Program Manager, Innovation

Chicago, IL

Urban Initiatives is seeking an Innovation Program Manager who will implement and facilitate the organization’s small-scale, early-stage pilot programs over finite periods of time that go beyond the scope of UI’s core programs. This manager will be the primary implementer of new programs with young people and will also support new initiatives with adults, partners, and other stakeholders. They will collaborate closely with UI’s Innovation, Learning + Instruction, and Program teams, as well as a variety of school, community, and organization partners. With high agility, they will excel in these primary areas:

  • Implement Pilot Programs

  • Support New Model Design

  • Support Transition from Pilot to Permanence

Due to the evolving and expanding nature of UI’s vision to significantly scale sport- and play-based social and emotional learning across Chicago, these responsibilities will adapt and have potential to significantly grow over time.


Test ideas that go beyond the scope of UI’s core programs through three priority areas:

Implement Pilot Programs

  • Implement new, small-scale pilot programs directly with young people and/or in collaboration with pilot program coaches/coordinators, as pilot model and partners necessitate

  • Uphold high program quality standards in alignment with UI methodology to foster participant social and emotional learning

  • Coordinate program logistics including calendars, schedules, equipment procurement, and evaluation with program partners

  • Manage, organize, and coordinate convening events that build connective tissue between stakeholders in priority areas (e.g. individual communities, partnerships, etc.)

  • Provide consistent communication to various stakeholders about pilot progress, including UI’s Innovation, Learning + Instruction, and Program teams, as well as key school and community partners

Support New Model Design

  • Deepen team empathy and understanding of pilot participants’ contexts and experiences by leading research and engagement activities

  • Support close collaboration with relevant stakeholders, team members, and content experts to design small-scale, early-stage pilot initiatives to test viability of new services and programs to deliver target outcomes

  • Persistently weave in context, experience, and insight of prospective participants and partners with each aspect of prototypes and pilots

  • Lead with a mindset of perpetual iteration, focused on exploring the highest potential strategies and approaches

  • Support exploration of potential partnerships and strategies toward target outcomes

Support Transition from Pilot to Permanence

  • In collaboration with the Evaluation team, assess pilots to ensure consistent loops of feedback with young people and implementing partners to drive continuous user-centered improvement and to utilize data gathered to inform whether and how to expand or discontinue program model to achieve impact goals

  • In collaboration with the Evaluation team, collect and submit data to inform continuous quality improvement of the pilot program models

  • Ensure pilots achieve impact goals

  • Support development of pilot-to-permanence tools, such as deepened program design, staffing models, budgets, curriculum, etc.


  • Passion for sport and play to drive social-emotional learning across Chicago

  • Experience living and/or working deeply with historically marginalized communities

  • Experience working directly with young people and/or supporting adults who work with young people 

  • Cultivated growth mindset that sees opportunity through each challenge

  • Demonstrated agility and dynamism amidst persistently evolving priorities and to move projects through uncertainty into practical, productive action steps

  • Commitment to interrupting all forms of oppression in the workplace

  • Commitment to supporting a diverse, equitable, and inclusive environment for young people

  • Ability to communicate fluently in Spanish is a plus

  • Expertise with any of the following is a plus, but not required: early childhood development, community development, convening diverse groups of stakeholders, adult learning


  • $42,000 base salary

  • Health, dental, and vision insurance premiums paid 100% by Urban Initiatives (for employees and for their children)

  • Life, short term disability, and long term disability insurance paid 100% by Urban Initiatives

  • Option to contribute to a 401K with up to a 3% match of your salary after one full year of employment

  • Flexible schedule and work from home environment

  • 120 hours of paid time off (PTO), accrued monthly (PTO may be prorated based on start date.)

  • Paid holidays (Martin Luther King Day, President’s Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving Day, the Friday after Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve through New Year’s Day)

  • Comp time


Apply by clicking below no later than June 30, 2022. 

Target Start Date is July 20, 2022


Urban Initiatives is dedicated to intentionally fostering a climate of purposeful inclusion in our workplace, and candidates of diverse backgrounds and identities are strongly encouraged to apply. Urban Initiatives is an Equal Opportunity employer. Personnel are chosen on the basis of ability without regard to race, color, religion, sex, age, national origin, veteran status, disability, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. This is in accordance with federal and state law.


Founded in 2003, Urban Initiatives is a nonprofit organization that runs youth development programs in the Chicago Public Schools (CPS). Urban Initiatives’ mission is to use the power of sport and play to empower Chicago’s youth to achieve academic success, develop social-emotional skills, and build social capital. Currently, Urban Initiatives serves an estimated 60 schools throughout the City of Chicago.

Urban Initiatives is preparing to scale program operations to have a significantly greater impact across Chicago. Our programs support social-emotional learning (SEL) and demand for these services is greater than ever. Maturing the administrative capacity of our fundraising team is critical to raising the funds necessary to accelerate our impact.