Vice President and Director, Understanding California’s Future

Location: San Francisco and Sacramento
Job #: 202102
# of openings: 1


Vice President and Director, Understanding California’s Future

The Vice President and Director, Understanding California’s Future will lead and contribute to a policy research focus on key demographic, economic, environmental, and political trends. As one of the three pillars of PPIC’s newly created 2025 strategic plan, Understanding California’s Future has become a central component of the Institute’s comprehensive approach to public policy research and engagement. This position reports to the President and CEO and includes membership on the executive team.

The Vice President and Director, Understanding California’s Future – a recognized scholar and policy expert with a track record of effective research management – will provide vision and direction for a wide variety of activities. With a strong record of compelling work in a relevant area and the ability to provide leadership of projects and mentorship on related policy topics, the Vice President and Director will be essential to growing this dynamic area and serving as a resource for key decision makers and stakeholders. Given the unprecedented challenges of the COVID-19 crisis, timely research under the leadership of the Vice President and Director will shape policy decisions in California for years to come.

The Vice President and Director will lead the research and engagement that analyzes key trends, anticipates major challenges, assesses the existence and consequences of income and racial/ethnic disparities, and identifies practical policy solutions. The central questions include:

  • Demographic. How does California harness the power, and address the complexities, of its diverse population? Topics include aging, growth, housing, immigration, migration, race/ethnicity, region
  • Economic. How can California maintain robust growth and provide greater access to the California Dream? Topics include employment, globalization, income
  • Environmental. How does California provide leadership and move forward with realistic approaches to a changing climate? Topics include climate change, drought, floods
  • Political. How do Californians engage with their shifting political landscape? Topics include elections, initiatives, partisanship, political representation, voter engagement

Understanding California’s Future has strong potential for broad engagement and innovative outreach efforts. In addition, it provides exciting new partnership possibilities throughout the Institute, not only across research areas, but also with communications and government affairs. New and enhanced activity in all of these areas has great potential for lifting up PPIC’s work and extending its influence with emerging audiences around the state. The Institute is seeking an endowed chair for the Vice President and Director.  

PPIC values the wide variety of backgrounds and experiences of its staff, and key elements in the consideration of qualified candidates include excellence; diversity of talents, backgrounds, and viewpoints; and a strong fit with the Institute’s mission, values, and goals.


  • Leadership and vision for research and engagement efforts of Understanding California’s Future
  • Collaborate with the President and CEO and executive team on organizational planning, policies, procedures and implementation of key strategies to reach the goals of the strategic plan
  • Manage and mentor diverse research staff and encourage and facilitate collaborative work
  • Secure and manage resources for staff, including direct and indirect staff reporting relationships
  • Work cross sectionally, as required or requested, with other Institute research areas
  • Provide appropriate and periodic updates to the President and CEO and Executive Team; communicate effectively and collaborate with colleagues in other departments and offices
  • Work with PPIC’s Director of Development and the President and CEO on identifying, cultivating, and soliciting funders to support projects in the focus areas of Understanding California’s Future
  • Work closely with PPIC’s Communications and Government affairs staff to plan and execute strategies to engage external audiences with the research of Understanding California’s Future
  • Represent PPIC and the focus areas of Understanding California’s Future to external audiences throughout the state and region as well as nationally when appropriate
  • Responsibly manage the operating budget for Understanding California’s Future as designated by the President and CEO and CFO


  • Ideally, ten years in senior research management roles, ideally in an independent, nonpartisan, rigorous policy research organization in an academic,  foundation, or nonprofit setting
  • Substantive knowledge of and interest in demography, economics, environmental science, or political science
  • Demonstrated effectiveness in working cross functionally within a complex entity working on multiple subject areas of policy research expertise
  • Demonstrated significant interest in connecting research to policymaking
  • Demonstrated ability to effectively lead and manage and mentor in a teamoriented, collegial, collaborative, diverse, high-performing, and inclusive office environment
  • Background in California policy is an advantage but not required; other state-level or national policy experience that could be translated to the California context will be considered


A graduate degree in a field within the research scope of this position such as demography, economics, environmental studies, political science, public health, public policy, or sociology


The successful professional will have:

  • Excellent research skills and policy analysis capabilities
  • The intelligence, energy, intellectual range and care in judgment that are necessary to be successful in a strategic research leadership role
  • Outstanding analytic skills with the ability to make well-reasoned findings and decisions
  • Strong external policy engagement skills or policymaking experience at the state, federal or local level
  • Social and managerial skills to build a team and motivate staff and collaborate with colleagues
  • Excellent interpersonal skills; able to engender the cooperation and support of staff without direct authority; well developed “soft influence” powers
  • Excellent oral and written communication skills
  • Vision and leadership
  • Well-developed organizational skills and attention to detail; ability to prioritize work effectively and adjust to multiple demands

The successful professional will be:

  • Intellectually curious
  • Comfortable and effective with external outreach; able to inspire funders and supporters
  • A strategic risk taker and self-starter, able to take the initiative in moving research work forward
  • Diplomatic when necessary internally and externally
  • Adaptable, flexible, inclusive, and collaborative with colleagues
  • Appreciative of and adept at working on issues of diversity, equity, and inclusiveness
  • Respectful of PPIC’s history and track record for independent, nonpartisan, high quality research while engendering future success via creativity, innovation, and patience

To apply

We are working with the executive search firm Carlson Beck on this position. To apply for this position, please contact one of these representatives:

            Sally Carlson, Managing Partner

            415.433.2299 (o); 415.203.5259 (c);

            Heidi Holzhauer, Partner

            707.963.1250 (o) / 415.298.6659 (c);

PPIC is committed to excellence through diversity. Our work is rooted in objective, data-driven policy analysis. We welcome and encourage applicants who reflect the full diversity of California. The expertise of our staff members is essential to the success of PPIC’s mission, and we assist career and personal growth through robust support of skill development at all levels of the organization.

Pursuant to the San Francisco Fair Chance Ordinance, we will consider for employment qualified applicants with arrest and conviction records. AA/EEO/Veterans/Disabled employer.

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