Director, Program Standards and Operations – Iraq
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.
Mercy Corps works in places of transition, where conflict, disaster, political upheaval, or economic collapse present opportunities to build more secure, productive, and just communities. Providing emergency relief in times of crisis, we move quickly to help communities recover and build resilience to future shocks and promote sustainable change by supporting community-led and market-driven initiatives. Recognizing both the great potential and the complex challenges faced by the Middle East, since 1989 Mercy Corps has been implementing a range of humanitarian assistance and development programs tailored to the specific needs of the region and of those communities where we work.
Since 2003, Mercy Corps has been working to pave the way for a new Iraq. We continue to deliver emergency, life-saving assistance to conflict affected populations while also addressing longer term needs and underlying causes. Ongoing cycles of conflict have resulted in millions of people displaced, basic infrastructure destroyed, livelihoods disrupted, and deepening divisions within communities. Since our work began in Iraq, we’ve provided support to more than 5 million people affected by war, violence, and displacement.
General Position Summary
The Director of Program Standards and Operations is responsible for the direct management of the Iraq program teams and for ensuring the delivery of appropriate and responsive programs. This role will ensure programs are implemented on time, on budget and in line with the relevant quality standards, and with appropriate management tools and documentation. They will bring together oversight of complex multi-field grants and ensure challenges are identified and addressed in good time. They will contribute to the revision of contingency plans and ensure realization of the related action plan at field level. The Director of Program Standards and Operations will provide direct, ongoing capacity building support to the program personnel and will help drive wider capacity building and succession planning initiatives. The post holder will ensure effective systems are in place at field level to deliver and document programs and to maintain effective and accountable partnerships, liaising with relevant Department Heads to ensure synergies across all locations.
The Director of Program Standards and Operations ensures capacity sharing and professional development for program staff on program management techniques, and providing support to create a culture of training, coaching, and integrating effective tools and techniques to improve program quality. Director of Program Standards and Operations must be highly motivated, self-driven and able to support Mercy Corps Iraq’s nexus and development portfolios, including both for directly implemented activities and for activities implemented with or via partners.
The Director of Program Standards and Operations will strengthen and systematize the team’s strategies for capturing and documenting lessons learned, both within and across programs and sectors in Mercy Corps Iraq, coaching team members on best practices and creative strategies.
Essential Job Responsibilities
STRATEGY & PLANNING
- Support the development of sector strategies in partnership with program leads, the DCD and PaQ team.
- Support program teams in integrating cross-program learning and ensure that lessons learned are used to inform adaptation of activities and future program design, with a particular focus on the use of quantitative and qualitative data for adaptive management and design.
- Provide support to program teams including program design, program start-up, kick-off meetings, inception meeting check-ins, work planning processes, budget versus actual (BvA) monitoring, quality audits and spot checks, and end of program transition meetings.
- Facilitate the development and pursuit of thematic, cross-cutting strategic priorities.
- In collaboration with the PaQ Director and the DCD, support the development of cross-team coordination mechanisms to ensure effective collaboration and integration across key program areas and functions, and within and across programs and the portfolio.
VISION AND LEADERSHIP
- Champion standards for effective strategic planning and robust, right-sized measurement across our work
- Recognize opportunities for innovative action and create an environment where alternative viewpoints are welcomed.
- As program performance needs are determined, coordinate with relevant HQ units and teams (PaQ, TSU, etc.) to source and sequence support.
- Provide leadership for the use of good practices and increased coordination, collaboration, communication and harmonization of programming and operations in Iraq.
- In collaboration with the PaQ Director and the DCD, create and maintain systems to ensure efficient and transparent capture of program data for management decision-making and timely and informative internal and external reporting.
PROGRAM MANAGEMENT AND DELIVERY
- Responsible for coordination of program implementation, both direct and indirect delivery, of high-quality programming on time, and on budget, in line with the objectives of the Pathways to Possibility, the country strategy and in accordance with donor requirements
- Establish and maintain robust program management systems and standardized ways of working, including through capacity building of Program Managers in work-planning and program management.
