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Director of Programs

Website Essie Justice Group

The Opportunity

Essie Justice Group (Essie) is building grassroots power to dismantle the US incarceration system, the most egregious creator of racial and gender injustice of our time. We are a loving and powerful community of women with incarcerated loved ones—and include cisgender women, transgender women, formerly incarcerated women, gender nonconforming people (GNC), elders, and young people.

Building a sustainable grassroots institution that can be leveraged in the fight for a Black Feminist future is a priority at Essie. Through the development of thoughtful organizing models, a vibrant organizational culture, and scalable structure our aim is to break the isolation of the 1 in 4 women who have loved ones behind bars and sustain bold decarceration advocacy through the leadership of women with loved ones behind bars. After eight years building an active membership across California, Essie is waging ever more ambitious campaigns to divest from state-sponsored punitive control and invest in structures that support the self-determination, freedom, and dignity of Black women and gender nonconforming people. Ready to scale our organizing program to build the first national community of women with incarcerated loved ones in the United States, we are seeking a motivated, strategic and mission-driven Director of Programs to lead the team that brings this vision to life. 

The Director of Programs is a seasoned nonprofit leader who thrives when designing and running programs to achieve organizational goals, and who also has the organizing and strategic instincts to understand how to build and leverage people power and drive movement-building work at scale. This person is an innovator who can take a program from ideation to implementation to scale, and can coach and inspire their team to engage in continuous learning to improve the program over time and as it grows.

This senior-level role will lead Essie’s Membership & Organizing Team to scale up and manage our leadership development programs including our Campaign School and Essie’s signature organizing model –  our Healing to Advocacy program, which has graduated over 39 cohorts of women and GNC people with incarcerated loved ones into our membership. This leader will also lead new programs to engage hundreds of thousands of women with incarcerated loved ones across the country as General Body Members and to develop and execute a strategy to engage loved ones on the inside as our Champion Members. As we expand to new regions across the country, the Director of Programs will guide and manage the successful growth and scaling of these programs, innovating and adapting as necessary to ensure that our programs continue to reflect our Black feminist values, continue to be impactful, and continue to thrive.

The Director of Programs knows and loves the work of designing, managing, and evaluating programs that provide positive and significant impact for the people who participate. This Director is deeply invested in learning – for self and for others – and creates programs that begin from a deep understanding of the community that leads our work. The Director of Programs is also a gifted team builder with the ability to bring people together to achieve shared goals. Developing leadership, especially that of women and GNC people who are directly impacted by incarceration, is both a daily practice and an area of expertise for this Director.

As a senior member of the organizational leadership team, the Director of Programs reports directly to the Executive Director and will help shape Essie’s present and future—contributing to strategic decision making in the present while helping to architect Essie’s internal and external growth in alignment with our values. At Essie, how we win is as important as what we achieve, and our ideal Director of Programs approaches Black Feminist organizational leadership development and scaled programmatic goals with equal rigor, joy, and commitment.



Core Responsibilities

Vision, Strategy, and Culture-Setting for Program Teams – Lead the strategic coordination of the team towards a collectively built strategy for programmatic excellence and growth.

  • Envision & lead a team to provide inspiring, healing, and educational programs that embody Essie’s Black feminist vision and values.
  • Collaboratively develop and lead a strategic growth plan to exponentially increase access to Essie programs across the country.
  • Manage and guide your team to set strategic goals, priorities, and work plans in alignment with an ambitious organizational strategy.
  • Directly supervise and coach staff, providing support for leadership development and growth.
  • Foster a culture of learning, growth, innovation, and inclusion.
  • Create and maintain processes to regularly measure and evaluate the team’s impact and progress.

Program Innovation, Evaluation, & Scaling – Strategize, plan for, and manage the expansion of Essie’s Membership & Organizing programs to new regions serving thousands of new members; evaluate and innovate to ensure successful program implementation at scale.

  • Collaborate with other Essie Directors to ensure the strategic and successful scaling of Essie organizing programs including our National
  • Membership, Member leadership development, Healing to Advocacy Cohorts, and convenings.
  • Design evaluation materials and/or processes to ensure successful organizing program delivery and outcomes; lead a team to evaluate and respond to challenges as programs continue to be implemented in new areas.
  • Innovate new approaches to program delivery, identify emerging programmatic needs, and deploy resources as needed to support program growth.
  • Provide oversight & leadership for all organizing programs, including team leadership development & training, ongoing program evaluation, ensuring program resources, identifying and responding to challenges and opportunities, overseeing complex logistical plans for growth of on the ground programming, etc…
  • Collaborate with other Directors to identify and develop new programmatic opportunities and needs.

Organizational Leadership – Serve on the Essie Directors Team in order to strategically steward organizational resources in alignment with Essie’s mission and vision.

