Director, Food Security and Food Systems (Open to Washington D.C)

Programs Nairobi, Kenya


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.

We are at a turning point - the contexts in which we work are evolving; climate change, conflicts and other shocks are driving increased hunger; technology is rapidly expanding opportunities for efficiency in agricultural systems; and there are more needs than ever to deploy tactical programs that boost agriculture systems and pull smallholder producers, including youth, away from subsistence into more commercial activities.

Mercy Corps is implementing a large number of impactful programs, largely in fragile contexts, focused on supporting male, female and young producers and market actors to improve productivity and become more profitable. These programs are grounded in a market systems development approach, rooted in deep analysis that supports climate-resilience, coupled with market efficiency and the support to young entrepreneurs to engage in agriculture systems. At the same time, these programs also focus on improved household consumption of safe and nutritious foods, recognizing that human potential can only be fulfilled by tackling both chronic and acute malnutrition. 

We are looking for someone with the creativity and drive to help us drive transformational change for improved  food security, nutrition and food systems despite the shocks of climate, conflict and other threats that are driving global hunger today.  The work will be done through partnerships, with our global team members in more than 40 countries and change agents including community stakeholders, entrepreneurs, research institutions, government and beyond, ensuring food production, food access and food utilization are benefiting from smart agriculture systems thinking, commitment to improve agriculture systems, empower small producers and build partnerships across our more than 40 countries of operation with our global team members and external partners—such as entrepreneurs, research institutions, funders, corporations, and governments.

Program / Department Summary

Mercy Corps’ Technical Support Unit (TSU) is a key part of the Program Department.  It houses subject matter experts whose mission is to help our global teams apply the most effective solutions to the world’s toughest challenges, while building our global reputation and resources to do so.  The TSU helps set agency-wide strategy and develops strategic approach documents and other technical briefs for their practice area to inform the entire organization’s work. In addition, it offers technical expertise to offices worldwide - supporting country strategy development and assessments, and engaging throughout the program life cycle from project design and proposal development to quality implementation and evaluations.

As technical experts in their field, TSU Team members are well versed in global practices and abreast of sector specific trends.  They also represent Mercy Corps with donors and other strategic partners, and inform and influence both internal approaches and global understanding on how to move the needle on some of the most intractable humanitarian and development challenges of our time, especially in fragile settings.

General Position Summary

The TSU Director for Food Security and Food Systems is Mercy Corps’ top global technical leader for food security, nutrition and food systems programming in fragile contexts.  They will have a clear vision for the future of food security in the geographies in which Mercy Corps works. They will drive a clear strategy and vision, define and nurture a strategic portfolio of food security and food systems programs to deliver the vision, and facilitate shared understanding of technical approaches and strategic linkages to ensure technical excellence and impact at scale. Knowing that Mercy Corps can only excel at this work through catalytic collaboration with like-minded entrepreneurs, companies, funders, governments and peer organizations, the Director will facilitate partnerships, particularly at regional level.

They are a strong influencer both inside and outside the Agency with the ability to communicate Mercy Corps’ technical strengths and overall vision. They will continue to nurture donor relationships to grow the food security portfolio, while supporting country teams in applying cutting edge technical and operational standards in resilience, food and market systems and nexus-based approaches towards impact at scale. They will be managing advisors and senior advisors, be a member of the TSU Leadership team composed of other Directors and Senior Directors and work closely with other TSU teams on complex, multi-disciplinary programs. The TSU Director for Food Security, Nutrition and Food Systems is one of two Directors on the Resilience and Food Security composite  team, led by the Senior Director for Resilience and Food Security. They will work closely with the composite team towards a shared vision, and reinforcing technical and operational ways of working. They will model effective, integrated, multi-sector approaches and demonstrate how reinforcing ways of working across sectors and programs can help deliver collective impact in food security.

