Director – Agriculture Systems (Open to London, the Hague, or Nairobi)
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.
We are at a turning point – the contexts in which we work are evolving; climate change, conflicts and other shocks put constant pressure on agriculture systems; technology is rapidly expanding opportunities for efficiency; and there are more needs than ever to deploy tactical programs that boost agriculture systems and pull smallholder producers, including youth, away from subsistence into more commercial activities.
Mercy Corps is implementing a large number of impactful programs, largely in fragile contexts, focused on supporting male, female and young producers and market actors to improve productivity and become more profitable. These programs are grounded in a market systems development approach, rooted in deep analysis that supports climate-resilience, coupled with market efficiency and the support to young entrepreneurs to engage in agriculture systems.
We are looking for someone with the creativity and drive to further our commitment to improve agriculture systems, empower small producers and build partnerships across our more than 40 countries of operation with our global team members and external partners—such as entrepreneurs, research institutions, funders, corporations, and governments.
Program / Department Summary
Mercy Corps’ Technical Support Unit (TSU) is a key part of the Program Department. It houses subject matter experts whose mission is to help our global teams apply the most effective solutions to the world’s toughest challenges, while building our global reputation and resources to do so. The TSU helps set agency-wide strategy and develops strategic approach documents and other technical briefs for their practice area to inform the entire organization’s work. In addition, it offers technical expertise to offices worldwide – supporting country strategy development and assessments, and engaging throughout the program life cycle from project design and proposal development to quality implementation and evaluations.
As technical experts in their field, TSU Team members are well versed in global practices and abreast of sector specific trends. They also represent Mercy Corps with donors and other strategic partners, and inform and influence both internal approaches and global understanding on how to move the needle on some of the most intractable humanitarian and development challenges of our time, especially in fragile settings.
General Position Summary
The TSU Director for Agriculture Systems is Mercy Corps’ top global technical leader for agriculture programming in fragile and stable contexts. They will have a clear vision for the future of agriculture in the geographies in which Mercy Corps works. They will drive critical technical and funding partnerships, knowing that Mercy Corps can only excel at this work through catalytic collaboration with like-minded entrepreneurs, companies, funders, governments and peer organizations. And they will leverage technology solutions to transform the scale, cost and impact of our work.
The TSU Director for Agriculture is a strong influencer both inside and outside the Agency with the ability to communicate Mercy Corps’ technical strengths and overall vision. They will continue to nurture donor relationships to grow the agriculture portfolio, while supporting country teams in developing innovative climate-resilient and market-based solutions responding to clear trends in the sector. They will be managing advisors and senior advisors, be a member of the TSU Leadership team composed of other Directors and Senior Directors and work closely with other TSU teams on complex, multi-disciplinary programs.
Essential Job Responsibilities
Strategy and Vision
● Set a distinctive, strategic, climate-smart and gender-equitable vision for agriculture systems in close collaboration with the country teams and other agency departments.
● Monitor key internal and external trends in the field to inform TSU work.
● Lead innovative thinking around “new” areas of agriculture systems, for example boosting “the hidden middle” of the agriculture system (e.g., SMEs involved in wholesale, transport and trade); and driving agriculture systems’ resilience to climate, market and conflict-related shocks.
● Collaborate closely with the Technology for Development team to leverage technology in an effort to increase impact and scale.
● Spearhead innovative partnership initiatives with private and public entities.
● Serve as key external communicator for Mercy Corps in a wide range of public for a
program development and support
● Strategically engage and guide team engagement on both country-level program design and quality implementation.
● Produce strong, influential analysis and derive new insights from field assessments and industry learning, incorporating that into new program designs and implementation.
● Guide teams to facilitate multi-team/multi country shared learning to standardize best practice, develop comparative advantages for new program development and advance strategic partnerships.
● Engage technical teams effectively on priority monitoring, evaluation and minimum standards relating to technical approaches
● Fully embrace the Agency’s culture and values and actively work to achieve its goals relating to Gender, Diversity and Inclusion.
● Engage regularly on team workplans and budget issues, work collectively to advance coherence across the Unit, and ensure communications flow up and down in a timely manner.
● Manage teams and financial resources to ensure they are working in line with Agency’s Impact, Innovation and Influence objectives and TSU strategic priorities.
● Help team members identify and take advantage of opportunities to ensure professional growth and provide advice and encouragement to help them reach their full potential.
