Monitoring, Evaluation, Research and Learning (MERL) and Collaboration, Learning, and Adaptation (CLA) Advisor - Youth Connect
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 has been present in Niger since 2005, focusing its interventions on improving food security, livelihoods, gender, social cohesion, governance, and emergency response outcomes. Mercy Corps has also been working in Burkina Faso since 2016 with activities in conflict research, livestock programming, and USAID learning coordination. Our work in these areas contributes to local communities’ resilience to shocks and stresses and enables them to achieve long-term, inclusive and equitable development. Mercy Corps’ vision for change requires the private sector, government and civil society to work together to create meaningful and sustainable change. Mercy Corps is currently implementing several development and humanitarian programs worth more than $27 million with field offices in Abala, Filingue, Maradi, Tillabéri, as well as Ouagadougou/Burkina Faso. In 2019, we were able to benefit more than 89,000 vulnerable Nigeriens.
Mercy Corps is seeking a Monitoring, Evaluation, Research and Learning (MERL) and Collaboration, Learning, and Adaptation (CLA) Advisor to lead the MERL and CLA functions of the expected five-year USAID-funded Youth Connect program in Niger and Burkina Faso. The goal of the program is to equip vulnerable young women and men with technical and life skills, networks, and capital for increased livelihoods and economic opportunities. This objective supports USAID’s overall Bridge and Sahel Development Partnership (SDP) frameworks, which address critical unmet needs that are the main drivers of violent extremist recruitment in the Sahel: poor governance, lack of economic opportunity, and perceived exclusion from the benefits and services provided and facilitated by governments in the region. The program will be implemented in a consortium with other partners.
General Position Summary
The MERL & CLA Advisor will provide oversight and ensure the quality of all project-level monitoring, evaluation, research, learning and CLA activities within the Youth Connect Program. The MERL & CLA Advisor’s role is to also oversee and ensure coordination of the various technical areas across the MERL and CLA staff, including CLA and Research, MEL, CARM, and ICT/Database team members, as well as other relevant program team members and partners. The MERL & CLA Advisor is responsible for the capacity building and mentoring strategy for program staff on themes related to monitoring, evaluation, accountability, reporting, learning, and adaptive management. In addition to managing the MERL team and MEL systems, the MERL & CLA Advisor will play a critical role in operationalizing Youth Connect’s CLA approach. Working closely with the COP and CLA & Research Coordinator, the MERL & CLA Advisor will guide the program in operationalizing an adaptive, iterative management approach with a culture of evidence-based decision-making.
Essential Job Responsibilities
- Develop, set-up, and oversee the MERL system for Youth Connect, including Activity Monitoring, Evaluation, and Learning Plan (AMELP) and Research Plans, MERL tools and technology, instrument design, data collection methodology and processes, data and information management systems, and data analysis to assess and share the impact of the program.
- Lead and/or collaborate with external researchers and evaluators on the design and roll out of the program assessments, formative research and RCTs, baseline study, and evaluations, while setting up effective systems for continuous learning, reflection, and adaptive management.
- Ensures program uses the necessary MERL systems and tools, to inform and improve, as well as feed into the broader Bridge and SDP strategy, as well as country-level M&E systems and strategy.
- Take the lead in aligning, collecting, analyzing and reporting on program indicators (e.g., performance, operational, context, etc.) and community accountability and response mechanisms (CARM) through the program’s MERL systems, including consortium partner systems, and other external systems as relevant.
- Support teams in collecting sex and age disaggregated data and using gender sensitive, socially inclusive, and remote data collection methods to understand and respond to program results with diverse audiences, decision makers, and stakeholders.
- Lead the Youth Connect team to create a plan to operationalize and capacity build CLA practice, including creating a culture of learning and systems thinking to stimulate an adaptive, iterative management approach.
- Designs and facilitates regular, strategic planning sessions and learning events, assisting Youth Connect in a learning journey as well as development of its annual plans.
- Provides guidance, recommendations, and leadership to ensure that the MERL systems meet the data, evidence, and learning needs of the program, including the sharing of information internally and externally, and help address shortfalls in MERL, CLA, and data management that affect program implementation.
