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Strategic Learning Lead – Resilience Food Security Activity


The position is contingent on new funding

About Mercy Corps

Mercy Corps is powered by the belief that a better world is possible. To create a better world, we know our teams do their best work when they are diverse and every team member feels that they belong. We welcome diverse backgrounds, perspectives and skills so that we can be stronger and have long-term impact.

Program / Department Summary

Mercy Corps has been operating in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) since August 2007, with a staff of around 400 people working in Eastern DRC, with the overall country goal being to support vulnerable communities through crises, while fostering programs that build resilience and promote long-term change. Mercy Corps’ national office is in Goma with sub-field offices in North Kivu, South Kivu and Ituri. Mercy Corps DRC’s key programming areas include a combination of longer-term development and immediate humanitarian response programs in order to 1) Improve water service delivery and ensuring equitable access to Water, Sanitation and Hygiene services, in urban and rural areas; 2) Improve food security and nutrition; 3) Promote diversified livelihoods, economic recovery and development; 4) Support peacebuilding and local governance. Mercy Corps DRC’s humanitarian programs aim specifically to assist populations affected by the conflict and crisis in Eastern Congo.

Mercy Corps is seeking a Strategic Learning Lead to support the implementation of a five-year USAID Resilience Food Security Activity (RFSA) for DRC. The Activity will contribute to food and nutrition security for households and communities in Eastern DRC.

General Position Summary

The Strategic Learning Lead will lead the design, implementation and use of learning initiatives to improve the program’s impact on food security in South Kivu. The Strategic Learning Lead will ensure the Activity includes active, intentional and adaptive learning within and across its activities as well as ensure collaboration and learning across other projects in the implementation area. She/he will improve peer-to-peer learning, knowledge sharing and application, activity-based capacity strengthening, evidence and data utilization, and collaborating, learning and adaptation (CLA). The Strategic Learning Lead will (i) refine, implement and report on strategic learning initiatives in the program, (ii) provide technical assistance to develop and implement high-quality participant-based surveys, (iii) support evidence-driven adaptive management through dashboarding and CLA facilitation, and (iv) build the research, learning and adaptation capacity of the program and national team. This position will play a key role in helping build an environment of evidence-based programming and adaptive management at all levels.

The position requires high quality analysis and report writing skills which can be used to write/review consistent, high quality reports and technical briefs that are developed as learning products. S/he should be able to employ the use of traditional and digital learning approaches to develop and implement innovative, creative and effective ways to strategically capture and share technical knowledge, leverage good practices, and improve the effectiveness of Activity implementation.

Essential Job Responsibilities

Strategy & Vision

  • Work closely with M&E, research, and partner team members to develop comprehensive learning strategies and agenda during start-up, which are incorporated in annual workplans and regularly updated.
  • Work with CoP and senior management team to ensure adaptive program management and CLA principles are incorporated at start-up and throughout implementation.
  • Participate in the senior management team to set the strategic vision for the Activity, including how research will be integrated into the program design and implementation.
  • Recognize opportunities for innovative action and create an environment where alternative viewpoints are welcomed.
  • Identify and share creative, efficient, and effective ways to share learnings and information, engage audiences, and facilitate collaboration.
  • Design and facilitate regular, strategic planning sessions and learning events, assisting the program in a learning journey as well as development of its annual plans.

Program Management

  • Create a stakeholder map and stakeholder analysis to guide collaboration with other programs, initiatives and institutions to link program participants to sustainable outcomes and enable the program’s theory of change.
  • At start-up, develop a program-wide strategy and supportive systems/structures for adaptive management and CLA.
  • Develop and manage a plan for ensuring collaboration between local actors, other USAID-funded activity stakeholders, local government stakeholders, donor agencies, private sector actors and other implementers operating in the same target areas.
  • Lead staff and partners in regular reviews of program activities to pause and reflect on programmatic learning based on implementation experience and monitoring data, to review and revise results chains and theories of change, and suggest programmatic changes.
  • Capture and document changes made to program design as a result of formative and operational research findings and operation planning discussions.
  • Lead and support learning events such as Collaborative Learning and Adaptation (CLA) workshops at all levels to ensure to review and reflection on the evidence and ensure it is captured into program design and implementation
  • Work closely with COP, DCOP, MEL Director and others to identify the program’s research and learning agenda and ensure it captures both Mercy Corps and USAID priorities.
  • Work closely with MEL team and various technical teams to ensure the program is capturing and critically analyzing progress.
  • Explore opportunities to collaborate with potential research partners, other programs and donors.
  • Facilitate inclusive and gender-sensitive research processes and approaches, engaging local organizations, institutions, and women, to design and implement national- and community-level data collection tools and contribute to data analysis and meaning-making of results.
  • Work closely with the MEL team to plan for and conduct the final internal performance review by the end of program activities

Capacity Building

  • Lead the team to create a plan to operationalize and build capacity in CLA practice across implementing teams and partner organizations, including creating a culture of learning and systems thinking to stimulate an adaptive, iterative management approach;
  • Build the capacity of all relevant team members to develop, review, and maintain an excellent knowledge management system, including regular reflection and analysis of program monitoring data and production of evidence-based recommendations and reports.
  • Assist the MEL Director in other MEL-related capacity building activities, e.g. through the development of learning toolkits or by setting up webinars or brown bag meetings.
  • Promote and nurture a culture of reflection, critical thinking and learning within the Activity and among staff and partners.
  • Build the capacity of the MEL and other relevant program teams to design, analyze, rigorously interpret and present high-quality data from quantitative and qualitative research.

