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Senior Researcher, Evaluation and Strategic Learning (Food and Agriculture)

Job ID 768-2

Position Description:

Established in 1968, Mathematica is a non-partisan research firm that brings evidence to bear on the world’s most pressing policy questions and social challenges. Working across all sectors and regions, we help our partners to develop, measure, evaluate, and scale policies and programs to maximize impact and improve the lives of millions across the globe. Our social mission and commitment to quality and innovation drives us to develop highly tailored approaches that draw on the best available methods, tools, and technology to meet our partners’ learning and decision-making needs. Today, our 1,200 employees are helping government agencies, donors, foundations, and a range of non-governmental and private sector organizations make a difference in more than 50 countries.

Mathematica is seeking a senior researcher to join its rapidly growing global philanthropy practice area within our international development research division. In particular, we are looking for an expert to support and grow our food security, nutrition, and agriculture work. Mathematica works on the forefront of critical issues in agriculture transformation, including land rights and reform, new productive technologies, and strengthening market access. We are looking for a candidate who has substantial experience exploring issues of food and nutrition security, food systems, availability of and access to nutritious foods, and agricultural transformation. Ideally, the candidate would have established expertise in one or more of the following thematic areas—innovation in agriculture production technologies and practices, agricultural extension, nutrition, bio-fortification and dietary diversification, and sustainable and climate smart agriculture—as well as extensive experience in Africa and Asia.

The senior researcher will lead food and agriculture-related research and evaluation, data analytics, and strategic learning efforts for foundations, donor collaboratives, corporate social responsibility initiatives, and public-private ventures. He/she will also have the opportunity to help shape and grow Mathematica’s food and agriculture portfolio and strategic philanthropy practice. The ideal candidate will have a strong research and evaluation background, and interest in using research and evaluation to inform and support philanthropic efforts.

We seek a dynamic leader for this role, who is passionate about conducting research on food and agriculture in the international development sector and committed to using data and evidence to drive change. We are looking for a candidate with an entrepreneurial mindset, who will thrive in a fast-paced environment with evolving client needs and frequently emerging opportunities to contribute to strategic decision-making and effect change. Emergent client priorities and shifting project circumstances require creativity and adaptability, two critical assets for this position. The ideal candidate will have substantial experience and deep expertise in food and agriculture issues in the international development context and applying qualitative and/or quantitative research methods to address our clients’ diverse evaluation and learning needs. He/she must be able to act as a trusted advisor to philanthropic entities seeking to achieve impact and advance this field.

Key Responsibilities:

  • Lead evaluation and strategic learning engagements. Work closely with clients to develop results frameworks and learning agendas, build monitoring, evaluation, and learning (MEL) frameworks and plans, and lead multi-level project teams in the development and execution of customized evaluation designs and approaches.

  • Design and facilitate learning processes to ensure that evidence is used to inform decision-making and action. Facilitate meetings, workshops, and other events with foundation clients and grantees to refine theories of change, develop learning agendas, draw out implications of evaluation results, and generate ideas for strategy and program refinement. Act as a hands-on learning and thought partner to foundation clients, offering expert advice/strategic inputs as needed to inform strategy development and modification, grant/investment-making, portfolio reviews, and ongoing reflection on strategic priorities and direction.

  • Advance knowledge in the field. Participate in, and represent Mathematica at, high-level policy and research events (including conferences, presentations to policymakers and other global- and country-level stakeholders, and meetings with key players in the sector); present and discuss evaluation results with diverse audiences.

  • Contribute to business development in the international food and agriculture sector.Work with leaders in the global philanthropy practice area and international development research division to shape and execute a strategy to grow our portfolio of food and agriculture work with philanthropic and other organizations; build and maintain strong relationships with existing and new clients and partners.

  • Mentor staff. Support the professional development of researchers, research analysts, and research assistants in the international development research division; strengthen their design, analysis, writing, and project and client management capabilities.

  • Provide technical assistance. Provide trainings, workshops, and ongoing technical support on monitoring, evaluation, and learning (MEL) to implementation partners and local research partners.

Position Requirements:

  • PhD or Master’s degree in economics, public policy, food and agriculture, nutrition, environmental science, or a related discipline; with a minimum of 10 years of professional experience in food and agriculture research and leading evaluation and learning efforts for philanthropic organizations.

  • Training and expertise in quantitative and/or qualitative methods and evaluation design, ideally with a high level of comfort with mixed-methods approaches

  • Experience addressing wide-ranging evaluation needs, including leading rigorous impact and process evaluations; formative and summative evaluations of program, advocacy, and systems change initiatives; strategy reviews; and portfolio-level assessments

  • Established research record (contributions to peer-reviewed journals and gray literature publications, and presentations at conferences and other expert forums)

  • Experience designing and facilitating participatory learning activities with funders and practitioners highly desired

  • Stellar written and verbal communication skills, and the ability to (1) convey complex technical issues to non-expert audiences, and (2) present and share research results in a way that resonates with foundation clients, practitioners, and policymakers

  • Field research and data collection experience in developing countries, and ability to liaise with diverse stakeholders, including program implementers, government officials, and local research and data collection partners

  • Experience managing global teams composed of internal staff and external partners

  • Passion for bringing rigorous evidence to bear on policy and programmatic decision-making

  • Self-motivation, adaptability, and ability to operate in ambiguity; interest in being part of a growing and diverse practice area with a start-up atmosphere

  • Ability to travel internationally

  • Foreign language skills preferred

Available Locations:  Princeton, NJ; Washington, DC; Cambridge, MA; Oakland, CA; Chicago, IL; Ann Arbor, MI; Seattle, WA


We are an Equal Opportunity Employer and do not discriminate against any employee or applicant for employment because of race, color, sex, age, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, status as a veteran, and basis of disability or any other federal, state or local protected class.

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