SPARC Horn of Africa Research Manager Consultancy Opportunity in Nairobi, Kenya

Mercy Corps 

Consultant - SPARC Horn of Africa Research Manager - Nairobi, Kenya


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.

Mercy Corps is committed to generating and using evidence to understand and improve our impact, and to enhance the humanitarian and development community’s ability to address the world’s most complex challenges. The Research and Learning team advances Mercy Corps’ ability to influence major debates and decisions affecting our work, and to deliver high impact programming by supporting the generation and use of high-quality evidence. Our external influence and internal learning are most effective when underpinned by substantive research on issues where we have expertise and a credible voice. Questions on types of policies and programs can best strengthen the resilience of populations affected by recurrent and protracted crises are major priorities for our research, technical, and program teams around the world.

Program Summary
The Supporting Pastoralism and Agriculture in Recurrent and Protracted Crises (SPARC) is a six-year (2020– 2025) program. It aims to develop, broker and manage knowledge, in order to enhance the ability of the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), His Majesty’s Government (HMG) and the broader development community to assist pastoralists, agropastoralists and farmers living in the context of climate change, protracted crises and ongoing conflicts. The program is led by Cowater International and co-delivered with Overseas Development Institute (ODI), International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and Mercy Corps.

SPARC’s ultimate objective is to help communities in the drylands of East, North and West Africa and the Middle East to increase their resilience to recurring shocks and protracted crises. SPARC does this by supporting more effective interventions and a better understanding of the challenges in these communities. Specifically, SPARC:

  • Informs the decision-making process for policies, programs, or practice affecting these dryland communities (instrumental changes).
  • Influences how stakeholders involved in and affected by decision-making processes think about social, economic and environmental issues in the drylands and how these interact (conceptual changes)
  • Enhances the collective ability and competencies of actors who have a stake in decision making processes (capacity changes).

Consultant Objectives

As Mercy Corps’ research portfolio in Africa grows, so does our need for regional technical and managerial research capacity. Mercy Corps seeks a consultant to support the successful design and implementation of impactful research. The Consultant will:

  • Manage and provide technical guidance on select SPARC studies in the region
  • Coordinate between Mercy Corps SPARC Technical Leads as well as the global Research and Learning team and Mercy Corps regional, country, and program teams, and external research partners.
  • Identify and manage new opportunities for SPARC to research innovations in SPARC contexts, agro-pastoral and pastoralist livelihoods, livelihoods in transition, conflict and resilience.

The Consultant Research Manager will dedicate their time to research management, coordination, and technical guidance under the Supporting Pastoralism and Agriculture in Recurrent and Protracted Crises (SPARC) program, with ad hoc support of other Mercy Corps research programs and studies. The research supported by this role will be used to inform SPARC and Mercy Corps’ regional influence plans, strategies, program development, and debates and decisions among donors, government agencies, and other key humanitarian and development actors.

Consultant Activities

The consultant will be responsible for the following tasks:

Technically support and manage research projects in the HoA Africa and SPARC priority countries.

  • Support the design of studies, including defining research questions, and developing data collection methods, instruments, and analysis plans.
  • Oversee research execution, including identification and recruitment of researchers, implementation to ensure quality and timeliness of the fieldwork, partners, and of the overall research project activities, outputs and reports.
  • Upon request, be responsive to immediate technical assistance requests shared by the donor via SPARC leadership.

Data Collection and Analysis

  • As needed for individual studies;
    • Develop data collection and analysis methods
    • Ensure high quality primary data collection
    • Analyse primary and secondary data as related to the study
    • Lead write report (or alternative agreed output) including policy and investment recommendations.

Regional Coordination

  • Support SPARC Technical Leads in
    • relationship management and coordination with regional and country leadership, technical support teams, and program teams to ensure research plans are aligned with agency and field-based research priorities and program opportunities.
    • development and maintenance of strategic research relationships with relevant local and/or regional research institutions and keep abreast of emerging research initiatives and opportunities in the region.
    • Tracking national and regional policy debates and trends in evidence gaps and trends. Support SPARC and Mercy Corps decision making on strategic positioning, partnerships, and evidence gaps.