- Ensures Youth Connect adheres to Mercy Corps’ MEL Policy, including the use of TolaData, adherence to Mercy Corps’ Program Record Retention Policy and Responsible Data Policy, and regular Data Quality Assessments (DQAs).
- Develop program and operational reporting templates that facilitate the acquisition, aggregation and flow of information and learning within the program as well as externally.
- Maintain a comprehensive reporting and accountability schedule as well as review program reports to ensure that reports contain accurate, clear, and high-quality data and presented in the proper format.
Management, CAPACITY BUILDING AND MENTORING
- Oversee the Youth Connect MERL & CLA team and sub-contractors, like external evaluators and enumerators.
- Build the capacity of all relevant program and partner team members to develop and maintain an excellent MERL system and CLA practice, including regular reflection and analysis of program quantitative and qualitative data.
- Create and sustain a work environment of mutual respect where team members strive to achieve excellence.
INTERNAL AND EXTERNAL COORDINATION and Representation
- Active contributor and collaborator with regional and global counterparts to promote the use of MERL best practices and lessons learned.
- Strengthen linkages with other internal resources, including the Digital Library, Hub, and Workplace, to enhance organizational learning where relevant to MERL.
- Present program M&E, research, and learning to external stakeholders and the program team in a way that influences decision-makers and promotes adaptations from 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: MERL & CLA team members
- Reports Directly To: Chief of Party
- Works Directly With: MEL Team, DCOPs, Technical Advisors, field teams, consortium partners, local government, USAID and other stakeholders.
Knowledge and Experience
- BA/S degree in development studies, research methods, statistics, economics, social sciences, monitoring and evaluation, project management or other relevant field required. Postgraduate degree preferred.
- 5-7 years of managing MERL work at a program or country level, including supervising staff. Proven use of program technology in an MERL function required.
- Experience with CLA approaches and promoting a culture of CLA including a track record in strategic, systems, and holistic thinking, managing resistance to change, and understanding of organizational culture, learning, and change management. Preferred experience using political economy analysis/thinking and working politically to achieve programming objectives.
- Experience with theoretical and practical background in MEL and research and skilled in participatory qualitative and quantitative methodologies and techniques.
- Excellent quantitative skills and power user with Excel; statistical packages including STATA, R, or SPSS; visualization software, like Tableau or Power BI, and GIS tools like QGIS, ArcGIS or Google Earth Pro is preferred.
- Experience with data management including the ability to structure and collate data sets for ease of analysis.
- Demonstrated understanding of intermediate statistics and ability to summarize and make predictions from multiple data sets.
- Experience of working on USAID programs preferred.
- Previous experience living and working in challenging or insecure environments.
- Fluency in spoken and written French and English required.
- Experience in West Africa, specifically Niger and/or Burkina Faso, preferred.
A successful candidate will have a demonstrated ability to lead and communicate effectively with team members of varied work styles and cultures, follow procedures, and meet deadlines with flexibility and creativity in planning and problem solving. S/he will have a proven ability to learn quickly, multi-task, prioritize, take initiative, and be accountable for results, understand the larger picture while remaining focused on the details, problem solving, work within a complex and sensitive setting and to follow laws and security protocols. The most successful Mercy Corps team members have a strong commitment to teamwork and accountability, thrive in evolving and changing environments and make effective written and verbal communication a priority in all situations.
Living Conditions / Environmental Conditions
The MERL & CLA Advisor will be based in either Niamey, Niger or Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. Both Burkina Faso and Niger are accompanied locations. Individual housing is available with freedom of movement beyond the house and office. There are international schools in both Niamey and Ouagadougou (French & American). Mercy Corps team members have good access to essential services, such as medical care, electricity, water, etc. International supermarkets and consumer goods are also readily available. Very hot temperatures prevail for large parts of the year and power outages are frequent.
These positions require up to 25% of travel by road to field offices in insecure environments and climatically harsh conditions. This position is eligible for R&R (in the case of expats) but not for hardship pay.
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 Mercy Corps 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.