Vera Institute of Justice

Innovation Senior Associate - Human Centered Design, Innovation Team (Brooklyn)

Impact Pipeline & MEL - Brooklyn, NY - Full Time

Who we are

The Vera Institute of Justice, founded in 1961, is a nonprofit criminal justice organization that strives to build just government institutions and safe communities free from the scourge of racism, white supremacy, profit, and inequity that is pervasive in this country’s legal systems. We are an “inside” lane organization that drives change at scale with ambitious public sector leaders who share our commitment to building anti-racist, reparative systems that deliver justice. We leverage our access to government to transform these systems and work collaboratively with stakeholders across many movements—including advocacy, grassroots, and grassroots organizations. Our role is to pilot solutions that are transformative and achievable, harness the power of evidence to drive effective policy and practice, and use advocacy and communications to change narratives and norms.

Vera has a staff of almost 300 people and offices in New York City, Washington, DC, Los Angeles, and New Orleans. We are an equal opportunity employer with a commitment to diversity in the workplace. We expect our staff to embody respect, independence, collaboration, commitment, anti-racism, and equity—both in our outward-facing work and the internal culture of our workplace. We value a range of experiences in people’s educational backgrounds and encourage people who have been directly impacted by the criminal justice system to apply.

Who you are:

Vera generates ideas to transform the criminal legal and immigration systems and takes them to national scale. Following the completion of our strategic plan, we are expanding and formalizing our infrastructure for this multistage ideation and scaling process—which we call the Impact Pipeline. This staged process helps Vera staff generate ideas with potential for national impact, pilot those ideas, adapt and improve them, and evaluate their effectiveness.  

In this new position, the Innovation Team is seeking a Human Centered Designer, who has experience working in service and/or program design in a social sector. They will help to design key tools, frameworks, and structures for teams on the early stages of the Impact Pipeline to help ideate and further develop new ideas. They will work closely with the Innovation Director, Innovation Coordinator, Impact Pipeline team and initiative leads to generate new ideas, lead through design sprints, and prototype and deliver solutions that pursue Vera’s goals of creating multi-year initiatives that achieve national impact and race equity..

In this role, you will:

  1. Workshop design and facilitation
  • Refine, lead, and co-lead ideation workshops with relevant idea leads and innovation team members to generate new ideas and areas for opportunity. The ideas and opportunity areas should be aligned with Vera’s strategic plan, impact a large number of people, and improve race equity. They also must be scoped for further development and prototyping in a 90 day learning cycle. 
  • Work with relevant initiative teams to co-lead and co-design workshops and design sprints with key stakeholders. Stakeholders may include Vera staff, partner organizations, members of the community, and technical experts. 
  • Synthesize insights from the workshops
  1. Training, coaching and learning
  • Co-develop with the Innovation Team trainings on innovation, prototyping, and human centered design, including design research, stakeholder mapping, and journey mapping. 
  • Provide technical support and coaching to Verans on human centered design tools and methodologies relevant to developing their idea.
  1. Design tools creation and implementation
  • Develop tools and frameworks (e.g. worksheets for journey mapping, decision trees for prototyping, Virtual Boards for design sprints) for teams across Vera to engage in developing emerging ideas. The Designer will gather feedback on these tools, and continue to add and amend based on the needs of Verans.
  1. Supervise staff and serve on the SAFE management team, promoting a culture of racial equity and inclusion.
  • Work with teams to conduct desk research on their early stage ideas. Co-develop interview guides, sampling plans, and conduct design research and empathy interviews with relevant stakeholders, in a way that is generative for all parties involved. 
  • With teams, analyze and synthesize research for internal learnings and dissemination. Through analysis, work with teams to develop stakeholder maps, power maps, initial theories of change, user personas, and relevant artifacts. 
  • Support teams to develop testable ideas based on  design research, literature reviews, landscape analysis, and stakeholder interviews. Prototypes may include sample messages, mockups of service experience, role plays, and user journey; and the designer will work closely with relevant advocacy, communications, research and technical teams to align on needs and goals for the prototypes. The designer will work with teams to test these prototypes.
  1. Impact Pipeline process improvement
  • The designer will work closely with the Innovation team to gather feedback from initiative teams and relevant stakeholders to improve the supports and tools provided by the innovation team at the early stages of the pipeline. They will help ensure that Race Equity and Inclusion is integrated into all early-stage pipeline activities.
  1. Other duties as assigned

What qualifications do you need?


  • Service design experience of 3 + years
  • Experience using human centered design methodologies in service/intervention development (including design research, intervention design, prototyping) 
  • Qualitative research/human-centered design research with diverse populations of 2+ years
  • Experience leading co-design sessions and prototyping with partners, including grassroots and community partners
  • Experience designing and facilitating workshops on innovation and design 
  • Demonstrated portfolio of designs, prototypes, and synthesized research. 
  • Proven commitment to racial equity and its intersections and experience engaging in conversations about race, equity, and inclusion
  • Strong facilitation and communication for innovation and design-related meetings, dialogues, and capacity building sessions. 
  • Ability to proactively seek out, graciously receive and quickly adapt processes and outputs based on feedback
  • Excellent organizational skills and ability to work on multiple projects effectively and efficiently, both independently and collaboratively with a team
  • Knowledge of or lived experience with criminal and immigration legal systems


  • Experience designing for social impact/justice systems 
  • Experience working with people who have been impacted by the US criminal legal or immigration system 
  • Masters in Social Sciences, Design Methods, Psychology, Behavioral Science, Social Work, Policy, Innovation or BA + equivalent work experience in human centered design.

List of Required Software applications:

  • Proficient with Microsoft Office Suite
  • Proficient with Miro/Mural or other virtual whiteboards 

Applications may also be faxed to:

ATTN: Human Resources / Innovation Senior Associate – Human Centered Design, Innovation Team  

Vera Institute of Justice
34 35th St, Suite 4-2A, Brooklyn, NY 11232
Fax: (212) 941-9407
Please use only one method (online, mail or fax) of submission.
No phone calls, please. Only applicants selected for interviews will be contacted.

As a federal contractor, and in order to ensure a healthy and safe work environment, Vera Institute of Justice is requiring all employees to be fully vaccinated and provide proof of their COVID-19 vaccine before their start date. Employees who cannot receive the vaccine because of a disability/medical contraindication or sincerely-held religious belief may request an accommodation (e.g., an exemption) to this requirement.

Vera is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer.  All qualified applicants will be considered for employment without unlawful discrimination based on race, color, creed, national origin, sex, age, disability, marital status, sexual orientation, military status, prior record of arrest or conviction, citizenship status, current employment status, or caregiver status. 

Vera works to advance justice, particularly racial justice, in an increasingly multicultural country and globally connected world. We value diverse experiences, including with regard to educational background and justice system contact, and depend on a diverse staff to carry out our mission. 

For more information about Vera, please visit


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