Consultant - Compiling Lessons Learned from Ultra Poor Graduation Programming (UPG) on Food Security Programs - Remote

Programs Anywhere, United States



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.

IDEAL is an activity funded by USAID’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance (BHA) that works to support the United States Government’s goal of improving food and nutrition security among the world’s most vulnerable households and communities. IDEAL addresses knowledge and capacity gaps expressed by the food and nutrition security implementing community to support them in the design and implementation of effective emergency and non-emergency food security activities. 

IDEAL’s theory of change (TOC) posits that in order to improve the effectiveness of food security programming, there is need to:

  • Improve the capacity of implementing partners (IPs) in design and implementation of essential elements of quality programming such as sequencing and layering, sustainability planning, social and behavior change, social cohesion and social accountability;
  • Ensure consistent use of data for decision making and application of adaptive management best practices; and
  • Improve coordination and collaboration among stakeholders around common goals.

Purpose / Project Description:

To improve the capacity for design and implementation of essential elements of quality programming, IDEAL focuses on enhancing knowledge transfer among staff and between activities, alignment of staff competency to Activity needs, and increased availability and accessibility of information necessary for initial design of integrated activities. IDEAL’s Year 3 activities include facilitating peer-to-peer learning events and the development, curation and dissemination of tools and resources designed to ensure that IPs are exposed to, and able to share examples of implementation efforts that do and do not work. Recognizing that field teams[1] are at the forefront of new knowledge generation, IDEAL is committed to providing a platform for field staff to share programmatic learning in action.

Towards this end, IDEAL regularly facilitates a webinar series dubbed “Field Voices” highlighting promising practices and lessons learned from food security programs across IDEAL’s content focus areas. On September 22, 2020, IDEAL organized a Field Voices webinar on Lessons Learned from Ultra Poor Graduation (UPG) programming within USAID-funded food security programs. The event highlighted unique approaches, early results and lessons learned from UPG programming across three USAID funded programs in Uganda, Ethiopia and Bangladesh. The virtual event, attended by 167 participants, demonstrated high interest and demand for further learning on this topic. Participants submitted many questions, many of which were not addressed during the webinar due to time constraints. Following the webinar, the presenters and the IDEAL team identified an opportunity to develop a technical brief that would augment the event presentation by providing a more comprehensive analysis of lessons learned in integrating UPG programming across integrated food security and resilience programs. This scope of work outlines the objectives, tasks, outputs and requirements for a consultant who would work with IDEAL and USAID IPs to produce a technical brief aimed at advancing learning on the featured topic.

Consultant Objectives:

On behalf of IDEAL, Mercy Corps is seeking to engage a consultant who will work with stakeholders to compile a technical brief on Lessons Learned from UPG programming across a sub-set of USAID-funded programs in Bangladesh, Uganda and Ethiopia. In addition to the three programs featured during the preceding Field Voices event, the consultant would also review lessons learned from the UPG component of the Nuyok program in the Karamoja region of Uganda. The consultant will work closely with IDEAL and the implementing partners across the three countries to review, analyze and highlight key insights related to integration of UPG programming within USAID-funded food security and resilience programs. Specifically, the consultant will assess both context-specific and cross-cutting lessons in adapting components of UPG programming including but not limited to the following:

  • Participant targeting including determination of enrollment criteria, eligibility screening and determining the scale of the UPG intervention in terms of number of participants reached and the geographic coverage.
  • Optimizing the package of interventions, layering and sequencing within the UPG intervention and in integrating the UPG intervention at the activity level.
  • Determination of graduation pathways including criteria, timelines and procedural guidelines for successful exit from the graduation intervention.
  • Performance monitoring including indicator selection and measurement and approaches used for gathering evidence on what works and what does not.
  • Alignment with government social protection programming and linkages with other actors. including private sector business service providers and other social development programs.
  • Adapting the UPG intervention in response to the COVID-19 pandemic

Consultant Activities:

The consultant will be responsible for the following tasks and deliverables.

  1. Initial consultation – the consultant will meet with IDEAL to go over the overall scope of the assignment, review expectations and establish protocols for coordination with various stakeholders.
  2. Desk review – the consultant will review materials from the event and any other relevant content to establish a clear understanding of the activities to be featured and the relevance of the topic for IDEAL and BHA programming.
  3. Key informant consultation – consult with key informants at BHA and implementing partners to gather insights on the specific questions that should be addressed in the technical brief.
  4. Scope refinement – the consultant will work with IDEAL to refine the schedule of deliverables for the assignment including: 
    • Specific learning questions that will be addressed in the technical brief
    • Format and style of the technical brief
    • Timeline for milestones
  5. Data compilation and analysis – the consultant will compile the necessary information for analysis. Where needed, the consultant will work with IDEAL to reach out to implementing partners to gather additional information.
  6. Draft technical brief - the consult will put together a draft of the technical brief for initial review.
  7. Presentation – present to IDEAL, BHA and IPs and gather questions and recommendations for refinement of technical brief.
  8. Finalize report – based on feedback from presentation, finalize the technical brief.

Consultant Deliverables:

The Consultant will:

  • Expectations and protocols outlined based on initial consultation
  • Synopsis of documents reviewed and clarification questions for key informants
  • Synopsis of recommendations from key informants
  • Detailed workplan
  • Summary of findings from data analysis
  • Draft technical brief
  • Power Point presentation on key findings
  • Finalized technical brief
  • Conduct follow-up activities (to be determined)

Timeframe / Schedule: 

Anticipated timing of this consultancy is May 24, 2021 – August 24, 2021 for 20 days of work.

The Consultant will report to:

Senior Technical Food Security Advisor

The Consultant will work closely with:

IDEAL Sustainability & Integration Technical Advisory Panel

IDEAL Program Officer

Required Experience & Skills:

  • At least 5-10 years of experience working in international development with a specific focus on organizational learning and knowledge management.
  • An advanced degree (minimum of Master’s degree with PhD preferred) in a field related to poverty economics and addressing multi-dimensional poverty traps.
  • Demonstrated familiarity with Ultra-Poor Graduation (UPG) including a solid understanding of the state of research on graduation programming and leading voices within this landscape.
  • Proven capabilities for conducting operations research along similar lines to the proposed assignment.
  • Excellent writing, analytical and presentation skills.
  • Reliability in timely completion of deliverables, proven ability to deliver quality products.
  • Experience working on with USAID Food for Peace and/or USAID BHA food security programs.

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
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Equal Employment Opportunity
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 international 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. 

[1] The term “field teams” is used to refer to activity teams based in the country of implementation