Program Learning Advisor, Africa
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 alleviate poverty, suffering, and oppression by helping people build secure, productive, and just communities.
The agency operates programs in over 40 countries around the world.
The Program Performance and Quality Unit (PaQ), which sits in the Programs Department, supports effective, efficient and equitable program performance through a culture of quality management, to achieve results for those who matter most - our program participants.
PaQ consists of the following teams and functions: Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning (MEL); Strategic Leadership; Program Standards; and, Infrastructure.
These teams are grouped together under PaQ because they focus on improving cross-cutting program and portfolio performance in a manner that is applicable to all or most programs/ portfolios, regardless of technical sector, desired program outcomes, or context, and because they are central to Mercy Corps’ desire to improve program performance and quality through Standards, Service and Evidence.
The MEL Team of Mercy Corps supports both foundational and cutting edge adaptive management approaches with design, monitoring, evaluation and learning functions as key processes and benchmarks to ensure evidence-based decision making for quality program implementation.
The MEL Team’s work ranges from provision of technical MEL support to programs, integration of MEL technologies, implementation of learning mechanisms and platforms, implementation and support with data quality assessments, support with agency-level reporting and others.
A major focus area of the MEL team is the implementation of Mercy Corps’ MEL and Program Management policies. The team works across a wide spectrum of stakeholders both internal and external to Mercy Corps, as well as diverse technical program approaches and sectors.
General Position Summary
The Program Learning Advisor is a member of the MEL Team within PaQ. The Program Learning Advisor contributes towards the implementation of the MEL Policy particularly the MEL Standards that promote program learning.
S/he plays a key role in strengthening organizational capacity, resources and culture to strengthen data driven decision-making, program learning, adaptation and improvement. S/he leads the development of a variety of products to document and demonstrate the results achieved for key programs.
This may include support with implementation of the learning standards in the MEL policy and documentation of learning through our current Summative Results Reports (SRRs) or other documentation processes. It is intended that this position will expand and maximize the development and use of the SRRs, or other similar mechanisms.
S/he develops, improves and shares necessary guidance, approaches, tools, and resources on program learning, and provides contextually relevant capacity building opportunities for program staff to meet the requirements for program learning within the Program Management and MEL Policies.
S/he initiates and facilitates peer-to-peer learning opportunities on CLA best practices among HQ, country and regional technical and MEL staff. The Advisor works closely with country, regional and HQ based teams, to achieve the deliverables set below.
70% of the LOE of this position is sourced through direct billable products within funded programs, and 30% on HQ-led initiatives, therefore, effective relationship building is critical for the success of this position.
ENHANCE KNOWLEDGE, GUIDANCE AND RESOURCES ON LEARNING AND ADAPTIVE MANAGEMENT (30%)
The Program Learning Advisor will develop guidance, tools, and resources to promote the use of program data for decision making, learning and adaptive management, aligned with the Mercy Corps’ MEL and Program Management Policies.
Together with HQ, regional and country based relevant sector-specific technical, MEL, Collaborative Learning and Adapting (CLA) advisors, s/he will seek and initiate opportunities to advance Mercy Corps’ knowledge management and learning activities, ensuring effective sharing and applied learning in topics of strategic interest to the organization and its programs by focusing on the following:
- Routinely review internal and external technical advancements on CLA and adaptive management, integrate that learning within Mercy Corps’ resources.
- Develop additional and strengthen existing tools, resources, and guidance in order to support programs to appropriately budget for and implement effective routine learning activities, to meet our internal and donor requirements for CLA and adaptive management.
- Develop, finalize, and package clear step-by-step guidance/toolkit on how to document, demonstrate, communicate and use program M&E data to promote effective adaptive management and learning practices.
- Actively engage with technical and program teams at various levels of Mercy Corps on capturing, sharing and using M&E data to help programs adapt and improve. Initiate and facilitate documentation of program learning and program evidence across countries, promoting use of Mercy Corps’ Internal Performance Reviews, SRRs (Summative Results Reports), learning briefs and other relevant resources or other relevant mechanisms.
- Develop and manage an internal knowledge hub on adaptive management, CLA and data driven decision making, using one of Mercy Corps’ knowledge management spaces, actively promoting organization-wide enthusiasm on this important discipline.
PROMOTE LEARNING AND ADAPTIVE MANAGEMENT WITHIN PROGRAMS (65%)
- The Program Learning Advisor will promote the implementation of adaptive management practices within Mercy Corps programs through direct technical support, coaching and mentoring. S/he will work with programs and various teams within the organization to integrate learning practices, encouraging generation of right-fit M&E data and systems to meet the adaptive management needs, in relation to Mercy Corps’ agency-wide strategy and learning priorities. Specific responsibilities will include:
Support program teams to determine right-fit MEL data for adaptive management. This may include integration of new and innovative data collection, analysis, visualization, and communication methods and tools, such as automated MEL, context monitoring, remote monitoring methods and tools,as well as e generation of useful, highly user-friendly knowledge and data products (e.g. M&E data dashboards, IPTT reports from TolaData, SRRs ).