Identification and Management of SPARC Studies

  • Support initial mapping and maintenance of Mercy Corps’ evolving portfolio of programs aligned with SPARC research framework. Support development and oversee implementation of research that aligns closely with SPARC influence priorities.
  • Update SPARC mapping of innovations in FCAS contexts. This includes previous unidentified business models, policy practices, technologies, behavioral insights, or ways of delivering products and services--that if evaluated, show high potential to contribute to better policies and programs in support of pastoral and agro-pastoral livelihoods and resilience.
  • Support the identification of criteria and process for selecting program innovations for research and evaluation.
  • Draft and manage project budgets in close coordination with Mercy Corps country, regional, and global finance teams.
  • Support processing of contract, progress reports, and payments in compliance with Mercy Corps procurement processes.
  • Support identification, recruitment, and management of local, regional, and international research organizations and research consultants with experience implementing relevant research and evaluations in SPARC contexts.
  • Supervise research partners’ progress and quality, providing technical feedback on outputs throughout each evaluative project cycle.

Support Research Dissemination and Uptake

  • Identify key internal and external audiences, and country / regional fora, key events, conferences and events that provide opportunities to advance awareness and use of our research findings among target audiences in the region.
  • Support translation of research findings into appropriate external products to support evidence-based influencing activities and deliver presentations or other communications on our research to external audiences in the region.


  • Quarterly workplans and budgets
  • Internal concept notes for new studies
  • Research report (or alternative agreed output) for studies where consultant is the lead
  • Summary slides on the research to be used for external presentations
  • Deliver at least two internal or external presentations about the research

Timeframe / Schedule

  • 22 January – 30 March 2024: Coordination and management support to on-going studies. Support the design of the next round of studies.
  • 01 April 2024 – 30 March 2025: Funding dependent, provide coordination and management support to new studies.


  • The Consultant will report directly to the Director of Evidence & Learning for Resilient Drylands Production Systems in coordination with the SPARC Innovation Research Lead.
  • The Consultant will work closely with the Technical Director for the Africa Region, (Deputy) Country Directors, Program Directors, and Program Managers, as well as members of Mercy Corps Technical Support Unit.

Qualification, Knowledge and Experience

  • 5-10 years of experience working in international development or humanitarian aid, with at least 2-3 years in research, strategy or monitoring and evaluation role(s).
  • Master’s degree in applied research, international development or other relevant social science
  • Experience conducting research in fragile, conflict affected contexts.
  • Experience in research or programming on resilience, agricultural recovery, pastoralism, conflict management, and/or market systems development.
  • Experience working with digital technologies, social entrepreneurs, or other innovations/ innovators on socio-economic development preferred.
  • Demonstrated skills with quantitative and qualitative research methodologies.
  • Demonstrated ability to communicate research findings, verbally, visually, and in writing in English. Ability to communicate verbally in Kiswahili or Somali desired.
  • Experience translating research into actionable recommendations and practice.
  • Experience developing and managing project budgets and research partners or consultants.

Success Factors

  • Ability and willingness to travel at least 30% of the time.
  • Excellent analytical skills, and ability to communicate complex concepts in clear ways
  • Excellent on-line communication skills and experience using multiple communication platforms.
  • Superb organizational skills and show initiative to identify and solve problems
  • Capable of multitasking, rapid decision-making, and work under time constraints
  • Must be able to work with diverse teams (country, language) and sectors (e.g. natural resources, economics, sociology, digital technology)
  • Flexibility to adapt to changing conditions and requirements
  • Self-motivated and able to work without close supervision
  • Strong team player with demonstrated interpersonal skills

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

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.

How to apply

To apply: