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Founded in 1995, Pongo Poetry Project’s mission is to engage youth in writing poetry to inspire healing and growth. In order to further our mission, Pongo is committed to becoming an anti-racist organization. Internally and externally, we support diversity, equity, inclusion, and the expansion of expressive arts programming to youth who lack access to it.

Pongo is a growing organization and recruiting and retaining a diverse staff is a high priority. Please check back periodically as positions become available. You may also contact us at: info@pongopoetryproject.org

Open Positions

Co-Executive Director, Programs

Pongo Poetry Project (Pongo) was founded 26 years ago to support people who had experienced trauma heal through writing poetry. We are a small, nonprofit arts organization poised for growth and are looking for a passionate, Co-Executive Director, with the Co-Director, Finance and Development, to develop and implement strategies for increased and sustainable impact.

Our mission is to engage youth in writing poetry to inspire healing and growth. To that end, we use personal poetry to facilitate healing among youth coping with devastating traumas, such as abuse, neglect, and exposure to violence. At the heart of our program is the Pongo Method, a uniquely successful trauma-informed technique for teaching poetry, created with the support and advice of prominent community psychiatrists from the University of Washington.

Our direct service work entails implementing therapeutic poetry writing workshops inside detention centers, psychiatric hospitals, and other sites frequented by youth with histories of trauma. Specifically, we have offered our poetry mentorship programming at King County Juvenile Detention and the Child Study & Treatment Center for 25 and 20 years respectively, which speaks to the enduring impact of our program. Our newest program is at Echo Glen, a youth juvenile rehabilitation center.

Offering a space for healing and recovery is crucial to the healthy emotional development of all youth, but especially those we serve, who exist at the intersection of racial injustice and economic hardship. Our approach offers youth the opportunity write about painful life experiences – often for the first time – in a way that promotes insight and healing.

To date, Pongo has mentored poetry with over 6,500 people. Our evaluation results demonstrate that Pongo provides significant therapeutic benefits for youth, helping them find relief, derive creative joy, and experience growth through poetry writing. In addition to our mentorship program, we also review and respond to poetry submitted on our website.

Based on the success of our direct service work, Pongo established a program to train individuals and organizations on the Pongo Method. In 2014, we codified our methodology in the book “Writing with At-Risk Youth: The Pongo Teen Writing Method,” using it as the teaching text to conduct close to 90 regional and national trainings on our approach. Our training program has spurred the creation of 96 projects based on our model. Pongo’s strategic vision is to become a best practice in the application of expressive arts to heal trauma, and we have created a business plan to realize this vision.

Through our publishing program, Pongo has published 16 anthologies featuring work produced by youth at our poetry mentorship sites. These volumes describe profound tragedy and sorrow, but also capture the self-discovery and healing that creative expression can bring. We have donated over 17,000 copies of these collections to youth and program providers during our history. Our publishing program inspires confidence in the youth we serve, demonstrating that their creative output has artistic merit and value. Furthermore, it connects our youth authors with the wider community, raising awareness about their trauma, the conditions that give rise to it, and the resilience they demonstrate in response.

Pongo is growing to a staff of 6 full and part time staff members: two co-executive directors, a marketing/administrative coordinator, and three project leads. In addition, Pongo has a few dozen volunteers. Pongo has an annual budget of about $300,000. Our revenue comes from a variety of sources including fee for service, individual donors, an annual event, foundations, training fees and book sales.

After leading the organization for 25 years, the founding executive director, Richard Gold, retired from Pongo in July 2021. Since that time, Pongo has been led by a seasoned interim executive director who has helped create the infrastructure needed for growth planned over the next several years. In addition, we have recently engaged in board development and recruitment and have clarified board roles and responsibilities, offered training and increased the number of board members.

In February 2022, the Pongo Board of Directors approved a staff leadership model with two co- executive directors. Our Development Manager is being promoted to the Co-Executive Director, Development and Finance, and we are hiring for the Co-Executive Director, Programs. We are currently working remotely, but that could change. We expect the Co-Executive Director Programs to live in the Seattle area.