Provide direct technical support and advice to program management, technical, MEL and CLA team members on how to plan and implement the MEL Policy standards 2, 5, 12 and 14 on learning and adaptive management. This may include promoting effective program learning initiatives, such as pause and reflection sessions, internal performance reviews, program scenario review meetings, internal performance reviews, and others. In doing so encourage and ensure documentation of learning, evidence on the improvements and other important knowledge that may help Mercy Corps to replicate and scale effective learning practices.
Review MEL Plans to ensure adequate CLA and adaptive management practices, systems and mechanisms are integrated, planned and resourced, and the team has the capacity to implement those.
Use expert knowledge to develop training, webinars, coaching and mentoring guidance on effective CLA, program learning and adaptive management. Build courses on adaptive management and other CLA components within Mercy Corps’ MEL Institute framework.
Strengthen the capacity of country, HQ and partner staff on program learning through training and ensuring the use of standardized guidelines and tools.
- Maintain and grow Mercy Corps’ global CLA (Collaboration, Learning and Adapting) Community of Practice engaging program staff who are responsible for promoting learning, adaptive management, program improvement.
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.
Reports Directly To: Senior Director, MEL
Works Directly With: Wider PaQ team; Senior Technical Lead for Program Management (based in London); Global Gender Advisor. Also with wider engagement with the Program Operations Department (part of the broader PaQ unit), the Research and Learning Team, and the Technical Support Unit, as well as field program HQ and national teams.
- Education: Master’s Degree in social science research, MEL, data analysis, or related sector (or equivalent hands on experience) and relevant certifications preferred.
- Experience: 5-7 years of experience in designing, implementing rigorous large scale MEL systems; emphasis on developing, implementing, incorporating evidence-based learning activities to promote adaptive management practices across a range of programs. Prior experience in supporting development and humanitarian programs with at least 1 of Mercy Corps’ technical sectors.
- Expertise: Hands on experience with adaptive management processes such as identifying right-fit MEL data for decision making, creating feedback loops, facilitating pause and reflection sessions, promoting use of right-fit MEL data to inform real-time decision-making. Familiarity with US and European donor guidelines on adaptive management, CLA and other frameworks.
Knowledge and skills required:
- M&E and Data Management:
- Strong theoretical and applied knowledge of program design, implementation, management MEL and learning using rigorous data. Deep knowledge of social science research methodologies, quantitative and qualitative data analysis methods, experience of using statistical and qualitative software packages, as well as experience in effectively using data visualization and relevant technology solutions
- High level of data literacy, proven ability to translate research findings and program M&E data into meaningful content that is adapted to various audiences and stakeholders.
- Strategic critical and evaluative thinking skills:
- Demonstrated abilities and track record in strategic systems and holistic thinking, managing resistance to change and understanding of organizational culture and behavior, learning and change management.
- Strong organizational and process management capabilities. Ability to effectively set priorities and handle competing time and resource demands for self and others. Comfortable working independently and with limited oversight in a fast-paced environment.
- Effective Communication and Teamwork:
- Ability to prepare compelling presentations, written reports, data visualizations, and effectively present work/findings in international forums. Strong communication and facilitation, mentoring and training skills both in person and virtually.
- A strong team player, able to successfully cultivate and maintain relationships not only internally within Mercy Corps across various HQ teams as well as regional and field offices, but also externally with and through professional networks.
- Demonstrated conversation and presentation skills that can influence decision makers and foster organizational change, as well as the ability to implement and adjust them within a complex organizational setting.
- Development of Resources:
- Proven experience in development of toolkits and resources based on scope and sequenced approach
Special provisions: Candidates from Africa and Asia, women, minority groups, people with different abilities are highly encouraged to apply. Captioning, assistive and inclusive workspace accommodations are available at Mercy Corps offices.
Language: Knowledge of English is required and knowledge of French is preferred.
Technology: Knowledge of Ona/ComCare, PowerBI or other data visualization platforms is required.
Physical Requirements: This is largely a sedentary position that requires the ability to speak, hear/read (captioning available), see, and lift small objects up to 20 lbs.
Supervisory Responsibility: This position will not have supervisory responsibilities, but will need to work in a networked leadership environment.
Travel: International travel with at least one month prior notice may be required and may include travel to support programs in fragile and/or conflict-prone zone
The Program Learning Advisor will contribute towards and establish the foundational systems and practices for promoting learning within Mercy Corps programs. S/he will engage with every individual program with flexibility, creativity, and enthusiasm, contextualize their technical support accordingly.
The individual must have exceptional writing skills and the ability to multitask, set priorities, pay attention to detail, and work under tight deadlines within complex team environments. S/he must also apply a systems thinking to all the initiatives they support.
The Program Learning Advisor must take an active role in building and maintaining external relationships as well as demonstrating the drive and initiative to contribute to internal team efforts. The individual must learn quickly how to provide technical data and support in the most efficient and effective form possible for each unique field team and environment.
All PaQ positions require strong interpersonal and cross-cultural communication skills, and a level of emotional intelligence proficiency that quickly builds and maintains productive relationships across teams. Being aware and sensitive to international development issues and diverse cultures is critical.
Living Conditions / Environmental Conditions
This position will be located in one of the countries where Mercy Corps implements programs.
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 venue