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, discretionary, and demonstration grants through nine social service and community development programs.

The Economic Mobility Fellow will work within OCS’ Division of Community Assistance (DCA), Division of Community Discretionary and Demonstration Programs (DCDDP), or Division of Energy Assistance (DEA) or the Communications and Strategic Initiatives Unit or Policy Unit in OCS’ Office of the Director.

  • 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 DashboardLIHEAP Heating Season ToolkitLIHEAP Clearinghouse, and the Performance Management Website.
  • 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, LIHWAP Iowa Spotlight video, and the LIHWAP Implementation and Impact Report.
  • 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 assistance 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. The AHSSD program The MLP+ program addresses the social determinants of health through wraparound legal and social services in healthcare settings. See how the CED program is supporting energy communities, check out  the RCD information and Data Dashboard to see RCD’s impact and better understand the drinking water and wastewater infrastructure needs of rural and tribal communities with low incomes and view the 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. Also check out the Diaper Distribution Pilot Video and Five Things You Need to Know About the First-Ever Diaper Distribution Pilot flier.
  • DCDDP also began administering two new demonstration programs in 2023, including Medical-Legal Partnerships Plus (MLP+) and Affordable Housing and Supportive Services Demonstration (AHSSD). DCDDP awarded MLPs grants to multidisciplinary teams that will work together to address medical and social/legal problems that have an impact on overall health and AHSSD 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 AHSSD 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. Check out the Affordable Housing and Supportive Services Demonstration Video and Five Things You Need to Know About the Affordable Housing and Supportive Services Demonstration and view the Medical-Legal Partnerships Plus Video and Five Things You Need to Know About MLP+.
  • 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 X (formerly Twitter) @OCS_ACFgov.
  • OCS’ Policy Team works in partnership with OCS programs to provide guidance, support, and assistance on legislative issues and expertise on cross-program policy issues. Team members act as a liaison representing OCS and provide systems and process to assure assistance is timely, accurate, and advances the OCS mission.

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 12898Federal 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, which will include opportunities available with OCS, ACF, and / or HHS. 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

  1. Conducts program operations and policy analysis tasks to support the administration of OCS programs. Advises leadership on anti-poverty initiatives such as housing, nutrition, and community-based services, equity, home energy crisis mitigation, energy burden reduction, water and waste water issues, disaster management, and initiatives focused on vulnerable households and communities, including young children birth to age five, older individuals, and individuals with disabilities 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. Informs and develops training and technical assistance tools based on research and evidence-based practices to advance anti-poverty strategies.
  3. Manages a grant recipient portfolio and makes recommendations on policies, training and technical assistance strategies, partnerships, and practices.
  4. Conducts grant application and monitoring reviews and analyzes grant recipients’ administration of their programs. Work may include review and application of programmatic and regulatory materials, evaluations, and other research.
  5. Supports research fellows conducting quantitative and qualitative research and policy analysis activities including formulating, executing, and analyzing data, surveys, displays and dashboards, interviews, and case studies.
  6. Conducts policy analysis and review of proposed legislation, existing statutes, regulations, executive orders and subregulatory policy guidance and develops analytical summaries and technical assistance materials.
  7. Develops memoranda, briefs, talking points, issue papers, and other materials that accurately identify issues, present appropriate summaries of assigned and makes recommendations to supervisor and other managers and leadership about program improvements.
  8. Identifies and maintains collaborative relationships between OCS programs, internal and external federal agencies’ programs, and other partners to support program development and effectiveness.
  9. Participates in and provides staff support for committees and working groups as assigned. Briefs supervisor, office leadership, and other Department leaders on the results of assigned work, as requested.
  10. 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, economics, 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 incomes 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.