Senior Fellow

Location: Metro Chicago / Remote

The mission of the Institute of Political Innovation (IPI) is to contribute theory, scholarship and strategy that catalyzes model, modern and nonpartisan political change in America.

IPI’s vision is a restoration of healthy competition in American elections and legislation at federal and state levels, in service of real results for real people.

IPI was founded in February 2020 by business leader, entrepreneur, author and political innovator Katherine M. Gehl. IPI is a nonpartisan not-for-profit organization.

IPI represents a culmination of a multi-year period of scholarship and research, and a turning toward investment and action.

In 2013 Katherine Gehl was refining the competitive strategy for her $250 million high-tech food- manufacturing company in Wisconsin. With more than a century of innovation under its belt, Gehl Foods found itself faced with precipitously declining fortunes. Like most CEOs, Katherine utilized trusted tools for competitive analysis, like Harvard Business School Professor Michael E. Porter’s Five Forces framework, to lead the turnaround effort.

Unlike most CEOs, Katherine was simultaneously running a parallel competitive analysis—of American politics. “It was a lightbulb moment for me,” remembers Katherine. The industry competition lens shed new light on the root causes of dysfunction in our political system, and the most powerful—and nonpartisan—solutions. From this analysis, Katherine concretized the four foundational principles of “Politics Industry Theory,” which are as follows:

  • First, although people tend to think of the American political system as a public institution based on high-minded principles and impartial structures and practices derived from the Constitution, it’s not. Politics is a private industry. It behaves according to the same kinds of forces that shape competition in any industry.
  • Second, the dysfunctions of the politics industry are perpetuated by unhealthy competition that secures the duopoly’s position.
  • Third, our political system will not correct itself. There are no countervailing forces or independent and empowered regulators to restore healthy competition.
  • Fourth, certain strategic, precise changes to the rules of the game in elections and legislating would alter incentives in ways that create healthy competition, innovation, and accountability.

After selling her company, Katherine—believing business leaders were “missing in action”—used her theory to develop the business case for nonpartisan political innovation, with a laser-focus on targeted structural changes that will change the incentives that dictate decision making in politics. In 2016 she asked Prof. Porter to join as co-author on the seminal 2017 Harvard Business School report,

Why Competition in the Politics Industry is Failing America: A strategy for reinvigorating our democracy, which reshaped the national conversation on political reform. Katherine and Michael have broadened that work into a book, The Politics Industry: How Political Innovation Can Break Partisan Gridlock and Save Our Democracy, which was released in June 2020. To support action, Katherine and Michael are donating all proceeds of the book to IPI.

Katherine’s goal is to “create lightbulb moments for millions of people across the country, and in so doing catalyze a primetime movement for political innovation the likes of which we haven’t seen for 100 years.” The immediate focus of IPI is “Final-Five Voting,” the principal solution brought to light through Politics Industry Theory.

IPI is laser-focused on catalyzing a grasstops-led movement toward state-level legislative action around Final-Five Voting, a two-step innovation as follows:

  • Step one: Replace party primaries with a single nonpartisan primary in which the top five finishers, regardless of party, advance to the general election. This eliminates the “eye of the needle” conundrum, allowing legislators much more leeway to deliver results in the public interest without constant fear of getting “primaried.” It also creates dynamic competition in the general election with a broader field of candidates and space to debate a diversity of ideas instead of the same-old, binary, wedge issues.
  • Step two: Replace single-candidate voting in the general election with “Ranked-Choice Voting,” which allows voters to rank candidates in order of preference. This system eliminates the main barrier to new competition in politics, and, finally, injects accountability into our politics.

Final-Five Voting is a wise investment with a big return: healthy competition that delivers innovation, results and accountability—the best of what we call “free market politics.” Final- Five Voting isn’t designed to force people to abandon their ideological views, or to change who wins; it’s designed to change what the winners are incentivized to do on behalf of the American people.

