Program Director (City Innovation Ecosystems)

National League of Cities

Washington, DC, US

Position Summary

NLC’s Center for City Solutions elevates successful city practices and incubates innovation—through research, technical assistance, and leadership education—expanding the capacity of city leaders to create strong local economies, vibrant neighborhoods, world-class infrastructure, and a sustainable environment. The Program Director, City Innovation Ecosystems works with mayors and other city leaders to foster regional innovation ecosystems and improve the environment for starting and scaling new businesses with primary emphasis on the technology sector.

A particular focus of the job will be to spread innovation and technology to new regions—the so- called “Rise of the Rest”—upon which robust, sustained and equitable economic development is likely to increasingly depend. The Program Director will be a systems-level thinker with an entrepreneurial mindset that leads the development of a new NLC Commitments Model to encourage, support and publicize specific public and private action commitments by NLC members and their local or regional partners.

The Program Director will establish and engage a new community of practice of Chief Innovation/Technology Officers and work collaboratively with colleagues overseeing NLC’s existing Mayors’ Education Policy Advisors Network—to elevate city leadership within the Commitments Model framework. The development of the Commitments Model will also represent a major element of a 2018 focus by NLC’s President on the future of work. The ultimate goal of the initiative will be to create and share innovative models that have the potential to strengthen city innovation ecosystems. The Program Director, City Innovation Ecosystems reports to the Senior Executive and Director, Center for City Solutions.

Essential Duties and Responsibilities

Reasonable accommodations may be made to enable individuals with disabilities to perform the essential functions.

  1. Direct and implement a new technical assistance, research, education and communications program focused on fostering regional innovation ecosystems that start and scale new businesses.
  2. Ability to enter into an organization and develop a comprehensive strategy to rapidly scale a new area that cuts across relevant areas of NLC programmatic work.
  3. Research, develop and implement a new NLC Commitments Model, beginning with an internal audit of key program areas in the Center for City Solutions (including the Rose Center for Public Leadership, Urban Innovation, NLC University, Sustainable Cities Institute, and the full range of research portfolio issue areas) as well as related work within NLC’s Institute for Youth, Education, and Families (YEF Institute) and Race, Equity, and Leadership (REAL) initiative to identify promising elements of an effective NLC Commitments Model.
  4. In furtherance of developing the Commitments Model, work with NLC Center Directors to identify and leverage existing and potential partnerships, and collaborate with senior staff in the YEF Institute and REAL in order to obtain an NLC-wide view of best strategies.
  5. Develop and cultivate a cohort of Chief Innovation/Technology Officers to join a community of practice that will help effectively surface mayoral-driven ideas on how to prepare cities for the future of work by creating and supporting new models that further city innovation ecosystems.
  6. Work collaboratively with internal grant partners within the YEF Institute by setting up and leading regular OneNLC partner check-in meetings and developing cross-cutting programmatic outputs that are surfaced through parallel communities of practice.
  7. Provide thought leadership and research support on the development of innovation and technology ecosystems in cities. Conduct original research and data analysis and produce reports and tool-kits for city policy makers. Publish in internal and external media publications, present at relevant conferences and represent NLC at partner meetings.
  8. Deliver effective presentations and communicate in a clear and concise, non-technical, approachable manner about technical issues. Represent NLC and the Center at events and with other key stakeholder audiences. Plan and implement workshops and meetings at NLC annual conferences.
  9. Develop long-term fundraising strategy for the program and execute outreach and development efforts to grow and further develop this program area. In coordination with NLC’s Strategic Partnerships team, cultivate executive-level relationships with philanthropic organizations, corporate partners, and individual donors of interest.
  10. Lead overall grants management for this effort, working in close partnership with representatives of the Schmidt Family Foundation. Ensure full compliance with all grant agreements, including preparation and submission of grant reports, and maintain regular communication with the Foundation’s designated program officer.
  11. In collaboration with the Senior Executive, lead the alignment of short- and long-term strategic planning processes allied with this effort, with holistic financial impact and outcomes for the Center, and NLC as a whole.

Supervisory Responsibility

This position has no direct supervisory responsibilities, but does serve as a coach and mentor for other positions in the department.

Work Environment

This job operates in a professional office environment. This role routinely uses standard office equipment such as laptop computers and smartphones.

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.

While performing the duties of this job, the employee is regularly required to talk or hear. This is largely a sedentary role; however, some filing is required. This would require the ability to lift files, open filing cabinets and bend or stand on a stool as necessary.

Expected Hours of Work

This is a full-time position. Days and hours of work are Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. This position regularly requires long hours and occasional weekend work as job duties demand.


Travel is primarily local during the business day, although some out-of-area travel may be expected.

Preferred Education and Experience

1.Bachelor’s degree in political science, public policy, public administration, economics, communications, business administration, philosophy or related field; Master’s degree preferred.

2.Minimum of six years of relevant experience; or a combination of education and experience that provides the required knowledge, skills, and abilities.

3.Background, knowledge, and demonstrated interest in cities and urban affairs.

4.Strong verbal communication and writing skills, including proficiency in proofing and editing documents.

5.Strong computer skills required, including intermediate and advanced skills in MS Office (Word, Excel and PowerPoint).

6.Excellent organizational and time management skills, including a demonstrated ability to manage changing priorities.

  1. Strong attention to detail, and demonstrated research skills, including ability to gather and compile information so it can be synthesized and absorbed by internal and external audiences.
  2. Enjoy a fast-paced environment, be anticipatory, have an eye for detail, and a thirst for knowledge.
  3. Ability to interact effectively with members, representatives of other organizations, elected officials, consultants and all levels of NLC staff.


AAP/EEO Statement

National League of Cities is committed to creating a diverse environment and is proud to be an equal opportunity workplace and affirmative action employer. All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, religion, gender, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, national origin, genetics, disability, age, or veteran status.


National League of cities is also committed to compliance with all fair employment practices regarding citizenship and immigration status.

If you are a qualified individual with a disability or a disabled veteran, you may request a reasonable accommodation


Other Duties

Please note this job description is not designed to cover or contain a comprehensive listing of activities, duties or responsibilities that are required of the employee for this job. Duties, responsibilities and activities may change at any time with or without notice.


Physical Requirements

This is largely a sedentary position that requires the ability to speak, hear, see, and lift small objects up to 20 lbs. Requires the ability to travel locally, regionally and nationally for 3-4 trips annually.