  • Work collaboratively and consistently with other directors at Essie to define strategic priorities, make decisions about unanticipated opportunities, and manage to operational plan goals.
  • Develop departmental budgets and work systems, and build and manage a dynamic Membership & Organizing department team.
  • Establish and maintain sound stewardship of Essie’s Membership & Organizing materials, intellectual property, and budget.
  • Hold external relationships necessary to run the Membership & Organizing Department successfully.
  • Lead in special projects as needed.
  • Embody and promote Essie’s Black Feminist culture and values internally and externally.

Who We’re Looking For 

Ideal Qualifications

  • 10+ years experience in adult learning and program management (design, implementation and/or evaluation), preferably in community organizing contexts with a leadership development focus, and a minimum of 4 years serving in management role(s) within the nonprofit sector.
  • Demonstrated experience scaling up programs to significantly expand reach.
  • Meaningful experience supervising multiple full time staff, including managing managers, and with a preference for experience supporting colleagues with direct experience of incarceration.
  • Significant experience supervising people in a way that acknowledges differentials in privilege and power, recognizes their gifts, encourages their confidence, supports their growth, and holds them accountable to standards.
  • Impeccable attention to detail and effective writing, editing, and verbal communication skills.
  • Track record as a collaborative leader who excels in managing multiple projects, and is comfortable working in a fast-paced and non-traditional work environment.
  • Adept with Mac operating systems, Google Suite, and MS Office Suite (especially Excel, Powerpoint and Word).
  • Commitment to the beliefs and values of Essie with a demonstrated passion for progressive politics, specifically in gender justice, race justice and ending mass incarceration.


  • Innovative thinker. You understand how programs drive an organization toward its mission, and you love brainstorming new ideas to increase programmatic impacts and exceed goals. Even though you know all the best practices for designing and running a successful program, you are unafraid to consider and try new approaches or strategies that will help you achieve the outcomes you want.
  • A sophisticated builder. You love helping people to learn and grow, to try new things, and to think more deeply about their own potential for impact. In this way, you build the confidence of others and you build strong teams. But you are not satisfied with that alone, you care deeply about the tangibles of what those teams create. You are good at coming up with new models, programs, and structures and managing participatory creative processes. You employ numbers, SMARTIE goals, and evaluative data because you connect to their pragmatic value, rather than an empty “best practice.”
  • Discernment and honesty we can trust. You are a thoughtful team member who acts in alignment with your integrity and are unfailingly trustworthy.
  • Sees #Woke as a verb. You are committed to continuously deepening and evolving your own understanding of systems of oppression through study, openness, and humility. And you easily recognize your own relationship to privilege and power, examining and shifting your behaviors as appropriate.
  • Uplifting and additive. You see mistakes as opportunities for growth; problems as catalysts for solutions, and inspire others along the journey. You carry a positive approach, can-do attitude, a sense of humor, and authentic kindness wherever you go.

The Position

The Director of Programs is a full-time, salaried, exempt position. This position is supervised by the Executive Director. The salary for this position is between $120,000 – $140,000 depending on experience with full medical, dental, and vision benefits, optional 401(k), a substantial vacation package, and a monthly personal wellness stipend. The position is based in one of Essie’s offices in Oakland or Los Angeles, California. All Essie staff are required to be vaccinated against Covid-19, with limited exceptions for medical or religious reasons.


To Apply

Please address a thoughtful cover letter to the “Essie Hiring Committee” and submit along with a resume through our hiring portal ( as soon as possible. Applications are currently being evaluated on a rolling basis.

Essie Justice Group provides equal employment and advancement opportunities to all staff members. Employment decisions are based on merit, qualifications, and skills. Essie does not discriminate in employment opportunities or practices on the basis of race, color, creed, religion, national origin, immigration status, socioeconomic status, ancestry, age, size, sex, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, familial status, veteran status, disability, AIDS/HIV status, medical condition, prior conviction, arrest history, traits historically associated with race, including, but not limited to, hair texture and protective hairstyles, or any other characteristic protected by law.

Essie values and specifically seeks applicants who are people with incarcerated loved ones; formerly incarcerated people; people of color; women; queer, transgender, gender non-conforming (GNC), and gender fluid people.

This policy applies to all terms and conditions of employment, including recruiting, hiring, placement, performance assessment, promotion, termination, layoff, recall, transfer, leaves of absence, compensation, and training.


About Essie Justice Group

Essie Justice Group is a non profit organization of women with incarcerated loved ones taking on the rampant injustices created by mass incarceration. Our award-winning Healing to Advocacy Model brings women together to heal, build collective power, and drive social change. Essie is Great Place to Work-Certified™ by Great Place to Work. Learn more at

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