Full-Time Senior Researcher
About Sightline Institute:
Founded in 1993, Sightline Institute is committed to making Cascadia, stretching from Alaska to northern California, a global model of sustainability—with strong communities, a green economy, and a healthy environment. We are the largest progressive think tank in our region, and we promote smart policy and monitor the region’s progress. We believe sustainability lies at the intersection of environmental health and social justice, and we strive to identify injustice and work to dismantle the systems that perpetuate it.
Sightline provides research reports and commentary; maps, graphics and tools; framing and messaging guidance; and Sightline Daily—news and views for the Northwest. We advise and inform public officials, change makers, and the media, and we collaborate with diverse allies in pursuit of our mission. Learn more at www.sightline.org.
The Opportunity for Impact in Anchorage, Alaska:
Sightline Institute has always included southeast and south central Alaska in its geographic scope but we have done little in the 49th state, focusing instead in British Columbia, Oregon, and Washington, and especially the corridor stretching from Eugene to Vancouver, BC. But we now have the opportunity to add Anchorage and Alaska to our growing program. Anchorage is a city in the midst of transforming itself from a past built on the oil industry to a diversified economic future linked to both Asia and the West Coast’s booming technology sector. The city’s diverse population and dynamic leadership make it an exciting proving ground for green-city strategies in a cold climate.
Anchorage is a city characterized by post-war, post-statehood urban sprawl, strip malls and high-speed thoroughfares set in an unimaginably beautiful and biologically rich location. The cost of housing is high. Leaders want to solve these problems through the construction of compact, safe, walkable neighborhoods with abundant, affordable homes, and they strive to transform Anchorage into an urban center offering a higher quality of life. They admire great cold-climate cities such as Minneapolis, Reykjavik, and oil-rich Oslo. They honor Alaska’s indigenous cultures and envision a future that blends this heritage with the best of urbanism: a more vibrant arts scene, more restaurants and independent businesses and centers designed for community engagement. We believe that making Anchorage a denser, greener, more livable, walkable, beautiful city is fundamental to the city’s economic future. And building upon the rich heritage of Alaska’s Native traditions while creating a city that is equitable and inclusive of the state’s diverse, urban demographics is key to its economic sustainability.
We believe there is an excellent opportunity to partner with local leaders across the political spectrum, community and Indigenous leaders and businesses in their efforts to move beyond overreliance on an increasingly precarious oil industry to a more sustainable economy that leverages Alaskans’ ingenuity, builds on Alaska’s natural beauty and quality of life, and integrates with the West Coast’s information-and-services boom. Specifically, we strive to effect change by helping leaders in Anchorage to:
- Develop a diversified green economy
- Create an abundance of compact, safe, and affordable neighborhoods
- Strengthen Anchorage and, statewide, Alaskan democracy through innovations such as vote-at-home elections and ranked-choice voting
About the Senior Researcher position:
This newly created position will lead the expansion of our programs into Alaska and will, over time, work in partnership with Alaskans on a variety of issue areas. The Senior Researcher will report to the Research Director, Housing and Urbanism (in Seattle) and will be part of the organization’s Housing and Urbanism team, with an additional working relationship with our Democracy Reform team.
The Senior Researcher will hold initial consultations with government, community, business and Alaska Native leaders in Anchorage to hear their needs, understand the city-making challenges they are up against and, in collaboration with the Housing and Urbanism team in Seattle, identify focus areas of research that address shared needs. Initially, s/he/they will focus on greening Anchorage’s land use and transportation through promotion of compact, affordable, low-carbon, climate-resilient neighborhoods. Another focus of work will be on state and local democracy reform, researching tactics for establishing a well-functioning and truly representative democracy by seizing opportunities for upgrading the state’s election systems and voter protections. This might include designing, promoting, and helping to implement money-in-politics reforms, vote-at-home balloting, ranked-choice voting, proportional representation, and other innovative improvements to elections and government. Over time, policy priorities could include zoning reform and housing affordability, transit improvements and safe streets. All of Sightline’s Alaska work will be designed in consultation with Alaska-based organizational allies.
Some potential scenarios: the Senior Researcher might conclude that the way Sightline Institute can really add value is to help develop a vision of Anchorage as a cold climate quality of life mecca. S/he/they will share with local leaders profiles of other cities in cold climates that have developed a vibrant urban core and then outline the policies used to actualize the vision. That could lead to series of articles and presentations to municipal leaders outlining an outreach plan. Or perhaps the Senior Researcher would identify a current controversy about traffic planning and how city leaders could get a quick win by using “tactical urbanism” to calm traffic on downtown streets. The Senior Researcher could write a series of thought pieces outlining the strategy, tailored to the key audiences they are trying to reach. Many other possibilities exist, too.
The Senior Researcher will participate in and develop a network with like-minded innovators in Alaska and will benefit from being part of a high-functioning team of other researchers, communicators, and advocates, who work from the organization’s Seattle office or from elsewhere in the Northwest. Sightline researchers are supported by a professional and full-service communications team and are mentored by seasoned program supervisors. Periodic visits to Seattle will be needed, though most interaction will happen virtually, as it does for Sightline’s six other remote team members.
The Ideal Candidate:
The successful candidate will have a passion for the possibility of impact in Anchorage and Alaska and professional experience on the ground in Alaska.
We are specifically interested in candidates who have:
- A track record of sparking media attention and influencing policy progress through analysis, writing, public presentations and advocacy
- At least 7 years of relevant professional experience using ideas and information in collaborative ways to advance the public good—if not in the issue areas mentioned in this announcement then in similar or related ones. (We care more about your skills than your subject-matter expertise.)
- Exceptional research, analysis and data synthesis skills
- Evidence of a pragmatic, solutions-oriented approach that incorporates equity and inclusion and input from multiple diverse allies
- The ability to question orthodoxies and bring fresh perspectives to seemingly intractable problems
- The ability to be self-directed, motivated and to work independently
- Demonstrated experience building relationships and collaborating with diverse allies across government, business and community groups on large, catalytic efforts
- Excellent public speaking and community engagement skills
- Commitment to Sightline’s mission and core values, as articulated at https://www.sightline.org/about/
Compensation and Benefits:
Target salary is $80,000, with some potential flexibility. (We could go higher for a candidate who is advanced in their career; we could go lower for a candidate with great potential but less demonstrated track record.) We offer a robust package of benefits including a retirement contribution of 10% of salary (added to, not subtracted from, pay); full medical and dental insurance for self and partial coverage for dependents; four weeks of paid vacation and two weeks of paid sick leave per year, and a three-month paid sabbatical leave every seven years. Sightline’s staff members work hard but enjoy balanced lives and a collegial organizational culture.