Director - Research and Learning (Open to London)

Advocacy and Public Relations Washington, District of Columbia


About Mercy Corps

Mercy Corps is a leading global organization powered by the belief that a better world is possible.
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.
Now, and for the future.

Program / Department Summary

Mercy Corps is committed to generating and using evidence to understand and improve our impact, and to enhance the humanitarian and development community’s ability to address the world’s most complex challenges. The Research and Learning team advances Mercy Corps’ ability to influence major debates and decisions affecting our work, and to deliver high impact programming by supporting the generation and use of high quality evidence. Our external influence and internal learning are most effective when underpinned by substantive research on issues where we have expertise and a credible voice. Issues related to conflict, governance, and migration are current priorities for our research, influence and learning teams, as well as for our field teams around the world.

General Position Summary        

Mercy Corps is seeking a Director of Research and Learning to oversee the Agency’s conflict, governance, and migration research. We are seeking a leader with a proven record of leading and executing ambitious research agendas. The position is an essential part of the Research and Learning team management. It has two primary roles: 1) Develop, in consultation with others, and manage a  team of researchers to generate robust evidence on conflict, governance, and migration that responds to major program and policy questions; and 2) Lead research on peace and conflict or governance issues, including advancing and growing a research agenda, partnerships, and portfolio; executing independent studies; and using the evidence produced to further agency influence and learning.

The position serves as a public thought leader, engaging externally with government, think tank, academic and institutional partners, such as the World Bank and the United Nations, to advance our evidence and analysis on conflict, governance, and migration issues. The Director dedicates time to raising the profile of Mercy Corps’ research and evidence by giving high profile talks, participating in panels and research networks, and attending key external forums, as well as cultivating and deepening relationships with donors, policy makers, academics, and other evidence consumers. The position writes timely analysis, thought pieces, and other products, which maximize the impact of and learnings from Mercy Corps research.

The position engages strategically across the agency and externally to develop and drive research that is responsive to the major policy debates and knowledge gaps around program theories and practice. A key element of this role is mobilizing the agency’s internal expertise, analysis, and research toward external audiences. To this end, the Director works closely with Mercy Corps’ Policy and Advocacy team, and collaborates with Mercy Corps’ Technical Support Unit, Media and Communications, and Humanitarian Analysis teams. In addition, the position is responsible for stimulating internal learning from research. S/he works closely program and field teams to identify relevant questions, ensure that evidence is being used in improving program strategies, and that new programs are designed to generate evidence for further learning and influence.

The Director manages senior researchers leading our conflict, governance, and migration research portfolios, as well as managing the work of external research partners and analysts. The Director must have strong leadership, teamwork, and communication skills, be familiar with a range of research methods, have strong networks with academic and policy audiences in the peace, conflict and./or governance fields, and have a demonstrated ability to link research findings to policy debates and program theories and approaches. 

Essential Job Responsibilities

  • Co-lead Research and Learning team strategy development to develop/refine priorities, oversee work planning, resource allocation, implementation, and adaptive management
  • Represent the team on strategic internal and external initiatives, working groups, and fora related to advancing research and evidence in the humanitarian and development fields
  • Contribute to team communications in research and evidence to promote more effective and efficient coordination within and across the agency, including to executives and other senior leaders
  • Regularly contribute to new research proposal development and technical advising to field and technical teams, advising on partnerships, and reviewing and input to major research designs, analysis, and written products
  • Supervise two Senior Researchers, including providing them strategic direction in line with the broader research strategy, operational support, performance reviews, and mentoring/coaching
  • Manage and recommend use of discretionary research funds towards filling high priority opportunities needed to achieve the conflict, governance, and migration research strategy and agendas
  • Contribute to a team and agency culture of curiosity, experimentation, collaboration, and leaning to improve our capacity to produce and use rigorous,  ethical, actionable research


  • Lead the development and execution of a research agenda on peace and conflict or governance  research in collaboration with Mercy Corps technical, research, policy, and field teams, as well as key academic and think tank partners
  • Identify, design, and lead research opportunities that respond to our priority topics and questions on peace, conflict, and governance and that connect to Mercy Corps’ field programming
  • Manage and coordinate the work of external researchers, co-authors, data analysts, research assistants, and other consultants to execute and communicate studies on peace and conflict.
  • Lead or co-author (with academics, Mercy Corps staff, think tanks, or others) program and policy-relevant research products, including technical reports, white papers, policy briefs, commentary pieces, op-eds, and otherproducts tailored to key audiences