● Develop innovative ways of growing the team and resources.
Representation, Thought leadership, and partnership development
● Strengthen Mercy Corps’ profile and representation through expert interaction with internal stakeholders, partner agencies, donors and other networks and groups in the area of Agriculture
● Position Mercy Corps as a thought leader in the agriculture sector, particularly around strengthening agriculture markets in a changing climate while reinforcing resilience and leveraging technology.
● Advance external Influence through work with other Agency leads, including Policy and Research, Program and Quality, Marketing and Communications teams to raise Mercy Corps global profile.
● Participate in developing TSU knowledge management practices and liaise regularly with Knowledge Management and Communications teams to maximize impact.
● 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.
The position has supervisory responsibility over the Agriculture Systems technical team.
Reports Directly To: Senior Director, Economic Growth, TSU
Works Directly With: all other TSU teams, Research and Learning, Policy and Advocacy, Resource Development, Communications, Humanitarian Response, PaQ, and field teams
Knowledge and Experience
● Bachelor’s degree required. M.A, M.S., M.Sc., or equivalent in a field related to the TSU team specialty and relevant technical certifications are preferred.
● At least 10 years’ experience in international development with a strong focus on resilient agriculture systems and market-based approaches. Candidate should have experience:
● Designing, implementing and evaluating complex agriculture programming combining market system development and climate resilience.
● Working overseas and managing agriculture programming ideally in fragile contexts, experience with humanitarian programming a plus.
● Working cross-sectorally and gaining commitment and enthusiasm for interdisciplinary collaboration.
● Developing proposals and cultivating donor relationships.
● Building solid relationships with a range of partners, including the private sector and nurturing professional networks.
● Strong understanding of digital and other technology applications that support efficient agriculture markets.
● Strengthening technical skills of country teams.
● At least 5 years of management and supervisory experience that includes:
○ Effective coaching, development, and management of individual staff and teams.
○ Proven leadership, self-motivation, and interpersonal skills.
○ Leading matrixed teams for successful results in non-hierarchical settings.
○ Working with teams of diverse backgrounds.
● Exceptionally strong verbal and written communications skills and organizational skills are required
● Willingness and ability to travel frequently to Mercy Corps project sites, including traveling to insecure environments, is required.
● Strong experience with major donors such as USAID required, and familiarity with others such as DFID, the EC and relevant foundations and corporations preferred.
● Fluency in English is required; fluency in French strongly preferred.
The Director must be a superb team player who has the technical and functional skills to lead the TSU as a coherent, strategic and field-responsive best-in-class technical unit. The Director must be able to guide a team ensuring coherence of vision and strategy across groups as well as be able to identify and pursue new paths forward. They must guide vision and plan for their team(s) that both integrate well and are mutually reinforcing with other parts of the TSU and contribute to the Agency’s Strategic Compass. Directors interact expertly with other Directors and Senior Directors and also with executive team members, peers and high – profile donors to maximize MC influence and impact. In addition, the leader must have strong interpersonal and communication skills to effectively reach across departments within the agency and to networks and associations outside it to build critical partnership to further thought leadership, program innovation and ensure MC relevance and impact on the industry. The successful Director must be a self – starter who demonstrates exceptional ability in leading organizational initiatives and understanding Mercy Corps’ strategic plans and objectives. The Director must have high proficiency for working in varied cultural, political, and religious environments, and must be able to travel and work successfully in austere environments and maintain poise in stressful situations.
Living Conditions / Environmental Conditions
This position will be located in Washington D.C or potentially in one of the regional hubs. The position requires travel at least 30% time to country offices and project sites where living conditions may be exceptionally rugged or be in volatile environments where security protocols will need to be followed. Team members must be ready to travel on short notice in response to any emergency or crisis. The team member must be comfortable working in remote settings with limited infrastructure, food options and sparse living conditions, and may be asked to work over weekends and/or evenings, especially when travelling.
Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
Achieving our mission begins with how we build our team and how we 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 team members are expected to support all efforts toward accountability, specifically to our stakeholders and to international standards guiding 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. As part of our commitment to a safe and inclusive work environment, team members are expected to adhere to Mercy Corps Code of Conduct policies and are required to complete mandatory corresponding elearning courses upon hire and on an annual basis.
Accountability to Participants
Mercy Corps team members are expected to support all efforts toward accountability, specifically to our program participants, community partners 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.