Essential Job Responsibilities

Strategy and Vision
  • Drive and nurture the uptake of a distinctive, strategic, vision for resilient, inclusive food security, in close collaboration with regional and country teams and other TSU and agency departments; ensure vision is reflective of regional and country team priorities.
  • Ensure broad ownership and understanding of Mercy Corps’ food security strategy and vision across the agency, and our global focus on resilience, food systems, and inclusion, as fundamental to driving transformational change.
  • Partner with regions and priority countries to help define, articulate and advance their vision for resilient, inclusive food security and food systems, and set strategic priorities.
  • Stay abreast of key internal and external trends in the field of food security, food systems and nutrition to inform TSU work, and share updates across agency.
  • In partnership with the resilience, TSU, regional and country teams, lead innovative thinking around “new” areas of food security and food systems, for example building lasting food security in conflict settings, food systems transformation in the conflict-climate nexus, nutrition in conflict settings and new ways of working in humanitarian action.
  • Spearhead innovative partnership initiatives with private and public entities at regional levels.
  • Facilitate the application of the global TSU Vision 3.0 and strategies across the global food security portfolio
Program Development and Support
  • Define, nurture, and grow a distinctive portfolio of resilience-focused food security, nutrition and food systems programming, as tied to regional outcomes, and Mercy Corps’ distinctive areas.
  • Provide strategic oversight, direction and structure to Mercy Corps’ portfolio of flagship food security, nutrition and food systems programs, ensuring streamlined systems that drive and deliver technical excellence, influence, and impact
  • Ensure flagship programs are abreast of Mercy Corps’ up-to-date approaches and standards, and staffed and structured appropriately to deliver on technical excellence;
  • In partnership with the composite team SD and Resilience Director, facilitate and help coordinate technical support provision to a defined set of flagship food security programs
  • Through regular feedback and partnership, continue to evolve and improve technical approaches and systems to drive technical excellence across our global food security and nutrition portfolio.
  • In partnership with the Resilience team, ensure the implementation of cutting-edge guidance and standards for assessment, analysis, adaptive management, and evaluation for food security programs; facilitate the uptake of resilience practices in food security program management
Monitoring, Learning and Evaluation
  • Regularly lead learning and reflection sessions across programs and teams, and evolve standards and processes as necessary.
  • Facilitate linkages and support shared learning and reflection across the food security portfolio, including through a Chief of Party Forum, and a practitioners community of practice;
  • Foster the development of - and broad ownership of - a food security learning agenda, reflective of our strategy and vision and distinctive themes
  • Facilitate multi-country/multi-team efforts to capture and share of lessons across our food security portfolio, and adapt practices; leverage food security learning awards as necessary
  • Identify strategic areas for in-depth research and high quality impact evaluation and help channel resources from research and MEL teams to rigorously capture outcomes
  • Engage technical teams effectively on priority monitoring, evaluation and minimum standards relating to technical approaches
Team Development and Management
  • In partnership with the composite team SD and Global Resilience Director, actively develop and manage a food security and nutrition technical team to meet the technical support needs of the global food security portfolio.
  • Fully embrace the Agency’s culture and values and actively work to achieve its goals relating to Gender, Diversity and Inclusion.
  • Engage regularly on team workplans and budget issues, work collectively to advance coherence across the Unit, and ensure communications flow up and down in a timely manner.
  • Effectively manage teams and financial resources to deliver on strategic priorities, including through innovative ways of growing team and resources
  • Help team members identify and take advantage of opportunities to ensure professional growth and provide advice and encouragement to help them reach their full potential,
  • Ensure that global and regional diversity, equity and inclusion principles are applied in recruitment and management of team members
  • Play an effective team leadership role in the Resilience, Food Security and Nutrition composite team, actively engaging in shared team processes and practices, both technical and operational.
Representation, Thought leadership, and Partnership Development
  • Oversee the production and dissemination of high quality thought pieces, blogs, and externally facing approach papers that demonstrates Mercy Corps unique voice in food security, nutrition and food systems
  • In partnership with SD for FS/Resilience, and the Food Security Learning Director, serve as key external communicator for Mercy Corps in a wide range of public fora
  • Directly inform Mercy Corps’ global position on food security/food systems for US, UK and European donors;
  • Strengthen Mercy Corps’ profile and representation through expert interaction with internal stakeholders, partner agencies, donors and other networks and groups in the area of food security and food systems
  • Position Mercy Corps as a thought leader in the space of resilient and inclusive food security and food systems, particularly in relation to conflict, climate, market systems, technology, and nexus approaches
  • Advance external Influence through work with other Agency leads, including Regional Leadership, Policy and Research, Program and Quality, Marketing and Communications teams to raise Mercy Corps global profile.

Ongoing 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.

Supervisory Responsibility

The position has supervisory responsibility over the Food Security technical team.


