Research Assistant - Vice President of Policy and Advocacy

Advocacy and Public Relations Washington, District of Columbia


About Mercy Corps

In disaster, in hardship, in more than 40 countries around the world, we partner to put bold solutions into action — helping people triumph over adversity and build stronger communities from within.

Program / Department Summary

Mercy Corps works to influence the policy, priorities, and practices that affect the people we serve in fragile contexts and living through complex humanitarian crises. Our most compelling influence relies on substantive research and evidence, leveraging our expertise and credible voice, combined with targeted and sustained engagement of policymakers, donors, peer organizations and other leaders. Priority issues for Mercy Corps’ influence efforts currently include root causes of conflict and violence, governance challenges in fragile and post-conflict contexts, climate change and resilience in complex crises. 

General Position Summary

The Research Assistant will focus on two main tasks. First, s/he will provide high-level executive and administrative support to the Vice President for Policy and Research, including executive staffing, travel assistance, and scheduling support.  Second, the research assistant will work on research and writing projects based on the Vice President’s key priorities, including conflict, governance, and climate change and migration issues. Research and writing projects may be fast turnaround or long-term projects.

To succeed at this job will require exceptional leadership skills, talent, creativity and the ability to work quickly across teams, synthesizing information and expertise.  The ideal candidate will enjoy both short deadline tasks and sustaining long term research questions. S/he will be motivated by Mercy Corps’ mission and humble and collaborative. The candidate will be familiar and interested in global and U.S. policy debates and research questions related to foreign assistance, complex crises such as Yemen, Syria, Nigeria and South Sudan, and key policy issues related to our work, including conflict, migration, climate-related debates, and the global refugee crisis.  S/he will work closely with (1) Mercy Corps’ Policy and Advocacy team, who drive policy and advocacy work on crisis specific and sectoral priorities; and (2) Mercy Corps’ Research team, who generate independent research findings both to inform and influence the sector, as well as to improve Mercy Corps’ programs in the field. The candidate will work closely with other teams, including the Media and Communications and Resource Development teams.

Essential Job Responsibilities

High-Level Support to the Vice President

  • Provide primary administrative and executive support for the Vice President, including coordination and maintenance of her appointment and travel schedule, expense reports, visa applications, itineraries, etc.
  • Staff Vice President for external engagements, including preparation and compilation of briefing materials, power point presentations, as needed.
  • Provide Vice President with memos and other draft materials as appropriate.
  • Liaise with the D.C., Portland and field teams, in order to provide information and follow-up on key inter-team meetings.
  • Manage key projects of importance to the Vice President.

Research and Writing

  • Support the Vice President for Policy and Research by researching key policy and programmatic related topics and drafting key communications including but not limited to executive summaries, policy briefs, and op-eds.
  • Conduct longer-term research projects on key issues affecting the field of foreign assistance, international humanitarian law, and U.S. foreign policy.
  • Support the development of petitions by helping to draft content in-line with key policy positions.
  • Support the development of new research by compiling short literature reviews.
  • Write drafts of speeches and op-eds for the Executive Team.


Organizational Learning 

As part of our commitment to organizational learning and in support of our understanding that learning organizations are more effective, efficient and relevant to the communities they serve, we expect all team members to commit 5% of their time to learning activities that benefit Mercy Corps as well as themselves.

Accountability to Beneficiaries

Mercy Corps team members are expected to support all efforts toward accountability, specifically
to our beneficiaries and to international standards guiding international relief and development work, while actively engaging beneficiary communities as equal partners in the design, monitoring and evaluation of our field projects.


Reports Directly To: Vice President of Policy and Research

Works Directly With: Policy and Research Senior Directors and team members, DC office manager and other administrative staff, other Executive Assistants across the agency, field teams.


Knowledge and Experience

  • B.A. or B.S. in a relevant field required; M.A. in a relevant field preferred.
  • A minimum of 1-3 year of professional experience in a fast-paced environment.
  • Excellent interpersonal, verbal, research, and written communication skills.
  • Strong writing and editing skills, including significant expertise editing other people’s writing.
  • Strong analytical skills and the ability to effectively gather and summarize large amounts of information from various sources.
  • Prior experience with executive staffing, including executive meeting preparation, schedule management and travel arrangements strongly desired.
  • Strong analytical skills, able to work with, synthesize, interpret and meaningfully report on data using Excel, data visualization software, and other tools.
  • Excellent computer skills required, including familiarity with MS Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Google tools; comfort with IT functions a plus.
  • Multi-tasking, organizational, and prioritization skills.
  • Ability to take initiative and complete work or solve problems with minimal guidance; self-starter.
  • Sensitivity, skill and experience with public relations and correspondence to a wide variety of public constituents including media, donors, U.S. Government officials and international delegates necessary.
  • Demonstrated ability to work well under pressure and cooperatively with team members.
  • The ability to take direction as well as work independently.
  • Experience maintaining a high level of confidentiality on sensitive matters.
  • Previous overseas, international, non-profit, or government experience preferred.


Success Factors

Ability to build and maintain strong relationships with colleagues, peer groups, and officials; and motivation to seek out and establish new relationships. Ability to quickly and effectively summarize complex information into clear, concise writing. A clear understanding of Mercy Corps’ mission and collaborative style of operation. Ability to work simultaneously on multiple tasks in a fast-paced environment and meet deadlines under those conditions. Ability to work as part of a team and coordinate with both HQ and country team personnel. Computer literate with strong organizational skills. Ability to operate with a significant degree of autonomy within agreed upon parameters. Flexibility and ability to adapt to changing conditions and requirements


Living Conditions / Environmental Conditions

This position will be based in Washington, DC. The role may involve some travel to Portland, Oregon.  Mercy Corps team members represent the agency both during and outside work hours when deployed in a field posting or on a visit/TDY to a field posting. Team members are expected to conduct themselves in a professional manner and respect local laws, customs and MC's policies, procedures, and values at all times and in all in-country venues.

Fostering a diverse and open workplace is an important part of Mercy Corps’ vision.  Mercy Corps is an Equal Opportunity Employer regardless of background. We are committed to creating an inclusive environment