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ODI looks for a Research Fellow

Overseas Development Institute <1y Entry Level  England, United Kingdom 3 May 2019

Job Description

Research Fellow

About ODI

ODI is an independent, global think tank, working for a sustainable and peaceful world in which every person thrives. We harness the power of evidence and ideas through research and partnership to confront challenges, develop solutions and create change. (odi.org)

The politics and governance team are looking for a researcher to lead on key projects within our portfolio, undertaking innovative research and analysis, and influencing the international debate through public affairs activities including publications, media engagement, speaking at conferences, and providing advice to governments and business at a senior level. The postholder will also have the opportunity to develop their own research interests within the team’s broad areas of focus, including designing research projects, obtaining funding and managing resources for delivery.

About the Politics and Governance team

Within ODI, the Politics and Governance team combines innovative research and advisory work to address how politics and power shape development.

Too often, aid fails to help poor and vulnerable people because it assumes that development is a technical issue: building roads, training teachers, feeding refugees, etc. But development is never just technical. A road can be built, but whom does it serve? Teachers can be trained, but are they in school? Refugees can be fed, but can they ever return home? These and other issues are intimately bound up with struggles over resources and ideas, winners, losers, and the politics of ‘Who gets what, when, and how’. In ODI, we help partners understand and navigate the politics of the places they work and the issues they deal with, identifying levers for change that can deliver on aid’s promise of empowering the poor. We want to move the discussion from what happens to why it happens, from what should be done to what can be done, and how it can be done most effectively.

We are a team of 20 political scientists, anthropologists, economists, and historians who apply a range of approaches, from political economy analysis, to large household surveys, to behavioural science, to provide ideas on three core areas:

  • understanding political contestation of, within and outside the state;
  • articulating how incentives, narratives, perceptions and behaviour shape politics, policy making and development practice; and
  • supporting policy-makers and practitioners to put into practice the principles of doing development differently, based on our research.

We have backgrounds in public sector governance and service delivery; justice, security and rule of law; citizenship, democracy and political participation; conflict and peacebuilding; and migration and displacement. Some of the questions we’re asking include: why are educated people with jobs willing to use violence to change society? Why do people and communities move across borders or from one place to another? How can we promote universal access to good quality services? How can policy makers actually use evidence to create transformative policies? Why does aid money often fail to deliver change?

Three of our large ongoing projects include:

  • The Global Learning for Adaptive Management initiative (GLAM), funded by the Department for International Development and the United States Agency for International Development, GLAM is a globally networked learning alliance that aims to actively identify, operationalise and promote rigorous evidence-based approaches to adaptive management.
  • Secure Livelihoods Research Consortium a ten-year global research programme that aims to strengthen the evidence base and inform policy and practice around livelihoods, basic services and social protection in conflict-affected situations. It works in South Sudan, Uganda, DRC, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
  • Mignex is a five-year research project (2018–2023) with the core ambition of creating new knowledge on migration, development and policy. It involves researchers at nine institutions in Europe, Africa and Asia. We want to understand and explain how migration and development affect each other in complex ways.

Some of our recent publications include:

In addition to research we offer a range of advisory services to development partners and programmes, including: embedded political economy analysis and/or learning accompaniment/strategy testing; research-driven advice on programme design, theories of change and MEL systems; innovative communications and digital outputs; capacity building and training.

About you

We hope you’ll play a major role in several large upcoming projects. These will carry out political economy analysis and operationally relevant research in governance, public sector reform and social accountability programmes in Malawi, Ghana, Nigeria, Uganda, and Pakistan. We’d love it if you had a passion for politics and political economy, an interest in how government bureaucracies work, learn and adapt, and experience or interest in any of those contexts. The politics and mechanics of government policy making and reform processes, cross-government collaboration and lesson learning, and use of evidence in decision making are all themes you’ll likely encounter in your work with us.

We think you’ll be quite focused on a few projects with responsibilities both to deliver research and to ensure overall delivery by research teams; our job description mentions fundraising, but unlike others in the team, we think this will not be a big part of your first year when you’ll focus on delivering our projects and thinking through how to leverage our learning from them to enhance our, and your, independent research agenda.

To enjoy this role, you’d need to get a kick out of working collaboratively with our other researchers and navigating partnerships (and sometimes delicate relationships) with the other organisations that we work with. You’ll like this role if you prefer doing team-based research on more applied topics over more abstract and academic research – though you’ll still be expected to do some of that, too. We operate in a networked and collaborative way across our team, mentoring and supporting each other in our sometimes independent endeavours, so you might not like working with us if you prefer a more hierarchical system with close day to day supervision. Many of us work remotely but others enjoy working from our office in South London: your day to day working arrangements will be up to you, with some travel to the above locations.

We should let you know that nearly all of the projects in our portfolio operate on an agile management model. This means we allocate our scare resources and build small task/research teams based on emerging needs in discussion with our clients. Because your expertise will be unique, you may find yourself on the ‘receiving’ end of this, being pulled in to comment on or deliver a piece of work with minimal lead-time. Some qualities that help people feel happy with that are flexibility, ability to prioritise, and willingness to communicate how you are feeling and be sensitive to others.

The main things we think you’ll gain from a job with us are opportunities for intellectual cross-pollination with other ODI colleagues, plus learning about how to be more politically aware and policy and practice oriented in your research. We’re a hub advising other organisations on how to manage complex adaptive programmes, so we’re also a good place to be if you’d like to hone your management skills.

Some other basics about you:

  • A degree and post-graduate qualification in a relevant discipline.
  • Fluency in English, and preferably a good command of at least one other language (we’re looking for more French and Arabic speakers).
  • Experience in practice-oriented research, demonstrated by a track record of publications and reports.
  • Extensive developing-country experience, preferably in Malawi, Ghana, Uganda and Pakistan, though we’re also very interested in Nigeria and the Sahel.
    • Strong analytical skills, a capacity to write clearly, and excellent organisational and oral communication skills.
    • A demonstrated capacity for policy advisory or public-affairs work, based on an analytical approach, and an innovative and creative communications ability.
    • Project management skills.
  • Ability to translate research ideas into fundable projects.
  • Excellent communication abilities in relation to a wide variety of audiences.
  • Skills in negotiation, listening, communication of ideas, problem solving, decision making.
  • Ability to work as part of a team.
  • Excellent time management skills, including managing a complex and varied workload.
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