Education Research & Innovation Lead

International Rescue Committee
  • Location
    New York, New York
  • Sector
    Non Profit
  • Experience
    Mid Career / Advanced
  • Posted
    Jun 26

Position description

The IRC’s Airbel Impact Lab designs, tests, and scales life-changing, cost-effective solutions for people affected by conflict and disaster. By applying the IRC’s deep technical expertise and field experience with a range of skills from the behavioral sciences, human-centered design, rigorous research, and multi-disciplinary problem-solving in humanitarian contexts, we work to develop breakthrough solutions that combine creativity and rigor, openness and expertise, and a desire to think afresh with the experience of a large-scale implementing organization. 


IRC reaches over a million children annually with education and child protection programs in 20 countries around the world. Sitting within IRC’s Crisis Response, Recovery & Development (CRRD) Unit, the Education Technical Unit defines the vision and strategic priorities for all of IRC’s education programs. The team provides evidence-based and contextually-relevant technical support to programs, with the goal of ensuring they are technically sound and achieving meaningful outcomes.


The Airbel Impact Lab and the Health and Education Technical Units have identified 3 Global Research and Innovation Priorities to focus our energy over the coming years and generate a set of breakthroughs to radically improve client outcomes and change the humanitarian sector: 


  1. Tackling Child Malnutrition: Scaling innovations that prevent malnutrition and improve access, coverage and cost-effectiveness of acute malnutrition treatment in children under five; 
  2. Education: Ensure conflict-affected out-of-school children transition into the formal education system while enhancing access and quality learning outcomes for all children; and improve learning outcomes for out-of-school children in conflict-affected contexts where there is no formal education system;
  3. Sexual, Reproductive, Maternal and Neonatal Health: Improving the effectiveness and efficiency of interventions to reduce unintended pregnancy and improving access, clinical quality, and dignity around maternal and neonatal health care.  


The Education Research & Innovation Priority Lead will be responsible for overseeing the vision, strategy, and execution of all work within the Education priority area, developing a portfolio of projects spanning the range of early-stage innovations to rigorously testing solutions to driving adoption that can transform the lives of people affected by crisis.


In this leadership position, the Education Research & Innovation Lead will be responsible for advancing groundbreaking research and innovation projects with the potential to transform the lives of those affected by crisis. Priority Leads will craft new concepts and work with the Airbel Impact Lab, Education technical colleagues, country program teams and partners to design, test, and scale this work. 


This is a position that requires familiarity with both innovation and research methods, unquenchable curiosity and audacity, and the desire to build breakthrough products and services for crisis-affected populations, prove their impact, and scale them. 


Major Responsibilities


  • Portfolio and Project Development

    • Define and drive an ambitious and achievable portfolio of education research and innovation projects that will generate significant impact at scale for clients across the humanitarian sector; 

    • Set and deliver on key performance indicators for achieving the education priority objectives, strive for improvement, and effectively communicate progress

    • Lead the strategic direction and vision for the education research and innovation portfolio and ensure that all projects ladder up to the vision and portfolio targets;

    • Build, oversee and support a team of project leads, leveraging skills and expertise of individuals across multiple departments, outside direct line management structure;

    • Work with project leads and teams to deliver projects from early stage ideation through to testing and scale; 

    • Work with the technical teams and practice leads (design, behavioral science, costing, research, using evidence, and strategy) to resource projects;

    • Ensure that all projects have a viable scaling plan;


  • Fundraising & Financial Management:

    • Lead fundraising and business development for the priority portfolio and maintain the financial health of the portfolio;

    • Oversee the financial health of the priority team and in collaboration with our finance team, engage in priority workforce planning and financial projections.


  • Thought Leadership & Partnerships:

    • Lead the communication and external engagement strategy for the portfolio, working closely with the communications team and partners to influence and impact policy and practice

    • Develop and maintain strategic partnerships for the priority area and portfolio

    • Represent the portfolio across the organization, serving as a key resource to IRC staff seeking information, including external relations and advocacy departments; 

    • Publish academic and practitioner articles and participate in targeted conferences and fora


Education: Master’s required. Extensive innovation and product design/delivery experience, or PhD in education or related field preferred. 

Minimum Requirements 

  • Over 10 years’ experience­­ developing and delivering high impact projects or research in the education technical area

  • A keen sense of how to articulate ambitious, but achievable goals for education projects that will ultimately be breakthroughs; 

  • An entrepreneurial and creative approach with the grounded experience of converting ideas into projects and research; 

  • Experience managing interdisciplinary teams in complex, matrixed structures to successfully build and deliver products, services or service delivery mechanisms; 

  • Experience building and cultivating teams from early stage work through to implementation and scaling; 

  • Experience delivering successful projects in large institutions and challenging operating contexts;

  • An understanding of innovation methods and research methods, with a particular focus on randomized controlled trials, and an ability to manage the creative tension between research and innovation;

  • An understanding and commitment to impact, value and growth as key components of program design and delivery; 

  • Demonstrated experience with business development and donor/partner management

  • Excellent interpersonal and communication skills: the ability to successfully and effectively liaise with a variety of people in a multicultural environment and work on a virtual team; 

  • Flexible work attitude, proactive and demonstrated creativity: the ability to work productively in a team environment and the ability to problem solve creatively with minimal guidance;

  • Excellent organizational skills: the ability to be flexible and work well under pressure, dealing with competing priorities in a fast-paced team environment; 

  • Experience in scaling is a plus.


    Working Environment:  

  • Standard office work environment

  • Up to 30% travel

Application instructions

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