UNHCR’s Innovation Service is searching for a secondment from the private sector to lead our team through specific challenges.  The secondment will play a key role in the simultaneous pursuit of change and efficiency through innovation, creating a leap in value for both refugees and the organisation at all levels.

Individuals seconded to UNHCR, bringing crucial experience and competencies from outside the UN system, are highly valued resources, and are deployed for a fixed period of time in response to a specific need of the organisation. UNHCR is particularly interested in persons underrepresented in innovation leadership positions such as women and nationalities from the Global South.

UNHCR will offer the opportunity of gaining experience in a dynamic international environment and to serve as an effective and active catalyst for organisational change and impact for refugees globally.

The individual will support UNHCR’s Innovation Service located in Geneva, Budapest, and Nairobi with critical areas. The person selected for this unique opportunity will play a time-bound role, in heading these efforts, contributing to the level of diversity of thought and experience within UNHCR.

To learn more about the opportunity, read the full Terms of References below.

To express interest in this new opportunity in UNHCR’s Innovation Service, please fill out the form below.

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Terms of Reference

The Innovation team at UNHCR has been in existence for the past six years. We’ve innovated in thematic areas, scaled projects, built staff competencies, and partnered extensively with the private sector, with academia, and with civil society. What we learned most of all in 2017, is that innovation starts with identifying core values by which you want to work, rather than key themes. It’s an inclusive process that works from developing ideas, and taking them through to as large a scale as possible – we want to create value to the greatest extent possible, not gimmicks. At UNHCR, innovation is not conflated with technology, or modernization, it’s agnostic of tech and helps to drive a cultural shift within the organisation and beyond. As a result, we’re now in a position to work more broadly as a Service, which means we’ve done away with specific themes, making better use of our team’s experience and skill sets, which are constantly evolving. We want to head in a direction where innovation is more and more accessible to more and more of our constituents – whether staff, partners or refugees and host communities.

The Secondment opportunity to UNHCR’s Innovation Service will be responsible for driving innovation within UNHCR and beyond. They will help lead and support UNHCR’s Innovation Service located in Geneva, Budapest, and Nairobi. The Secondee will play a key role in the simultaneous pursuit of change and efficiency through innovation, creating a leap in value for both refugees and the organisation at all levels. While everyone is responsible for innovating and creating at UNHCR, the secondment opportunity at the Innovation Service is an effective and active catalyst for organisational change. 

  • Create a meaningful and compelling dialogue on and around innovation at the Senior Management level and create underlying institutional processes that connects innovation opportunities in a powerful and integrated way. You will align Senior Management and partners around the Innovation Service’s mission, vision, and values to ensure the organisation is working towards a shared purpose on innovation.
  • Design a process for adoption and diffusion of promising practices developed within field operations, as well as other ongoing innovation efforts, collaborating with Senior Level colleagues to prepare the organisation to do so. This may include efforts to assign budgets, adapt policy, and to communicate transparently about successes, as well as failures;
Driving systemic change
  • Support staff, partners, and refugees, to develop ideas by convening an organisational concept of innovation that is drawn from UNHCR’s strategies, ensuring that good ideas can be taken forward, and can create the best realities and services for displaced people;
  • Support competency building efforts to further UNHCR’s approach to supporting innovation within field operations, ensuring UNHCR staff have the skills required to drive innovation at all levels of the organisation;
  • Create a process to scope the future environment of protection and displacement, identifying new areas that UNHCR should be prepared to engage with. This will include identifying emerging services, behavioral insights, processes, and in some cases, technologies;
  • Be an external advocate
  • Develop strong relationships with other institutions in the public, as well as a private innovation ecosystem to form coalitions of expertise, of experiences, and at times shared resources and resourcing, this may include inter alia incubators and accelerators;
  • Promote a sophisticated understanding and approach to humanitarian innovation at key external fora, driving the need for innovation to be situated in a broader.
  • Proven track record of building impactful innovation-led programs that achieved transformational change for organisations and direct beneficiaries or customers;
  • Experience in building an organisation’s capability in behavioural and experimental approaches that are grounded in empirical evidence;
  • Strong advocacy and public speaking skills, with the ability to successfully advocate for the evolving needs for innovation within large organisations, using compelling, and evidence-based arguments and discourse to persuade and to secure the necessary space and allies in order to operate effectively;
  • High emotional intelligence, strong people skills having worked with a range of nationalities, in a range of different contexts, you will be very open to working with and promoting diversity, including diversity of thought;
  • Experience in behavioural science, having used behavioural science based on scientific theory in previous roles. You will have developed skills in theory of change, and will have a demonstrable openness to learning;
  • Minimum 20 years of relevant work experience including minimum 15 years of experience in management of public, private sector and/or Government projects including research, academia, and/or industry;
  • Understanding of service design to improve outcomes and its role in introducing more realistic models of behaviour to processes, policy, and services;
  • Understanding of the evolving relationships between development and humanitarian actors in addition to host-governments, financial institutions, and other international organisations/NGOs;
  • University degree in Public or Business Administration, Social Science, Economics, Law or Management.