Reports Directly To: Senior Director, Resilience and Food Security, TSU

Works Directly With:  Resilience TSU and other TSU Directors, Chief of Parties, food security program teams, Regional or Country Directors, Africa Regional Technical Director, PaQ, particularly MEL teams, Research and Learning,, Humanitarian Response, and other Agency leadership

 Knowledge and Experience

  • Bachelor’s degree required. M.A, M.S., M.Sc., or equivalent in a field related to the TSU team specialty and relevant technical certifications are preferred.
  • At least 7 years’ experience in international development with a strong focus on resilient food security, shock-responsive programming, and links between humanitarian and development action. Candidate should have experience:
    • Designing, implementing and evaluating complex food security programming combining systems based approaches with meeting the needs of the most vulnerable
    • Working overseas and managing food security programming ideally in fragile contexts, experience with humanitarian programming a plus.
    • Working cross-sectorally and gaining commitment and enthusiasm for interdisciplinary collaboration.
    • Developing proposals and cultivating donor relationships.
    • Building solid relationships with a range of partners, including the private sector and nurturing professional networks.
    • Strong understanding of resilience and systems-based approaches
    • Strengthening technical skills of country teams.
  • At least 5 years of management and supervisory experience that includes:
    • Effective coaching, development, and management of individual staff and teams.
    • Proven leadership, self-motivation, and interpersonal skills.
    • Leading matrixed teams for successful results in non-hierarchical settings.
    • Working with teams of diverse backgrounds.
  • Exceptionally strong verbal and written communications skills and organizational skills are required
  • Willingness and ability to travel frequently to Mercy Corps project sites, including traveling to insecure environments, is required.
  • Strong experience with major donors such as USAID required, and familiarity with others such as DFID, the EC and relevant foundations and corporations preferred
  • Fluency in English is required; fluency in French strongly preferred.

Success Factors

Flexibility, ingenuity, people and communication skills are essential success factors. The Director must be a superb team player who has the technical and functional skills to lead the TSU as a coherent, strategic and field-responsive best-in-class technical unit.  The Director must be able to guide a team ensuring coherence of vision and strategy across groups as well as be able to identify and pursue new paths forward.  They must guide vision and plan for their team(s) that both integrate well and are mutually reinforcing with other parts of the TSU..  Directors interact expertly with other Directors and Senior Directors and also with executive team members, peers and high - profile donors to maximize MC influence and impact.  In addition, the leader must have strong interpersonal and communication skills to effectively reach across departments within the agency and to networks and associations outside it to build critical partnership to further thought leadership, program innovation and ensure MC relevance and impact on the industry. The successful Director must be a self - starter who demonstrates exceptional ability in leading organizational initiatives and understanding Mercy Corps’ strategic plans and objectives.  The Director 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 will be located in Nairobi, open to Washington D.C or potentially in one of the regional hubs. The position requires travel at least 30% time to country offices and project sites 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 travel on short notice in response to any emergency or crisis. The team member must be comfortable working in remote settings with limited infrastructure, food options and sparse living conditions, and may be asked to work over weekends and/or evenings, especially when travelling.

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

Achieving our mission begins with how we build our team and how we work together. Through our commitment to enriching our organization with people of different origins, beliefs, backgrounds, and ways of thinking, we are better able to leverage the collective power of our teams and solve the world’s most complex challenges. We strive for a culture of trust and respect, where everyone contributes their perspectives and authentic selves, reaches their potential as individuals and teams, and collaborates to do the best work of their lives. 

We recognize that diversity and inclusion is a journey, and we are committed to learning, listening and evolving to become more diverse, equitable and inclusive than we are today.

Equal Employment Opportunity

Mercy Corps is an equal opportunity employer that does not tolerate discrimination on any basis. We actively seek out diverse backgrounds, perspectives, and skills so that we can be collectively stronger and have sustained global impact. 

We are committed to providing an environment of respect and psychological safety where equal employment opportunities are available to all. We do not engage in or tolerate discrimination on the basis of race, color, gender identity, gender expression, religion, age, sexual orientation, national or ethnic origin, disability (including HIV/AIDS status), marital status, military veteran status or any other protected group in the locations where we work.

Safeguarding & Ethics

Mercy Corps team members are expected to support all efforts toward accountability, specifically to our stakeholders and to international standards guiding relief and development work, while actively engaging communities as equal partners in the design, monitoring and evaluation of our field projects. 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. As part of our commitment to a safe and inclusive work environment, team members are expected to adhere to Mercy Corps Code of Conduct policies and are required to complete mandatory corresponding elearning courses upon hire and on an annual basis.

Accountability to Participants

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