IPI is a leader in national “nonpartisan democracy reform,” a community in which Katherine is deeply connected. Katherine is a board member of Unite America, Business for America, and New America. She is also co-chair of the National Association of Nonpartisan Reformers and co-founder of Democracy Found, a Wisconsin organization pursuing Final-Five Voting.

The Institute for Political Innovation brings a targeted universe of powerful leaders—civic, business, philanthropic, not-for-profit—to a point of action. IPI is committed to lead a nationwide movement to further elevate Politics Industry Theory (and subsequent scholarship) and develop and support state-level and nationwide innovation campaigns

IPI deploys three tactics toward achieving our mission and vision. Each tactic is geared around action—this is not centrally about clicks and hits, likes and shares—and each tactic flows from Gehl’s academic work, and is accelerated by her work as an influencer, connector and funder. A key asset at IPI is Gehl’s access to leaders and influencers across key American institutions—business, politics, academia, technology, and beyond. In order to break political gridlock and dysfunction and achieve real results for real people, an ongoing campaign of awareness building and enrollment is required. IPI will lead this campaign and leverage Gehl’s ability, access and influence.

  1. Political Innovation Research & Publication: IPI is the home for Gehl’s academic practice, which currently revolves around Politics Industry Theory. IPI will pursue continued research and publishing opportunities to perfect and socialize this work and extend it. IPI will aspire to a long-term partnership with a university, as well.
  2. Re-engineering Electoral Machinery: IPI is the action center for actualizing the primary solution to unhealthy competition in the politics industry: Final-Five Voting (FFV). IPI will target upwards of a dozen states to engage, incubate and drive political philanthropy around locally led campaigns—primarily legislative campaigns—to pass the FFV package within the next 3 to 10 years. IPI will also support grasstops engagement in ballot-initiative campaigns for FFV.
  3. Legislative Machinery: Still in a theoretical stage, the Legislative Innovation Commission (LIC) is the second step toward injecting healthy competition in the politics industry. The Institute will create an interdisciplinary coalition of experts and leaders to create a zero-based approach to the rules and practices of lawmaking and Congress, and then work collaboratively with elected officials to make the prescribed changes, legislatively.
Position Profile:

This is a once-in-lifetime opportunity for an experienced, exceptional, multi-faceted individual to contribute to the national movement for democracy reform.

The Senior Fellow (SF) is accountable, along with other senior leaders, for the success of the Institute for Political Innovation; above all else, that means the creation of highly credibly and influential Theory & Scholarship, the passage of Final-Five Voting in multiple states across the country, and substantive changes to Congress’s legislative machinery.

The SF reports to the Executive Director, and manages a full-time Fellow as well as partners in research-and-development projects, e.g., think tanks, universities, reform groups, consultants, etc. The SF is primarily responsible for establishing and furthering IPI as a thought-leading institute and producing new research and scholarship.

The Senior Fellow will be accountable for:
Theory: A top IPI priority is to further and fortify the usable knowledge base around Final-Five Voting (FFV), Legislative Machinery, and all elements of Politics Industry Theory. Through researching, developing, and writing white papers, policy reports, articles / op-eds, explainers, infographics, etc., the SF will build a polished library of academically supported theory and scholarship. Note: Final-Four Voting, a partner to Final-Five, passed in Alaska in 2020, and IPI is incubating and supporting state campaigns for 2022 and beyond, presenting a critical moment to evaluate the requirements and success of FFV implementation in Alaska and conduct the necessary inquiries to understand its anticipated impact on legislative behavior and delivering results for the American people.
Partnerships: IPI has active and building relationships with think tanks, academic institutions, and other political reform organizations interested in studying and evaluating Final-Five Voting and other aspects of Politics Industry Theory. The SF will accelerate, solidify, and manage these partnerships.
Media & Events: From national media to public events, the SF will manage, in partnership with IPI’s marketing-communications team and public affairs consultants, the in-house usage and public release and promotion of IPI’s theory and scholarship materials and cultivate an audience of people engaging with Politics Industry Theory. The SF will support ideation and production of journalism, and persuasively explain FFV and Politics Industry Theory, representing IPI in print and broadcast media, network-development meetings, seminars/panels, and conferences to advance awareness of and demand for Final-Five Voting. The SF will work closely with the marketing-communications, and network-development teams, to build IPI’s profile as the “organization of record” for Final-Five Voting and Legislative Machinery.
Public Narrative: The national debate on politics, partisanship, and representative governance is ripe for IPI and FFV inclusion. The SF will build systems for monitor this debate and in coordination with the communications team and other partners proactively identify, seek, and advance opportunities to inject IPI and Politics Industry Theory into the public narrative.