- Ensure adherence and appropriate responsibility for program management, and the ongoing use of the Program Activity Tracker: manage and support budget holders for individual projects and grants, ensuring effective budget management, for example through monthly budget reviews
- Ensure key project documents are in place at project kick-off (in accordance with PM@MC templates), including procurement and HR planning, implementation plans, phased budgets, and ensure the regular review of the same.
- In coordination with the PaQ team, support the implementation of MEL, CARM, and GESI minimum standards.
- Trouble-shoot issues affecting program delivery, drawing on support from relevant departments, and work with program leadership and other teams to identify root causes and address these accordingly
- Responsible for early communication to DCD and grants management team for any project amendments, extensions etc. and participation in the development of these requests to donor(s)
- Work with field teams to identify and communicate to the DCD and grants management team any gaps in service provision/unmet beneficiary needs in current areas of implementation or more broadly
- Work with program managers and grant and compliance teams to review project partnerships, including partner-led implementation progress, and ensure partnerships are responsibly and effectively managed throughout the life of the agreements
- In close coordination with relevant departments, participate in the program proposal process and participate in designing, innovative and high-quality programs (feasibility, consolidation, methodology, implementation)
- Require Program Managers to prepare timely and high-quality progress reports, program reports, and donor reports in a manner to allow review and consolidation efficiently.
PROGRAM PERFORMANCE AND STANDARDS
- Set the highest standards of program performance and quality for the program leadership, establishing rigorous cadence and execution discipline to monitor and execute programs on time, on scope and on budget with the highest of quality.
- Act as the focal point for full compliance with PM@MC minimum standards for program management. Conduct regular follow-up (through field visits, spot checks, audit) of PM@MC minimum standards
- Maintain high-level of ambition and accountability amongst program leadership to ensure best-in-class approach taken to implement initiative and push teams to deliver against program outcomes / milestones.
- Oversee monthly program performance office meetings and engaging key personnel as needed and actions are captured, tracked, and closed to continue and sustain successful program performance.
- Support the program leadership with application of PM@MC tools and mentorship to ensure delivery of program outcomes and manage overall program performance; provide targeted capacity building, and hands-on support/coaching, to program leadership team (such as, in developing and maintaining detailed implementation plans/work breakdown structures; procurement and recruitment plans; in-depth understanding of grant agreements and compliance, reviewing/writing program reports for accuracy and program impact; and supporting program close-out etc.).
- As needed, define, and align on interim measures / indicators for outcomes and milestones to provide more frequent, directional indication of progress toward outcomes and milestones.
- Create a culture of continuous improvement across all the program teams; leverage performance and conduct ongoing analysis to inform continuous improvement and corrections for overall program performance
- Proactively flag issues or barriers to success for ongoing activities to DCD and SMT, as appropriate to ensure program progress is not impeded and to mitigate future risks/challenges.
- Serve as the main point of contact for support when program performance is low and/or experiencing barriers to success; Consistently share best practices being learned across Program and PaQ leadership; support the facilitation of inter-program, cross-sectoral learning initiatives both in collaborative spaces and at critical program junctures
- Create and sustain a work environment of mutual respect where team members strive to achieve excellence.
- Promote accountability, communicate expectations and provide constructive feedback via regular performance reviews.
- Provide team members with information, tools and other resources to improve performance and reach objectives.
- Hire, orient and supervise new team members as necessary.
- Contribute to country team-building efforts. Help team members identify problem-solving options and ensure the integration of all team members into relevant decision-making processes.
REPRESENTATION AND COORDINATION
- Participate and/or organize internal meetings to inform the development of improvements in Mercy Corps working practices.
- Lead efforts in sharing best practices with other NGOs working in Iraq
- Represent Mercy Corps in external coordination and donor meetings, as required.
- Participate in the Complex Program board calls and associated follow-up as needed.
