University of Wisconsin–Madison

OCS – Economic Mobility Fellowship Research Internship Position


The Economic Mobility Fellowship is a 12- to 24-month full-time position in which candidates receive mentorship, training, and hands-on experience to enhance their qualitative and quantitative research skills and policy analysis skills while working in a highly-respected federal office in Washington, DC.

Fellows are employed by the University of Wisconsin–Madison’s Institute for Research on Poverty (IRP) and work in-residence at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Administration for Children and Families (ACF), Office of Community Services (OCS). OCS partners with states, communities, and agencies to reduce the causes of poverty, increase opportunity and economic security of individuals and families, and revitalize communities. OCS administers over $12 billion in mandatory and discretionary grants through nine social service and community development programs.

The Economic Mobility Fellow will work DCA administers the Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) program through states, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, U.S. territories, and approximately 66 tribes and tribal organizations. CSBG support services that alleviate the causes and conditions of poverty in under resourced communities. Tribes, territories, and over 1,000 local Community Action Agencies provide services including housing and nutrition assistance; employment, education, and other income and asset building services; and community asset building initiatives, among other things. See how the CSBG program is helping individuals, families, and communities flourish and helps fight hunger and food insecurity as well as spotlight videos on Action for Boston Community Development and United Community Corporation that highlight CSBG Project Impact Grants designed to test community-based innovations.

  • DEA administers the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) through states, the District of Columbia, five U.S. territories, and approximately 150 Native American Tribes and Tribal organizations. LIHEAP is a source of federal support for households that need assistance with home energy needs, including vulnerable households with very young children, individuals with disabilities, and older adults. Through a nationwide network of governmental and locally-based nonprofit service providers, LIHEAP provides federally funded assistance in managing costs associated with home energy bills, energy crises, weatherization, and energy-related minor home repairs. To learn more about LIHEAP and the work they do, check out the LIHEAP and Extreme Heat Dashboard, LIHEAP Heating Season Toolkit, LIHEAP Clearinghouse, and the Performance Management
  • DEA also administers the Low Income Household Water Assistance Program (LIHWAP), which provides funds to assist low-income households with water and wastewater bills. LIHWAP grants are available to States, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, U.S. Territories, and Federally and state-recognized tribes and tribal organizations that received fiscal year 2021 Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) grants. To learn more about LIHWAP and the work they do, check out the LIHWAP Data Dashboard and the LIHWAP Iowa Spotlight video.
  • DCDDP administers the Community Economic Development (CED), Rural Community Development (RCD), and Diaper Distribution Demonstration and Research Pilot (DDDRP) programs. The CED program focuses on reducing poverty, through the creation of jobs for individuals with low income in communities with high unemployment and poverty rates. The RCD program focuses in building community capacity for the nation’s unincorporated areas and lowest income communities, including tribal and persistent poverty areas, by creating and maintaining safe and affordable water and wastewater systems. The DDDRP program is the first federal diaper assitance pilot and focuses on a first time evaluation of social services agencies, and nonprofit community organizations that provide diapers and diapering supplies on a consistent basis through diaper distribution programs while also offering support services for families with low incomes. See how the CED program is supporting energy communities, view RCD grantee spotlights that tell the story of how RCD fills the gap to ensure safe water and wastewater services for very small, rural, low-income communities that are not addressed by other federal programs, and check out the Diaper Distribution Pilot Video and Five Things You need to Know About the First-Ever Diaper Distribution Pilot flier.
  • DCDDP is also standing up two new demonstration programs in 2023, including Medical-Legal Partnerships (MLPs) and Affordable Housing and Support Services. DCDDP will award MLPs grants to multidisciplinary teams that will work together to address medical and social/legal problems that have an impact on overall health and Affordable Housing and Support Services grants to provide funding to owners of affordable housing properties to offer wraparound supportive services for their residents. DCDDP will conduct evaluations of MLPs by collecting relevant data and measuring the impact of providing underserved communities combined health and legal services at a single site of care. DCDDP will also evaluate Affordable Housing and Support Services by collecting pertinent information and measuring the impact of providing additional funding for wraparound support services to established community-based organizations that own and operate affordable housing units.
  • OCS’ Communications and Strategic Initiatives Unit is responsible for formal OCS external communications, including media products, as well as leading initiatives in support of OCS and ACF priorities and amplifying the services available through OCS programs. The unit supports all data quality, analytics, and visualization efforts (i.e., Geographic Information Systems) as well as the dissemination of program data through social media platforms. Check out OCS’ Disaster Flexibilities Hub and follow us on Twitter! @OCS_ACFgov.

