Senior Researcher - Governance

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 works to influence the policy, priorities, practices, and debates that affect the people we serve in fragile contexts and complex humanitarian crises. Our most compelling influence is underpinned by substantive research on issues where we have expertise and a credible voice, combined with targeted and sustained engagement of policy makers, donors, peer organizations and other leaders. Priority issues for Mercy Corps’ research and influence efforts currently include: root causes of conflict and violence and resilience in complex crises. In addition, we are seeking to expand evidence and influence on governance challenges in fragile and post-conflict contexts.

General Position Summary

Mercy Corps is seeking a Senior Researcher with a proven record of designing and executing independent research on    issues related to governance in fragile contexts. The researcher must have strong writing skills, familiarity with a range of research methods, and a deep understanding of the links between research findings and policy debates.  The researcher will serve as a public thought leader, advancing Mercy Corps’ evidence, analysis and point of view  on foreign assistance policy and advocacy arenas related to governance and related  

The role will involve developing and managing  2-3 original research products a year, in consultation with the Senior Director for Research and Learning. The research will involve frequent trips to the field to work with Mercy Corps program leads, as Mercy Corps’ research begins with questions facing our field teams implementing programs and aims to advance programmatic learning. In addition, the researcher will write timely analysis, thought pieces, and other products, which maximize the impact of, and learnings from, Mercy Corps research, programs and operations. The position will lead research and drafting of several major long papers, shorter reports and quick-turn around journalistic pieces per year and will contribute to the development of policy documents, as needed.  In addition to producing research and analysis, the position will play a key role in communicating and leveraging the products through presentations and other forums to influence external debates and decisions.

A key element of this role will be mobilizing the agency’s internal expertise, analysis, and research toward external audiences. To this end, the Researcher will work closely with Mercy Corps’ Policy and Advocacy team, who will provide input on policy priorities and political strategy, and collaborate with Mercy Corps’ Technical Support Unit, Media and Communications, and Humanitarian Analysis teams.

Essential Job Responsibilities

Content Generation

  • Produce 2-3 major external research and policy papers per year on governance and other priority issues, based on significant field research and multi-method approaches.
  • Collaborate with Mercy Corps technical, research, policy, and field teams, as well as key academic and think tank partners, to develop key research questions and answers.
  • Produce white papers, policy briefs, commentary pieces, op-eds, and other shorter products tailored to key audiences.
  • Support Research and Learning, and Policy and Advocacy leadership in developing policy documents and communications as needed, including assist with the drafting of policy-related talking points and key messages to help guide and inform Mercy Corps staff members and advocacy efforts.
  • Research, analyze, and summarize policy issues through a variety of means, including field visits, primary surveys and qualitative data, key informant interviews including with Mercy Corps staff, and literature reviews.


Communication and Dissemination

  • Disseminate research and policy findings through presentations and other targeted communications.
  • Represent Mercy Corps at conferences, advocacy meetings, and in other fora.
  • Establish and maintain strategic relationships with key external actors including peer NGOs, think tanks, academic institutions, and government officials, and conduct collaborative research and influence with them.
  • Develop strong relationships with Mercy Corps internal stakeholders, particularly field teams, technical support teams, media and communications, and humanitarian analysis teams. 
  • Other duties as assigned by the Supervisor.


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.

Supervisory Responsibility

  • None on a regular basis


Reports Directly To: Senior Director of Research and Learning

Works Directly With: Policy and Advocacy team, Regional and Country Teams, Technical Support Unit, Media and Communications Team, Humanitarian Analysis team


Knowledge and Experience

  • Doctorate in relevant field (international development, international relations, public policy, other social sciences).
  • 5 to 10 years relevant experience conducting independent research, analysis and publishing independently on governance in fragile contexts and related topics.
  • Regional expertise on Africa, Middle East or Asia and exposure to relief and development fieldwork, the US Administration and Congress, the international humanitarian system, and/or development-related advocacy preferred.
  • Experience with quantitative and qualitative research methodologies and experience applying them in a development or humanitarian context.
  • Extremely strong writing skills, including past experience publishing.
  • Demonstrated ability to communicate to multiple audiences, including policy makers, practitioners and academics.  
  • Strong analytical skills and the ability to effectively gather and summarize large amounts of information from various sources.
  • Strong political and strategic skills, and a strong understanding of the links between political elements, policy decisions, and development practice.
  • Demonstrated sensitivity, skill and experience in working diplomatically and effectively within diverse cultural settings and in public relations and correspondence with a wide variety of public constituents.
  • Strong networks, relationships, and profile with major external actors, including policy and academic audiences

Success Factors

  • Ability to design and implement original research that answers questions of relevance to development and humanitarian practitioners and policymakers.
  • 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.
  • Strong grasp of links between research findings, policy outcomes, and field-level program impact.
  • 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 will involve travel to Mercy Corps field sites to support research efforts up to 35% of the year.  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