Director of Innovation

Chicago, IL


Urban Initiatives seeks a Director of Innovation to lead innovation processes and small-scale, early-stage pilot initiatives that pursue opportunities to expand sport- and play-based SEL through Chicago. This leader will support the effectiveness of UI’s Innovation + Learning teams through robust project management and facilitation of ongoing collaboration. They will lead through three primary areas of responsibility, including:

  • Innovation Processes + Pilot Leadership

  • Team Effectiveness

  • Organizational Leadership


Strategically explore and pursue opportunities through participant-centered design processes to expand sport- and play-based SEL through three primary areas:

Innovation Processes + Pilot Leadership

  • Lead effective design activities to drive the expansion of sport- and play-based SEL through Chicago, including but not limited:

    • Embedding processes of empathy interviews, user research, and landscape analyses

    • Determining specific areas of challenges and opportunity

    • Prototyping prospective means to address challenges

    • Developing deliberate, small-scale pilot initiatives with deliberate data collection

    • Implementing reflection and iteration cycles to strengthen approaches to deliver target outcomes.

  • Develop effective systems, tools, and procedures to support Innovation + Learning teams to implement high-quality innovation methods.

  • Build and implement means to collaborate closely 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.

  • Oversee youth-facing and community-centered pilot initiatives to align to design strategies, stakeholder satisfaction, and UI team effectiveness.

  • Manage and evaluate innovation project data, especially pilot outcomes and lessons learned, to inform how to strategically implement and scale promising projects.

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

  • Explore potential partnerships and strategies toward target outcomes.

  • Develop deep understanding around equitable access to SEL services and sport- and play- programs across CPS and Chicago, and build UI innovation strategies to strengthen equitable access and outcomes within individual Chicago communities.

Team Effectiveness

  • Develop and provide overarching project management to support Innovation + Learning teams’ goal achievement, clarity of responsibilities, and ongoing iteration.

  • Utilize insights gained through innovation processes to support team goal-setting and strategic planning.

  • In partnership other team leaders, develop and facilitate ongoing spaces for team-driven collaboration and cohesion biweekly.

  • Facilitate inspiration experiences for Innovation + Learning teams at least quarterly, with potential to expand frequency and/or participation.

Organizational Leadership

  • Lead and manage one or more innovation program managers to achieve individual and team goals.

  • Support implementation of design processes across additional UI teams, functions, and/or departments.

  • Represent UI with various stakeholder audiences, such as school and community organization partners, coaches, students, and parents.

  • Manage consistent communication with UI team members around all things innovation and pilots, including strategy, purpose, status, etc.

  • Collaboratively closely with UI’s Innovation + Learning teams around design, partnerships, and learning.

  • Perform other duties as needed to support UI’s mission and vision.


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

  • Experience leading equity-based, liberatory, anti-racist, and/or community-driven design processes

  • Expert in goal-driven project management

  • Commitment to interrupting all forms of oppression in the workplace

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

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

  • Ability to communicate fluently in Spanish is strongly preferred

Compensation Package

  • $70,000 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

How to Apply 

Apply by clicking below. Applications will be considered on a rolling basis beginning July 25, 2022.

Target Start Date is September 12, 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.

Urban Initiatives Overview

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 raise the funds necessary to accelerate our impact.