About Big Thought:
Big Thought brings relentless optimism, innovation, and imagination to the biggest problem facing education today: The opportunity gap.
The opportunity gap is the complex web of challenges, including lack of access to educational opportunities, which block young people from reaching their full potential. Tackling the gap requires an innovative, multifaceted approach to education and the cooperative effort of the community.
Big Thought believes solving the opportunity gap means bringing the right opportunities to the kids who need them most. The right opportunities transform young lives by sparking the imagination and unlocking a child's full creative, intellectual potential. Ignited imaginations form the foundation for crucial 21st century skills: empathy, leadership, creativity, and critical thinking.
Big Thought is an education nonprofit that works with national and local partners to ensure all students have access to high-quality learning opportunities that promote creativity and social and emotional learning to better prepare our children for success in work and life.
We are a manager, facilitator, connector, creator, and convener. Our work in collaboration with the community is designed to help youth learn, explore, create, and succeed.
Signature programs include:
Dallas City of Learning – Together with the City of Dallas, Dallas Independent School District, and partners across the city, we work to ensure all students have access to high-quality summer learning programs that stem summer learning loss.
Social and Emotional Learning
SEL Dallas – We weave social and emotional learning into every program at Big Thought. Together with key partners such as Dallas Independent School District, Dallas Afterschool, and After the Bell Alliance, we will implement SEL practices in-school and out-of-school, with the long-term goal of sharing our resources and learning city-wide.
Creative Solutions – We partner with the Dallas County Juvenile Department and Southern Methodist University to help youth on probation develop critical life skills by participating in visual and performing arts programs.
DaVerse – DaVerse is a spoken word program in collaboration with Journeyman Ink that provides a safe place for youth of all ages to express their voice.
Artivism – We work with middle and high school students as they advocate for change and reflect on social and racial justice issues through artwork, poetry, and the performing arts.
The Fellowship Initiative – A partnership with JPMorgan Chase, The Fellowship Initiative helps young men of color acquire the skills, knowledge, experience, networks, and other resources they need to succeed academically and professionally through a multi-year mentorship program.
Thriving Minds – Our after-school and summer programs provide hands-on creative learning experiences that reinforce academic content and instill crucial social and emotional learning skills.
Learning Partners – In partnership with Dallas Independent School District, we work with more than 70 partners to provide elementary school educators with access to high-quality, creative programs and cultural experiences that help teachers bring learning to life.
Big Thought is an innovator in building systems that incorporate a wide range of allies and stakeholders working together to achieve a common vision. Through collaboration, we are able to maximize community investment, serving more children more impactfully. Our partners include city departments, schools, community centers, neighborhood organizations, churches, and a wide array of non-profits working with kids.
Big Thought's innovative approach to tackling the opportunity gap works. In the 2015-2016 fiscal year, Big Thought served 114,207 students in collaboration with 413 partners.
Students participating in Big Thought programs have shown significant gains in both academic and social and emotional learning. We are dedicated to evaluating and improving the organization's programs, and partner with local and national organizations to conduct research that informs how our programs evolve.
Big Thought programs and services are designed to make imagination a part of everyday living. Together with our partners, we maximize our programmatic scope to give students unprecedented access to creative learning experiences.
For more information, visit www.bigthought.org.
Big Thought seeks an exceptional, visionary, and passionate CEO to lead the organization by working in deep collaboration with its local and national partners, the Board of Directors, and staff to advance its mission of closing the opportunity gap through accessible, high-quality educational programs.
The CEO will bring excellent leadership and strategic abilities, proven organizational management skills, interpersonal maturity and emotional intelligence, and a collaborative, solutions-oriented approach.
Reporting directly to and working closely with an engaged and dedicated Board of Directors, the CEO will set the strategic direction for Big Thought, strengthen existing programs and partnerships, and increase the organization's visibility, impact, and financial resources. The CEO will build on Big Thought's strong reputation and record of results, continuing to elevate the organization as an innovative agent of change in Dallas and nationally.
Working with a smart and committed eight-person executive leadership team, the CEO will oversee a staff of 32 full-time employees as well as 225 seasonal employees who help deliver Big Thought's in-school and out-of-school programs.
Big Thought's CEO will serve as the primary ambassador for the organization, playing a significant internal and external role as the organization's “chief relationship builder” with funders, partners, and other constituents. S/he will advocate and interface with partners at both local and national levels to ensure and expand Big Thought's role as a convener of organizations and stakeholders, delivering not only high-quality, innovative programs but also facilitating public-private partnerships to create system-level change.
This is a unique opportunity to lead a high-impact, entrepreneurial organization to its next level, exploring opportunities to leverage and enhance the organization's current model, programs, and resources. This is a full-time role based in Dallas, Texas.
Community leaders and Big Thought stakeholders have shared their perspectives on the organization and this unique professional opportunity:
“Big Thought is perceived extraordinarily; it sets a really high bar, it comes with deep engagement, belief, and values in what the organization is trying to achieve.”
“Everyone really believes in the mission – quality access to education for kids throughout the city. Big Thought excels in quality programming for kids. We do a great job of making sure that we're intentional, that the programs we're putting in front of kids match the needs in the community and are high-quality.”
“Big Thought is community-based and collaborative, and it's all in the service of creating quality experiences for kids.”
“The staff really take ownership of the work and are the most passionate group.”
“Dallas is a really unique place. I've never seen a place like this – the community is so invested in kids. This is really special, and people are so welcoming here.”