  • Promote Mercy Corps as a respected generator and consumer of research, as an organization that implements evidence based programming, and as the go to agency for conducting credible and actionable research on conflict, governance, and migration issues
  • Act as leading external voice in contributing to and influencing policy and practice on conflict issues based on our research and learning, including representation at key external academic and policy forums
  • Develop and advance partnerships with think tanks, academics, and other research entities that will increase the rigor, credibility and reach of our studies, and strengthen relationships with and the capacity of local research partners in the countries and regions where Mercy Corps operates
  • Cultivate / strengthen relationships with foundations and institutional donors, and grow the resource base for the conflict, governance, and migration research portfolios  
  • Establish and maintain strategic relationships with key consumers and users of our evidence, including peer NGOs, think tanks, and government officials


Communication and Use of Evidence

  • Ensure research findings translate into appropriate external products to support evidence-based influencing activities, including drafting of policy-related talking points, policy briefs, and key messages to use in external engagements.
  • Develop strong relationships with Mercy Corps internal stakeholders, particularly field teams, technical support teams, policy and advocacy, media and communications, and humanitarian analysis teams.
  • Actively translate and promote awareness and use of research and evidence to inform agencystrategies and priorities (program and policy) around conflict, governance, and migration 


  • 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.


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.

Supervisory Responsibility

Two Senior Researchers, consultants, research partners, research assistants, and interns as required.


Reports Directly To: Senior Director, Research and Learning


Works Directly With: Research and Learning, Policy and Advocacy, Communications, Technical Support Units, and Regional and Country teams


Knowledge and Experience

  • PhD strongly preferred, in political science, psychology, economics or other relevant discipline with minimum 5 years applied research experience. (Or, Master’s degree with over 10 years of research experience in international humanitarian and development programs)
  • 5 to 10 years relevant experience conducting independent research, analysis and publishing on peace, conflict, governance or related topics in fragile contexts
  • Knowledge of the rigorous and innovative methods in the field of applied research and impact evaluation of humanitarian and development programs, with a focus on peace, conflict and/or governance
  • Excellent leadership, management and team building skills that include the ability to mentor and coach peers within the team and across teams
  • Excellent analytical skills that include both an attention to detail and an ability to grasp complex theories and conceptual frameworks
  • Excellent representation and communication skills, including demonstrated ability to convey research findings and their implications to multiple audiences, including senior policy makers, practitioners and academics
  • Strong networks, relationships, and profile with major external actors, including policy and academic audiences
  • Intimate understanding of major policy issues, program theories, and academic discourse on peace, conflict, and/or governance issues
  • Willingness and ability to travel frequently to Mercy Corps project sites, field locations, including traveling to insecure environments, is required
  • Familiarity with major donors such as USAID, DFID, the EC and relevant foundations and corporations
  • Fluency in English is required; French, Spanish, or another second language strongly preferred


Success Factors

The successful candidate will be a self-starter, demonstrating leadership in leading setting and managing strategy, partnership development, team management, and external communications. S/He will show passion for the role that INGOs can play in using evidence to influence policy and practice. S/He will demonstrate flexibility in a non-hierarchical environment and an outstanding ability to communicate effectively with team members of varied work styles, follow procedures, and meet deadlines. S/he has strong networks outside of Mercy Corps, across academia, think tanks, and peer field organizations. S/he enjoys external collaborations, working with and coauthoring publications in order to elevate Mercy Corps’ influence. S/he will have experience in influencing different stakeholders and building solid working relationships with other teams, departments and at all levels of an organization. S/he is a multi-tasker with the proven ability to organize and prioritize competing priorities and demonstrated flexibility and creativity in planning and problem solving. S/He has the proven ability to learn quickly, take initiative, be accountable for results and understand the larger picture while remaining focused on the details. The individual must have high proficiency for working in varied cultural, political, and religious environments, and must be able to travel and work successfully in austere environments and maintain poise in stressful situations.

Living Conditions / Environmental Conditions

This position is located in either Washington, D.C. or London, United Kingdom. The position requires travel at least 30% time to the field where living conditions may be exceptionally rugged or be in volatile environments where security protocols will need to be followed. Team members must be ready to deploy to field environments on short notice in response to any emergency or crisis. When in the field the team member must able to work in remote settings and over weekends and/or evening as required by the schedule.

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.

Every voice matters and diversity is powerful are critical elements of Mercy Corps’ values that allow us to achieve our mission of alleviating suffering, poverty, and oppression by helping people build secure, productive, and just communities. We embrace diverse backgrounds, perspectives, and skills so that we can be stronger and have sustained impact.  Mercy Corps is an Equal Opportunity Employer regardless of background. Women, minorities, people with disabilities and veterans are strongly encouraged to apply.