  • The Co-Executive Director, Programs (ED) reports to the board of directors and has overall responsibility for Pongo’s programs, expansion, and implementation of its mission.
Responsibilities

Strategic Leadership & Organizational Growth:

  • Co-lead Pongo in its journey to become an anti-racist organization and promote and instill diversity, equity and inclusion in all we do
  • Co-lead Pongo in reviewing, updating and implementing the strategic plan
  • Lead and oversee all aspects of the program including:
    • Maintain program quality and oversee program evaluation and reporting outcomes
    • Coordinate with researchers
    • Develop and maintain Pongo Affiliation process
    • Negotiate and sign program contracts
    • Supervise project leads
    • Plan and implement trainings and workshops
    • Recruit and train volunteer mentors
    • Present at national and regional conferences
  • Implement the national expansion and serve as an external local and national spokesperson who communicates program results with an emphasis on the successes of the local program as a model for regional and national replication
  • Work with the Co-Executive Director, Development and Finance to build board capacity and involvement with strategic direction for both ongoing local operations as well as for the national expansion

Communications:

  • Use external presence and relationships to garner new opportunities for growth
  • Participate in social media, newsletter, blog and other means of communication
  • Oversee book publication and handle copyright and other publication-related matters

Management & Operations:

  • Work with staff, volunteers, and interns to ensure ongoing programmatic excellence and consistent quality of programs, communications, and systems
  • Create and maintain a collaborative environment in which all staff are valued and have opportunities for personal and professional growth
  • Actively engage and energize Pongo staff, volunteers, board members, committees, partnering organizations, and funders
  • Oversight of Human Resources, particularly policy and compliance. Jointly responsible with the Co-Executive Director, Development and Finance, for compensation and benefits strategy, hiring and onboarding, training and evaluation, and culture-building
  • In partnership with the Co-Executive Director, Development and Finance, develop, maintain, and support a strong and diverse Board of Directors; serve as ex-officio of select committees including the Race, Equity and Social Justice committee
  • Develop effective systems to track scaling progress, and regularly evaluate program components to measure successes that can be effectively communicated to the board, funders, and other constituents

The Co-Executive Director, Programs must be thoroughly committed to Pongo’s mission. Candidates will be considered based on the range of their lived and learned experiences, professional background, and direct and transferable skills. Pongo seeks candidates with a compelling combination of demonstrated experience and skills.

Required Qualifications include:

  • At least 5 years of senior management experience or comparable life experience; track record of effective leadership and growing a nonprofit organization or program regionally and/or nationally; ability to point to specific examples of having developed and operationalized strategies that have taken an organization or program to the next stage of growth and impact
  • Excellence in staff management with the ability to create and maintain a collaborative work environment in which everyone feels valued
  • Experience in developing and presenting training curricula
  • Demonstrated commitment to anti-racism and experience helping an organization move forward in its anti-racism journey
  • Experience working with diverse communities
  • Strong written and verbal communication skills; a persuasive and passionate communicator with excellent interpersonal and multidisciplinary project skills
  • Develop and steward high quality relationships with our programmatic and organizational partners.
  • Appreciation for poetry and the role of expressive arts in healing
  • Experience working with youth
  • Knowledge of trauma-informed practices
  • Ability to adapt and make changes as the shared leadership model evolves

Preferred Qualifications include:

  • Experience working with a board of directors
  • Background in program evaluation

Our ideal candidate will be:

  • Action-oriented, collaborative, entrepreneurial, adaptable, and innovative
  • Passionate, positive, mission-driven, and self-directed

This is a full-time (40 hours per week) position. Salary is $80,000 a year plus benefits. The ideal start date is June 1, 2022

Benefits include health insurance stipend, 10 hours per month of paid time off, 10 paid holidays, a one-week winter break and a flexible work schedule.

We will start to screen applicants on April 15.  Deadline for applications is April 24.

Please submit a resume and cover letter addressed to: executivedirector@pongopoetryproject.org

Pongo Poetry is an equal opportunity employer. All people who add to our diverse community are encouraged to apply.

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