OCS programs focus on alleviating the causes and conditions of poverty and administer special projects focused on equity, climate, and economic mobility. For example, a current special initiatives focuses on Executive Order 12898, Federal Actions to Address Environmental Justice in Minority Populations and Low-Income Populations, which directs federal agencies to “make achieving environmental justice part of its mission by identifying and addressing, as appropriate, disproportionately high and adverse high and adverse human health or environmental effects of its programs, policies, and activities on minority, low-income, and indigenous populations.” Under Executive Order 14008, President Biden further directed the Department of Health and Human Services to make achieving environmental justice part of its mission by developing programs, policies, and activities to address the disproportionately high and adverse human health, environmental and climate-related and other cumulative impacts on disadvantaged communities. LIHEAP is one of two pilot programs currently participating in the Justice40 initiative to demonstrate that at least 40 percent of the federal resources are invested in disadvantaged communities.

Mentoring And Training

Fellows will be matched with a mentor and will develop an individualized training development plan. Fellows will also participate in quarterly professional development trainings offered by IRP to all in-residence Fellows at HHS and have funding to attend a research conference each year.

Major Duties And Responsibilities

Conducts policy analysis and quantitative and/or qualitative research tasks to advise leadership on anti-poverty initiatives such as home energy crisis mitigation, energy burden reduction, water assistance, disaster management, case management, and initiatives focused on vulnerable households and communities, including young children birth to age five, older individuals, and disabled as a means to promote family well-being and economic mobility.

  1. Maintains current knowledge of research and evidence-based practices and policies related to HHS anti-poverty strategies, economic self-sufficiency, equity, home energy and water assistance, and justice for all, and related systems and initiatives across all levels of government.
  2. Makes recommendations on policies, strategies, partnerships, and practices.
  3. Conducts reviews and analyses of budgets, programmatic and regulatory materials, evaluations, and other research.
  4. Designs and conducts quantitative and qualitative research and policy analysis activities including formulating, executing, and analyzing data, surveys, interviews, and case studies. Synthesizes findings to make recommendations about system and program improvements and regulations.
  5. Develops memoranda, briefs, talking points, issue papers, and other materials that accurately identify issues, present appropriate summaries of the evidence base, and make recommendations to supervisor and other managers and leadership.
  6. Identifies and maintains collaborative relationships between OCS programs, internal and external federal agencies’ programs, tribal and state agencies, local programs and grantees, and other partners to support program development and effectiveness.
  7. Participates in and provides staff support for committees and working groups relating to early care and education.
  8. Briefs supervisor, office leadership, and other Department leaders on the results of analyses, research, and evaluations.

Performs other related duties as assigned.

Key Skills And Experience

  • Master’s degree in public policy, public administration, social welfare, public health, psychology, child development, education, program evaluation, research methods, or a related field.
  • Training or professional experience working directly in or on issues around U.S. poverty reduction, community and social services, and home energy and water assistance. Personal or professional experience working with families with low income from diverse backgrounds in these programs is also preferred.
  • Proficiency with Microsoft Office suite, including Microsoft Excel, is required.
  • Training, professional experience, or ability to develop expertise in human services program evaluation including conducting surveys, interviews, and case studies independently or with outside contractors.
  • Ability to identify and integrate equity strategies into research and evaluation design, co-creation, and reporting.
  • High attention to detail, able to work independently and in a group setting under tight timelines and shifting priorities and employ strong problem-solving skills.
  • Excellent verbal communication skills with the ability to present complex information to a non-technical audience and present options to high-level management.
  • Strong writing skills with the ability to produce and edit a range of products from research and policy reports to PowerPoint slides, tailoring products to the intended audience and ensuring accuracy of information presented.