have. This requires addressing many harmful obstacles to well-being, including poverty, powerlessness, and discrimination.

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.

The Opportunity

Senior program officers are professional staff responsible for developing, implementing, and managing the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s initiatives to improve health and health care. Their primary responsibilities include providing intellectual and organizational leadership in designing and implementing new initiatives; evaluating proposals; monitoring programs and grants; learning from program investments and activities; providing mentorship in the development of junior staff; and creating impact through dissemination of knowledge.

Reporting directly to the managing director of the Leadership for Better Health (LBH) theme, the senior program officer (SPO) will play a critical role in LBH’s efforts to develop the capacities of individuals, groups, networks, and organizations for systems change. Specifically, the SPO will work to advance grassroots and community-based leaders and their organizations, communities, and networks.  

As with staff at all levels of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, senior program officers are expected to demonstrate a passionate commitment to equity and to RWJF’s mission and Guiding Principles.

LBH is one of the four major focus areas at RWJF. Its goal is to support leaders in every community to work collectively and inclusively to ensure that everyone has a fair and just opportunity for health and well-being. Recently, RWJF has pivoted to focus on addressing structural racism and intersectionality and their impact on health. Structural racism produces a complex set of barriers that undermines opportunities for health and well-being for impacted individuals and communities.

LBH makes investments in health and healthcare practitioners, academics, community organizers, as well as other change makers in diverse sectors such as housing, transportation, environment, education, business and policy sectors. With the shift to dismantling structural racism, LBH has been asking itself, “What is the leadership needed to address structural racism?” LBH invests to strengthen the leadership needed to address structural racism, through deep equity, systems change, and collective leadership approaches. Specifically, LBH seeks, through individual and collective leadership approaches, to support changes in the conditions, narratives, systems, and policies that address structural racism. Leadership support and development is needed at all levels—the individual, within institutions, networks, and communities to advance health equity.

As LBH moves forward with recentering our work on leadership to address structural racism to advance health equity, we want to be guided by a comprehensive Theory of Change, which we plan to launch in February 2022.

Minimum Requirements

  • Demonstrated experience and thought leadership in the area of grassroots or community-based leadership, systems change, network development, and/or deep equity.
  • Have a robust network of individuals and organizations in the fields of health equity and/or social justice.
  • Strong track record of collaborative program implementation and strategy development.
  • An external network of partners (individuals and organizations) and demonstrated capacity and commitment to mentorship.
  • Recognized in the fields of leadership development, deep equity, network development, or collaborative systems change.
  • Strong written and verbal skills; demonstrated persuasive and respectful presentation skills for communications with internal leadership, external high-level stakeholders, and people from the communities we are working to reach—on a range of complex issues.
  • Comfort with using social networking tools to further RWJF’s work.
  • Familiarity with, but not necessarily a professional background in, philanthropy and philanthropic processes.
  • Ability to travel; including applicant and grantee site visits and representing the Foundation at outside meetings.
  • Ability to provide mentorship/guidance to encourage the development of staff.
  • Education and experience equivalent to an advanced degree (masters) and six (6) or more years of relevant experience.
  • All senior program officers at the Foundation are expected to have the following professional and personal qualities, skills, and characteristics:

o   Commitment to Equity. You have a history of fostering inclusive environments, engaging diverse voices, and are able to consider underlying inequities, structural drivers, privilege, and power dynamics in your work.

o   Connective Thinking. You excel at creatively exploring problems, issues, and opportunities. You are a lateral thinker who is able to translate ideas from different spaces, make connections between seemingly disparate ideas, and see how they fit within a broader whole.

o   Curiosity and a Rapid Learning Curve. You are intellectually curious and able to dive into new spaces and new networks. You like to explore different, disparate ideas and can swiftly make sense of complex issues.

o   Systems Thinking. You are able to identify leverage points and assess how new ideas have the potential to influence or change a system. You are comfortable with experimentation and risk-taking and are able to find and refine the truly transformative “nugget” in an idea—even if others don’t see it yet.

o   Excellent Networking Skills. You are a relational person and are able to build robust networks that allow you to cast a wide net, make connections, and see opportunities and challenges from diverse perspectives.

o   Open-mindedness, Additive Thinking, and Humility. You are open-minded and willing to explore ideas, whether they are yours or not. You are an additive and generative thinker who builds on the ideas of others. And you are self-aware and recognize a grantmaker’s role in supporting the work of their grantees.

o   Able to Drive and Communicate. You are able to work both independently and collaboratively and to manage multiple priorities effectively. You spend your time generously and judiciously. You consistently deliver on project goals and outcomes.

o   Collaborative Approach. People enjoy working with you and you enjoy working with others. You are able to work effectively with others and work with efficiency, enthusiasm, and diplomacy—both individually and as part of a team. You build productive and reciprocal relationships with a diverse group of colleagues, grantees, consultants, and others.

Physical Requirements/Working Conditions

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

How to Apply

Submit your resume and letter of interest.

Application deadline date: March 6, 2022


RWJF is an Equal Opportunity Employer.

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.

Learn More About Our Work

Areas of Focus