Practice Lead – Research

Water Witness
  • Location
    Edinburgh, United Kingdom
  • Sector
    Non Profit
  • Experience
    Mid Career / Advanced
  • Apply by
  • Posted
    Jan 08

Position description

We are seeking an exceptional individual with the experience, skills and vision needed to co-ordinate an innovative, multi-country research programme, and to provide strategic leadership for evidence generation and learning across our operations.  The post-holder will co-lead the ‘Accountability for Water Action Research Programme’ to ensure the initiatives’ impact and legacy through strengthening water sector governance and service delivery in Africa and beyond. They will co-ordinate and mentor research partners and professional research fellows in Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia and with a Pan-African focus to support high-quality research design, delivery, documentation and communication of results.  This initiative will further develop our global support role in the field of accountability and advocacy for water security.  The post holder will also work with our team and partners to enhance the impact of inter-disciplinary research across our growing organisational functions.   The goal is to generate and share knowledge which will enable all stakeholders to harness accountability practice to accelerate delivery of the water related SDG’s, social justice, climate resilience and sustainable resource management.  


Role and Responsibilities 

The practice lead in water stewardship will co-ordinate, deliver and lead Water Witness’s practice and programmes focused on ‘redefining corporate responsibility’ for water.   The role will require high levels of competence in the design and delivery of interdisciplinary research, and thoughtful steering of research by a dispersed group of collaborating partners.  Specific responsibilities include:

  • Research programme management

Primary focus will be on delivery of the Accountability for Water Action Research Programme which targets improved water resource governance & WASH services by addressing the priority questions facing those working for water sector accountability, & by sharing knowledge generated widely in accessible ways to advance water security. Initial focus will be on supporting Professional Research Fellows in Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, & at a Pan-African scale to undertake inquiry into accountability initiatives (accountability monitoring, budget tracking & analysis, evidence-based advocacy) & mechanisms (statutory grievance systems, public interest litigation, etc.) & their influence on water security for vulnerable communities. There will also be opportunities to design & deliver cross-country research. Success will be contingent on effective management of the research partnership & on ensuring stakeholder needs are met through their ongoing engagement.  The Practice Lead will ensure findings are translated into concrete action to improve water security.


Working with the Water Witness team and our co-lead, the Partnership for African Social and Governance Research (PASGR), the postholder will ensure that: 

  • Publications & outputs are high quality, accessible and valued by our target audiences
  • Relevant stakeholders are engaged at all scales and that their needs are reflected in the research;
  • The needs of vulnerable people within communities are clearly heard and acted upon;
  • An efficient process for recruitment, training and provision of technical assistance to Professional Research Fellows is in place, including via national & regional events;
  • Robust and ethical methods are used, effective documentation takes place & insightful lessons are packaged & targeted to maximise their uptake;
  • Opportunities are seized to undertake cross-country research, and to scale and add-value;
  • The work is communicated effectively, and risks managed pro-actively and efficiently.


In order to deliver these duties, the post holder will:

  • Plan, deliver and report against programme budgets, activities, outputs and outcomes
  • Manage, mentor and support UK and overseas staff, partners and Advisory Group members, providing direct line management to 1-2 FTEs.
  • Assign & track tasks & resources through regular communication, meetings & visits to ensure impact within budget and timescales.
  • Commission and manage of external contracts and partnership agreements as required.
  • Author reports and publications,
  • Ensure quality assurance, statutory compliance and alignment with internal policies.


  • Strategic leadership, advocacy and influence 

The post holder will take responsibility for aspects of our strategy with a strong research component relating to ‘accountable governance’, ‘re-defining corporate responsibility’ and ‘triggering political, social and economic change for water security’.   Priorities will be determined via joint planning with the senior management team, and may include:


  • Advocacy based on the results of our research to stimulate reform and system strengthening for accountable water management, and to protect the freedoms, safety and civil rights of those working on accountability for water.
  • Tracking the performance of aid mechanisms and financial institutions in order to hold them to account and to advocate for positive change.
  • Test and demonstrate the contribution of accountability practice as strategy for climate resilience and adaptation.
  • Undertaking research on the ‘triggers’ for social, economic and political change for water security and the efficacy of communications and advocacy initiatives.
  • Design and delivery of research on tax justice and water; water ‘capture’ and public-good water allocation. 
  • Communications to elevate water issues within global media & debate.


  • Partnership, fundraising and systems optimisation

As research practice lead, the postholder will:


-          Proactively input to & track global and national research and debates;

-          Evolve Water Witness’s research interests and portfolio, and our fundraising strategies for its delivery;

-          Identify and develop constructive partnerships to achieve the organisation’s strategic objectives;

-          Identify, develop and deliver fundraising activities and funding proposals;

-          Support team members with research advice and design where appropriate;

-          Represent the organisation at a senior level at local, regional and global levels to secure strategic research partnerships, funding and to advance our organisational objectives;

-          Ensure that the organisation’s systems, assets and capabilities are effectively used and appropriate for delivery of our strategic objectives, with a particular focus on research, knowledge management and evidence-into-use.

-          Comply with Water Witness’s internal policies




Person Specification
Experience and Qualifications

  • Essential
  • A doctoral degree in a relevant field and at least 7 year’s relevant experience.
  • Experience of managing multi-country, multi-partner, interdisciplinary research.
  • A strong track record of publications, and a demonstrated ability to effectively communicate complex concepts to a wide range of audiences.
  • Evidence of working in effective partnership with executive & technical staff in challenging contexts, ideally in Africa.
  • A successful track record of converting research and evidence into high impact advocacy materials and communication campaigns.
  • Excellent understanding and experience of the water resource management and/or WASH sectors, and/or political economy, accountability & governance research.
  • Extensive programme management experience including of delivering concurrent initiatives, budget management, ME&L and reporting to donors and partners.
  • Design and management of knowledge and learning networks in Africa/or globally.
  • A proven team player, able to mentor, deliver training and collaborate within a multi-cultural and dispersed team of mixed capabilities and experience.
  • Desirable
  • Experience of the design and management of challenge funds.
  • A well-informed perspective of the challenges & opportunities for translating research and evidence into use, policy & practice for inclusive development.
  • Experience of supporting partners who are working in a second language.
  • Experience in one or more of our focal countries.


Skills and Attributes


  • A gifted communicator, both as a speaker and author in English.
  • A high degree of competence in using IT tools, platforms and programmes. 
  • Able to create and manage effective and productive partnerships.
  • Emotionally intelligent leadership and the ability to support and mentor others in a fast-paced and challenging environment.
  • Exceptional organisational skills, professional diligence and high ethical standards and conduct.
  • Proven ability to think, plan and act strategically and pro-actively.
  • Must be dynamic, creative, and passionate about delivering positive change in the world.
  • Familiar with current concepts and approaches within accountability and advocacy and /or water resource management, climate resilience and WASH. 


  • Working ability or fluency in a relevant African language.
  • Familiarity and competence in media, communications, infographics, publishing and the use of social media

Application instructions

All correspondence should be sent to [email protected] with ‘Practice Lead - Research’ in the subject line.  Please provide a CV and cover letter in ONE single document. The cover letter should be no more than two pages long, must explain why you want to work in this position, and should clearly set out how your skills and experience make you a good fit. 

Please also attach a SINGLE example of your written work which best demonstrates your writing capabilities.  This should be a recent, pre-existing report or paper of which you are the primary author. 

On this occasion only those with an existing right to work and live in the UK should apply.

NOTE: Applications which do not meet these requirements will not be considered

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