The CEO's responsibilities include, but are not limited to, the following:
Strategic Vision and Leadership
- Serve as an inspirational, innovative, and visionary leader for Big Thought, balancing an entrepreneurial spirit with business acumen and discipline to ensure sustainability and continued growth for the organization
- In collaboration with the Board of Directors and the Executive Leadership Team, set and drive the overall strategic plan and priorities to thoughtfully maximize capacity and resources to reach organizational goals
- Promote the organization's social justice aspirations, encouraging awareness around issues of diversity and inclusion and inspiring others to join in the mission of closing this country's opportunity gap
External Relations and Communications
- Serve as an articulate, persuasive, and compelling spokesperson for Big Thought by effectively representing its mission, goals, and services to the Board, staff, and both current and prospective partners and supporters
- Convene and influence organizations, communities, and other partners, nurturing coalitions and collaborative partnerships to enhance Big Thought's impact and achieve strategic objectives
- Inspire trust and confidence by developing and strengthening partnerships with key stakeholders and constituencies, including funding organizations, individual donors, city and community partners, and other nonprofit organizations
Fundraising and Resource Development
- Deepen and foster strong relationships with Big Thought's existing funders; cultivate major gifts and steward Big Thought's most significant current and potential donors
- Cultivate and grow relationships with individuals, foundations, corporations, and agencies to strategically increase Big Thought's funding and donor base
- Provide inspirational and motivational leadership for a diverse range of extraordinarily passionate, committed, and skilled staff members. Foster a culture of openness, transparency, and collaboration
- Assume overall fiscal and operational management and accountability for the organization, ensuring that Big Thought meets the highest standards in stewarding its financial and other resources
- Ensure the implementation of measures that advance Big Thought's commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion
- Partner closely with the Board of Directors to drive strategic vision, leverage its experience and expertise, and thoughtfully grow and evolve the Board as the organization moves forward
- Serve as an advisor, keeping the Board informed with appropriate information to support its policy-making responsibility
- Design and implement clear expectations, in partnership with the Board, for its contributions to the governance and success of the organization
The ideal candidate will have the following skills, competencies, and characteristics:
Passionate Advocate: The CEO will be deeply motivated by Big Thought's core mission: closing the opportunity gap and creating opportunities for all children to have access to quality educational programs that spark creativity and imagination
Strategic and Visionary Leader: S/he will be a creative visionary with a track record of developing new ideas, seizing opportunities, and building support for ambitious goals. The CEO will bring an inspirational and entrepreneurial approach to growth and impact, including a demonstrated ability to forge dynamic partnerships and coalitions and drive measurable growth
Ambassador and Spokesperson: An exceptional communicator and relationship builder, the CEO will represent Big Thought externally with a diverse set of stakeholders and partners. S/he will be comfortable navigating and operating in a range of settings and contexts, from government to nonprofit to business to faith-based and community organizations
Proven Fundraiser: The CEO will possess deep comfort and demonstrated success with a range of funders, from institutions to individual donors, foundations, and corporations. Dynamic, energetic, and creative, s/he will inspire confidence in donors, partners, and other constituents, and will be able to establish strong working relationships that further Big Thought's mission
Authentic Collaborator: S/he will be constantly seeking new partnerships and engaging in collaborative planning and implementation in the service of creating quality opportunities for children and closing the achievement gap. S/he will also understand the potential power of public-private partnerships and how to develop them effectively. The CEO will bring an understanding of how to empathetically and authentically interact with historically marginalized communities
Open-minded Listener: The CEO will bring a highly consultative approach to leadership, as well as a genuine understanding of the communities and people Big Thought serves, and a desire to continually learn and listen. S/he will possess the ability to authentically show up as a partner in those communities and implement best practice programs and partnerships in ways that are contextually appropriate as well as effective
Seasoned Organizational Leader: The CEO will bring the ability to effectively lead and manage a complex organization with multiple layers of stakeholders and build a positive, highly engaged team and culture
Relevant Content Expertise/Knowledge: The CEO will bring a body of knowledge and professional networks that are relevant to Big Thought's work and mission, such as Social Emotional Learning (SEL) expertise, education and/or out-of-school learning, public-private partnerships focused on social impact, arts education, or another related field
In addition, the successful candidate will possess the following personal characteristics and qualities:
- Ability to approach internal and external work with deep cultural competence and a social justice lens
- Extremely high level of emotional intelligence and flexible, intuitive relationship management skills
- Exceptional communications skills, including an authentic ability to build relationships in a broad range of communities and groups and the ability to build support for a common vision across diverse stakeholders
- Patience, persistence, and resilience: The ability to hold on to a vision or desired outcome regardless of obstacles, coupled with the nimbleness to change tactics and approach when necessary
- Comfortable giving and receiving critical feedback and having difficult conversations
- Humility and self-awareness, including the ability to collaborate with and work alongside a wide range of stakeholders
- A sense of humor and the desire to work with passionate, motivated, and engaged colleagues to create social change
Molly Brennan and Alena Guerra of Koya Leadership Partners have been exclusively retained for this search. To express your interest in this role, please submit your materials here. All inquiries and discussions will be considered strictly confidential.
Big Thought is an equal opportunity employer and encourages applications from people of color, persons with disabilities, women, and the LGBT community.
About Koya Leadership Partners:
Koya Leadership Partners is a national retained executive search and human capital consulting firm that works exclusively with mission-driven organizations, educational institutions and social enterprises. We deliver measurable results, finding exceptionally talented people who truly fit the unique culture of our client organizations and ensuring that organizations have the resources and strategies to support them. For more information, visit www.koyapartners.com.