- Support and coach program leadership in maintaining positive relationships with program partners
Supervisory Responsibility: Program Leaders
Reports Directly To: Deputy Country Director
Works Directly With: Program Leadership Team, PaQ Director, MEL Manager, SMT Members, Operations Teams, Ethics/ Assurance/ Safeguarding, Regional and Global PaQ and TSU teams.
Knowledge and Experience
- Bachelor’s degree required. Masters or equivalent in a field related to Humanitarian or International Development or relevant fields is preferred.
- At least 4 to 7 years’ experience providing coordination or management support to program implementation.
- Experience working in the Middle East region and/or high-risk contexts preferred.
- Proven ability to work cooperatively with internal and external stakeholders, and to play a leadership role in convening groups. Astute skills in relationship building and coordination.
- Extensive experience with program implementation, program standards, program quality, and other learning efforts and technical areas in at least several field of MC Iraq sectors.
- Willingness and ability to travel frequently to Mercy Corps program sites and field locations, including traveling to insecure environments, is required.
- Excellent listening, inter-personal, communication and networking skills; and the ability to work with diversified populations.
- Skilled at delivering and facilitating training and capacity building interventions, e.g., coaching, mentorship; experience with one-to-one coaching an advantage
- Analytical, problem solver, with strong experience and understanding of project cycle management and coordination.
- High level of self-awareness and self-development with the maturity to deal with constructive feedback.
- The willingness and ability to adapt leadership and management style as appropriate.
- Experience of conducting research, drafting and presenting reports to varied audiences.
- Excellent English writing skills required; previous experience in developing donor-facing deliverables (reports, research, etc.) strongly preferred
- Demonstrated attention to details, ability to follow procedures, meet deadlines, prioritize activities and work independently and cooperatively with team members are required.
- Computer skills (word processing) required; experience with other softwares (spreadsheets, presentation tools, etc.) an advantage
- Advanced fluency in written and spoken English is required, Arabic and/or Kurdish are an asset
The successful candidate is an opinionated, fast-thinking, experienced leader. S/he has a thorough understanding of what it takes to deliver impactful programs in challenging environments, and how to conduct quality management of these programs. S/he is an excellent communicator who can inspire broad and diverse teams towards achieving a shared goal and drive a fast-paced and adaptive program. S/he is able to create a stimulating working environment encouraging innovation and accountability. S/he should have good communication and diplomatic skills. S/he should be able to facilitate complex team dynamics and achieve aims, have excellent analytical and problem-solving skills, good organizational skills and ability to work independently, with a strong commitment to advancing learning in international development through monitoring and evaluation. S/he should have strong relationship-building skills and commitment to working collaboratively. S/he has an outstanding ability to design, implement and manage innovative programs that use strong program management practices and respond to current needs in Iraq.
Living Conditions / Environmental Conditions
This position is based in Erbil, Iraq and requires up to 50% travel within Iraq and to other countries within the Middle East. This position is unaccompanied, and the location is eligible for hardship allowance and R&R benefits. Living conditions are in group housing: water, electricity and internet are present with some cuts.
Mercy Corps team members represent the agency both during and outside work hours when deployed in a field posting or on a visit to a field posting. 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.
In support of our belief that learning organizations are more effective, efficient and relevant to the communities we serve, we empower all team members to dedicate 5% of their time to learning activities that further their personal and/or professional growth and development
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
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 is committed to ensuring that all individuals we come into contact with through our work, whether team members, community members, program participants or others, are treated with respect and dignity. We are committed to the core principles regarding prevention of sexual exploitation and abuse laid out by the UN Secretary General and IASC and have signed on to the Interagency Misconduct Disclosure Scheme. We will not tolerate child abuse, sexual exploitation, abuse, or harassment by or of our team members. As part of our commitment to a safe and inclusive work environment, team members are expected to conduct themselves in a professional manner, respect local laws and customs, and to adhere to Mercy Corps Code of Conduct Policies and values at all times. Team members are required to complete mandatory Code of Conduct elearning courses upon hire and on an annual basis.