The character sketch of the ideal candidate is as follows:
• A serious academic and pragmatic thinker, particularly on electoral and political change
• An excellent written and oral communicator, with precision and high attention to detail
• A confident leader who gravitates toward problem-solving
• Adept at building buy-in around a plan or idea, and drive to completion
• A natural at making technical and complex subject matter relevant and consumable to any audience by identifying their key interests, concerns, and considerations and crafting an argument that engages them in meaningful ways
• A deep familiarity with and/or a gravitational pull toward nonpartisan political innovation¬—in theory and toward building campaigns—particularly around structural change to elections and lawmaking
• A dynamic personality who can engage effectively with audiences of different types, both one-to-one, and one-to-many
• A manager who identifies and hones talent and creates exceptional environments
• Experience in media management, both strategically (toward setting agendas) and actively (writing, and appearances)
• A strong backbone: ability to work at a fast pace, with a positive attitude, and manage coolly through a crisis
• Intrinsically motivated; a self-starter who seeks out and thrives in fast-paced environments with the highest expectations for accuracy and efficacy
• Ability to assess opportunities and create systems to execute on strategic priorities
• A collaborator, excellent strategic thinker, and outstanding project manager.
• Exhibits a positive attitude and executes tasks with ease and a calm demeanor.
• Willingness to engage at all levels, doing whatever it takes to get the job done

The qualifications for the ideal candidate are as follows:
• Graduate-level degree or equivalent technical research and writing skills
• At least 3 years of experience in policy research and writing as well as traditional and social media and communications, including a track record of driving measurable results and successes
• Proven track record of using theory and scholarship to influence public policy and/or public opinion outcomes
• Excellent sense of and ability to use academic resources and research processes, as well as experience writing in nonacademic styles.
• Ability to break down complex bodies of work into compelling and digestible messages and talking points. Comfort and familiarity with presenting to a variety of types and sizes of audiences across multiple mediums such as prepared speeches, panel discussions and debates, podcast appearances, and television media interviews, whether in-person or over video conference.
• Prior experience briefing senior decision makers such as corporate CEOs, elected officials, and philanthropists on technical policy issues
• Proficiency in Microsoft Word, Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint
• Willingness to travel as required for the position
• English proficiency
• Able to work legally in the United States
• Willing to take post-offer pre-employment psychological profile, and, if requested, a drug screen

While this profile is intended to be an accurate reflection of the most significant duties of the current position, it is not necessarily exhaustive of all responsibilities, duties, efforts, requirements, or expectations. Other duties may be assigned as necessary.

IPI strives to be an inclusive organization that fosters learning, collaboration, and respect. We actively recruit for diversity in the workplace, believing that a range of backgrounds, perspectives and experiences contributes to our mission.

IPI is an equal opportunity employer and will not discriminate against any applicants for employment based on race, color, religion, sex, age, national origin, veteran status, disability; or on any other basis prohibited by law.

We encourage individuals of all backgrounds to apply. If you are a qualified candidate who needs reasonable accommodations to apply for this position, please contact us.

TO APPLY: Please submit cover letter and resume to Solomon Lieberman, co-Executive Director of IPI, at [email protected] with “Senior Fellow” in the subject line.