Consultant-Social Cohesion Research Project Lead - Middle East - Remote

Programs Anywhere, United States


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.


The Humanitarian Access Team (HAT) was established in Beirut in March 2015 in response to the collective challenges facing the remote humanitarian response in Syria. Successful humanitarian and development interventions require a nuanced and objective understanding of the human ecosystems in which these interventions occur. To this end, the HAT’s most important function is to collect, triangulate, synthesize, analyze and operationalize disparate data and information. Since 2015, HAT analysis has provided a forward-looking template for international interventions in Syria, and facilitated an increasingly nimble, adaptive, integrated, and ultimately impactful international response to the Syrian conflict. 

Purpose / Project Description: 

The project contributes to Mercy Corps’ overarching approach to stabilisation in NES. While recognising that several factors are pertinent to the prospects of a stable society within NES, the project will specifically focus on community cohesion and inclusive approaches to community development. The project explores these dynamics through the perspectives of community members and their governing institutions; and utilises findings to deliver appropriate and impactful interventions that contribute to an inclusive development environment. The project is grounded in local ownership and evidence. It recognises local capacities to identify problems, to formulate options for addressing identified problems and to take individual and collective action to address identified problems. It posits that community members and their governing institutions as primary stakeholders should be central to program design and participation. It aligns with Mercy Corps’ commitment to achieving and sustaining the best possible impact for the conflict-affected populations in NES through effective programmes.

The project design models an action research process that entails three phases:

  •     Phase 1 analyses the micro and macro context in NES, specific to community cohesion and inclusive community development.
  •     Phase 2 utilises findings from phase one to develop an intervention theory of change, intervention methodologies and approaches; and the project’s monitoring, evaluation and learning framework.
  •     Phase 3 is action-focused, involving theory testing through the implementation of relevant activities.

The project will be implemented in Self Administration controlled areas in Deir-ez-Zor, Al-Hasakeh and Ar-Raqqa governorates in North East Syria.

  • Outcome 1: Context-specific research and analysis on community cohesion and inclusive community development
  • Outcome 2: Clearly defined community-driven and evidence-informed approach to enhance local capacities to promote community cohesion and inclusive approaches to community development
  • Outcome 3: Demonstrated model of a replicable, scalable, evidence-based and community-driven approach for promoting community cohesion and inclusive approaches to community development

The project will contribute to increasing the effectiveness of civil society action by demonstrating context-appropriate, evidence-informed and evidence-generating approaches that are community-driven and scalable. The project will prioritise the consultation and participation of local communities at all phases of the project cycle and incorporate locally generated efforts that promote community cohesion and inclusive community development. All interventions will be underpinned by conflict sensitivity considerations, and informed by an understanding of the conflict and power dynamics in target locations. 

Consultant Objectives:

Phase 1: Lead, design and deliver an in-depth analysis of the context in Deir-ez-Zor, Al-Hasakeh and Ar-Raqqa governorates in NES with respect to  conflict, drivers and enablers of violence, community cohesion, inclusive development and long term security and displacement challenges.

Phase 2:  Utilizing findings from phase one and other available evidence to develop a project theory/theories of change, methodologies and approaches; and the project’s monitoring, evaluation and learning framework.

Consultant Activities:

The Consultancy is divided into two main components related to phase one and two of the project. Within this, it is expected that the consultant will undertake the following activities. 

 The consultant will:

  • Map and review secondary data sources pertinent to conflict, drivers and enablers of violence, community cohesion, inclusive development and long term security and displacement challenges in Syria and similar contexts 
  • Work with the HAT Analysis Team and the Mercy Corps Syria Peace and Conflict Advisor and Program Performance and Quality (PaQ) Director in developing objectives, tools and field work methodology for conducting field research on conflict, drivers and enablers of violence, community cohesion, inclusive development and long term security and displacement challenges – including political economy and a social network analysis;
  • Work with the field research coordinator to ensure field researchers understand their responsibilities, tools and methodology for field work including through trainings, meetings and debriefs with field researchers. Undertake data analysis with the HAT and support short yet nuanced micro-level conflict and actor mapping;
  • Lead the development of an evidence informed stabilization project model to mitigate/address drivers of violence and barriers to community cohesion and inclusive development across NES – including a theory of change; programing methods/approaches, and a monitoring, evaluation and learning framework, in consultation with community members, the PAQ team and Syria Technical Support Unit (TSU) and the HQ Peace and Conflict Senior researcher
  • Lead  the Conflict Sensitivity Analysis (prior to field research) and work with the HAT Analyst team in conducting a conflict sensitivity analysis of potential programmatic activities (as articulated in project model) and develop a conflict sensitivity strategy for Mercy Corps operations in each of the three targeted governorates in NES 
  • Design and write analytical reports to be conducted independently as well as part of the greater analytical team;
  • Assist in donor meetings/presentations on and other ad hoc requirements related to the project;

Consultant Deliverables:

The Consultant will deliver:

  • A detailed work plan for the entire duration of the project (15 January 2021)  
  • Secondary data review report (31 January 2021)
  • Research objectives, tools and methodology (10 February 2021t)
  • Final Phase 1 report (15 April 2021)
  • Project model (30 April 2021)
  • Final Phase 2 report (31 July 2021)

Timeframe / Schedule:  

The consultancy will take place from 1 January 2020 to 31 July 2021. 

The Consultant will report to: 

The Consultant will have a direct reporting line to the Humanitarian Access Team’s Director. He/she will work closely with the Director of Programs from northeast Syria (NES), Program Performance and Quality (PAQ) director, Syria Peace and Conflict Advisor and the  HQ Peace and Conflict Senior Researcher.

Required Experience & Skills:

  • Relevant academic qualifications, and / or 7+ years’ experience in research, evaluation and learning (including quantitative and qualitative approaches) with a strong focus on social cohesion and inclusive development 
  • In-depth knowledge on social cohesion and displacement dynamics  and their intersect/potential intersect with inclusive development outcomes in Syria and/or conflict affected contexts
  • In-depth understanding of the complementarities and tensions between stabilization activities and humanitarian action
  • Ability to conduct a social network analysis in a conflict setting. 
  • Contextual understanding of Syria, specifically northeast Syria (NES)
  • Relevant experience with participatory approaches to research and project design in conflict-affected contexts
  • Strong experience in designing bottom up evidence informed and evidence generating peace, conflict and stabilization projects, grounded on sound logic encapsulated in a theory(ies) of change;
  • Experience in conducting conflict and conflict sensitivity analysis and political economy analysis in conflict affected contexts;
  • Experience incorporating a gender, age and stabilization lens in context, conflict and conflict sensitivity analysis processes;
  • In-depth knowledge and understanding of formal and informal systems of local governance and social organization, including the interplay between tribal dynamics and governance; and
  • Fluency in written and spoken Arabic is desirable.

Mercy Corps Diversity Statement 

Achieving our mission begins with how we build our team and 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 Statement

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.