Communication, Documentation and Report Writing

  • Work with COP, DCOP, Communications Director and other program staff to document lessons learned from implementing key program interventions, and disseminate communication and learning products to showcase project successes and results.
  • Produce high-quality learning briefs, case studies, white papers or other reports that showcase key insights from the program’s research and learning initiatives, as well as recommendations for the program, mission, agency and/or donors and other implementing partners.
  • Concisely communicate key program insights from learning activities with program audiences in a concise and appropriate manner.
  • Ensure close coordination and information sharing with consortium partners, sub-grantees, local government and other implementers, as well as with other Mercy Corps programs.


  • As requested by the COP, represent the program in front of USAID, support partners and agency-internal partners from the Technical Support Unit and the PAQ team, and other project stakeholders or professional bodies.

Supervisory Responsibility

To be confirmed – the role will work closely with the program MEL team and with research partners/collaborators.


Reports Directly To: Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning (MEL) Director

Works Directly With: DCOP**,** Activity team members, finance, administration and operations teams, HQ Regional Program Team, HQ Technical Support Unit, Program Performance and Quality (PAQ) team, and partner organizations

Accountability to Participants and Stakeholders

Mercy Corps team members are expected to support all efforts toward accountability, specifically to our program participants, community partners, other stakeholders, and to international standards guiding international relief and development work. We are committed to actively engaging communities as equal partners in the design, monitoring and evaluation of our projects.

Knowledge and Experience / Qualification and Transferable Skills

  • Minimum BA/S in development studies, research methods, knowledge management, statistics, economics, social sciences, women’s studies, public policy, monitoring and evaluation, or other relevant field. Post graduate degree preferred.
  • Minimum 5 years of managing MEL and/or research work at a program or country level, including supervising staff. Proven use of program technology in a MEL function required.
  • Proven track record in facilitating adaptive management through evidence-based decision-making required.
  • Experience in strategic planning and performance measurement, including indicator selection, target setting, reporting, database management and developing performance monitoring plans that support learning agendas and contribute to program efficacy.
  • Experience with theoretical and practical background in research and skilled in participatory qualitative and quantitative methodologies and techniques, including experience in planning and managing surveys and developing and refining data collection tools required.
  • Strong qualitative and quantitative data analysis skills and knowledge:
    • Demonstrated understanding of intermediate statistics and ability to summarize and make predictions from multiple data sets. Power user with Excel required. Experience with statistical packages including STATA, R, or SPSS preferred
    • Demonstrated understanding of qualitative methodologies. Prior experience of using a qualitative analysis package: MAXQDA, Dedoose, Atlas.ti, any of the QDA packages, or other preferred.
  • Knowledge of and prior experience of using MEL and CLA technologies required. Ona/CommCare for data collection, Tableau or Power BI for data visualization and reporting preferred.
  • Familiarity with MEL and CLA approaches to measuring behavioral and normative change at the individual, interpersonal, community and societal levels required.
  • Familiarity with competencies-based approaches to agency and empowerment preferred.
  • Excellent written communications, including the ability to tailor communications to program and policy audiences at multiple levels.
  • Experience with gender and social inclusion analysis frameworks preferred.
  • Experience working on USAID programs is essential.
  • Previous experience living and working in challenging or insecure environments.
  • Prior experience working in DRC and/or eastern DRC is highly desirable.
  • Excellent oral and written French and English skills.

Success Factors

The successful candidate will be capable of multitasking, rapid decision-making, and creative problem-solving. S/he has initiative, drive and a lot of energy, as well as high emotional intelligence, constructive mentoring skills and proven experience with capacity strengthening of local partners. S/he will be known for flexibility and creativity in project planning and building responsive systems, and is able to solicit and understand diverse perspectives, build consensus among a variety of stakeholders, and effectively and clearly communicate decisions.

Living Conditions / Environmental Conditions

This position is an unaccompanied position in Bukavu, South Kivu (DRC). Shared accommodation will be provided according to Mercy Corps DRC housing policy. The position is eligible for R & R. Bukavu is a provincial capital of about 1,200,000 inhabitants and life is comfortable, although water and electricity can be unstable. Security conditions are stable in Bukavu and in the program intervention areas. Health services are available, with evacuation options for serious illnesses. There is reasonable access to most consumer goods.

Mercy Corps’ sub-offices experience variable levels of insecurity, with the situation closely monitored by UN peacekeepers. Air travel is necessary to get from one end of the country to the other. Mobile phones and cellular service are widely available. Internet is available in all Mercy Corps offices. Travel to field sites will be required where living conditions are clean and secure, but basic. There are a number of health services available with evacuation options for serious illnesses. There’s reasonable access to most consumer goods, although they can be expensive.

Mercy Corps Team members represent the agency both during and outside of 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 venues.

Ongoing Learning

In support of our belief that learning organizations are more effective, efficient and relevant to the communities we serve, we empower all team members to dedicate 5% of their time to learning activities that further their personal and/or professional growth and development.

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

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

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.

Safeguarding & Ethics

Mercy Corps is committed to ensuring that all individuals we come into contact with through our work, whether team members, community members, program participants or others, are treated with respect and dignity. We are committed to the core principles regarding prevention of sexual exploitation and abuse laid out by the UN Secretary General and IASC. We will not tolerate child abuse, sexual exploitation, abuse, or harassment by or of our team members. As part of our commitment to a safe and inclusive work environment, team members are expected to conduct themselves in a professional manner, respect local laws and customs, and to adhere to Mercy Corps Code of Conduct Policies and values at all times. Team members are required to complete mandatory Code of Conduct elearning courses upon hire and on an annual basis.

How to apply

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