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Open Philanthropy is looking for a founding Program Officer to lead our global aid policy work.
We hope to create a future in which the United States and other wealthy countries increase the welfare impact of their foreign aid, by increasing levels and/or by allocating existing aid more cost-effectively. We are open to pursuing whatever strategies would most effectively further this goal. You would be responsible for developing our strategy, making grants, and potentially eventually hiring and managing additional team members. Grant-making is expected to start in the range of $20-$30 million per year, with significant room to grow (including in the first year). Compelling impact over time could lead to an annual budget of $50-100 million or more. We expect to commit to this area for roughly five years before doing a deep review, which could result in continuing the program, significant expansion, or exiting the area.
Background on our Global Aid Policy Program
Open Philanthropy currently spends roughly $100 million/year supporting cost-effective direct global health aid. While we think those opportunities set a high bar, we think that a global aid policy program could exceed it in expectation by leveraging the returns to advocacy and the cost-effectiveness of some foreign aid spending. (For example, the PEPFAR program represents ~15% of the U.S. aid budget, excluding military aid, and has plausibly saved tens of millions of life-years since it was created in 2003.) We see two main potential policy goals:
- More aid: the United States spends less than 0.2% of its GDP on official development assistance (ODA) each year and 80% of OECD countries spend less than 0.5%. However, some wealthy countries spend significantly more – many Nordic countries are closer to 1% and the United Kingdom has historically committed to a target of 0.7%. We believe it may be possible to successfully advocate for higher aid levels in the United States or other countries, and we’re interested in funding effective strategies for doing so.
- Better aid: as there is a substantial existing infrastructure devoted to preserving and increasing the scale of development aid, we suspect that pushing for improvements in the effectiveness of existing spending may be more neglected and tractable. That could mean advocating to reallocate funding from less effective to more effective programs, or creating cross-cutting institutions or practices that improve the effectiveness of all kinds of aid spending.
Our engagement in global aid policy so far has been limited, but some areas of potential interest are:
- Political and policy advocacy for new, cost-effective global health programs (e.g., PEPFAR for X).
- Advocacy within OECD countries other than the U.S. that may not have the same degree of policy infrastructure already developed, or may be more ripe for policy change.
- Supporting expansion of high-return investments within existing aid institutions (e.g. USAID DIV).
- Supporting research on the comparative cost-effectiveness of different aid programs and strategies.
- Developing scalable new strategies for increasing high-level political support for aid investments in the U.S. and elsewhere.
However, these are only preliminary interests. We expect that you would set the program’s direction based on your own analysis of the potential returns to different strategies. We will need you to develop both clear policy goals and a convincing theory of how to drive policy change on this issue. We are open to a broad set of approaches to translating Open Philanthropy’s giving into more effective aid, including advocacy, movement-building, public communication, and lobbying, and we expect that you will have an evidence-driven viewpoint on the best strategies to pursue. We are also open to either U.S.-focused or non-U.S.-focused approaches to aid policy. We’ve since updated our thinking further, but a short, older cause report on this area we wrote is here.
About the Position
You would play the key founding role in our work on global aid policy. You would be responsible for developing our grantmaking strategy and priorities, making grants, forming and maintaining relationships with grantees and others in the global aid policy space, and laying the foundation for our long-term work. Once a strategy is established, you would be responsible for recruiting and managing relevant team members to help you execute it effectively.
- Develop a strategy for Open Philanthropy’s work in the field that clearly describes what kinds of grants we aim to make, explains why you believe this to be the best approach to pursue, and argues convincingly for a high expected return to this approach (in terms of good accomplished per dollar spent).
- Source and investigate promising grant opportunities within the purview of the strategy.
- Establish and maintain relationships with current and prospective grantees and other funders in the field.
- Follow up with grantees periodically and keep abreast of their progress to inform our evaluation efforts.
- Prepare briefs synthesizing knowledge on questions of key strategic importance.
- Represent Open Philanthropy at relevant external meetings, conferences, and site visits.
- Recruit and manage an outstanding team to help execute your strategy.
Required Skills and Experience
- Minimum several years of experience as a senior staff member in the field (e.g., in a relevant government, think tank, or advocacy role).
- Very well-connected in and knowledgeable about global aid policy – you should already have working relationships with many key players in the field.
- Strong analytical and quantitative skills – sufficient to assess the cost-effectiveness of potential grant opportunities and to critically evaluate assessments by others.
- Significant experience in or aptitude for developing strategies that combine different approaches, such as research and policy analysis, technical assistance, and advocacy.
- Ability to work effectively with ideologically and culturally diverse partner organizations.
- Excellent written and oral communication skills, especially the ability to explain your views clearly.
- Strong interpersonal skills.
- Ability to travel domestically and occasionally internationally.
Across roles, we value staff who are able to communicate clearly and honestly about what they think, are comfortable giving and receiving feedback, and comfortable making pragmatic choices, taking into account tradeoffs and evidence of impact. For more information about the qualities we look for in employees at Open Philanthropy, see here.
- This is a full-time position, which could be done fully remotely or from our San Francisco office. We also have a smaller cohort of team members based in Washington, D.C. who may work together in-person once it is deemed safe to do so. It would be important to be able to travel to San Francisco regularly (e.g. twice or more per year), including for an orientation period (minimum orientation period of two weeks; we may have a preference for a longer orientation period that can be determined on a case-by-case basis).
- The start date is flexible, though we’d prefer someone who could start relatively soon after receiving an offer.
- As we are considering candidates with a wide range of experience levels, compensation will be decided on a case by case basis. However, we aim to pay competitively enough to make salary unlikely to be a major consideration for candidates who would otherwise be interested in taking this role. If concern about compensation is keeping you from applying, we encourage you to reach out to [email protected].
- We offer a comprehensive benefits package including full health, dental, vision and life insurance, flexible work hours and location, and a stipend for ergonomic equipment.
- We are happy to consider candidates who lack U.S. work authorization, and to sponsor eligible candidates, but we don’t control who is and isn’t eligible for a visa and can’t guarantee visa approval. We may be able to hire a successful applicant who lacks U.S. work-authorization to work remotely abroad.1 We are committed to fostering a culture of inclusion and encourage individuals with diverse backgrounds and experiences to apply. We especially encourage applications from self-identified women and people of color who are excited about contributing to our mission. Open Philanthropy is an equal opportunity employer. If you need assistance or an accommodation due to a disability, or have any other questions about applying, please contact [email protected].