Principal Consultant / Director
Agora are seeking to further build our business through recruiting an experienced professional seeking a long-term role in the future of the business. Must have 8+ years consulting experience in market systems development (MSD). Must have significant experience in Africa and/or Asia.
Who are we?
Agora Global is social enterprise which has grown rapidly to become a leading voice in taking a systems approach to development. We provide consulting, training, and research services to development funders, implementers, and private companies with the universal aim to make development impact more inclusive, more sustainable, and impact on more people.
We believe development should be transformative. All of our work is trying to improve the systems that help poor and disadvantaged people to get the goods, services, jobs, and incomes that they need to improve their lives without the need for development assistance. This is the essence of sustainable development impact which unites everything we do. In practice that means analysing the way systems comprised of private, public, and civil society organisations work and developing innovations led by these local actors in products, services, and relationships which ultimately benefit poor people.
We design programmes, provide long term implementation support, help programmes to design and operate monitoring systems, and conduct complex evaluations. We run training programmes aimed at giving those involved in different roles within development the skills to do their jobs better. We’re also fiercely independent. We work with a wide variety of clients and partners meaning we’re able to continue to conduct research and advocacy work with objectivity in pursuit of better development.
Sectorally and thematically, we work across a broad spectrum focusing particularly on areas at the innovation frontier where programmes have the most to gain from a systemic approach. We work in agriculture and finance, but we’ve also been leading much of the innovation in urban development, education, health, informal sectors and labour markets, as well as the humanitarian-development nexus with substantial work in taking a market systems approach to engagement in refugee contexts.
We want you to take a role in all parts of the business but you may want to specialise your areas of interest or experience.
As a consultant, you will work with development programmes, government, NGOs, and philanthropic foundations to help them contribute to the objective of sustainable development. This will involve travelling and spending time in developing countries – about 100 days per year but this varies a lot. You will spend much of your time analysing markets and systems: how they work and what the constraints are to achieving better outcomes for poor people. But more than this, you will seek to affect change within these systems. This will involve coaching and mentoring project teams, catering to different abilities and levels of understanding to change their behaviour.
As a researcher, you will work on a broad range of research outputs. At one end, you will produce working papers and journal articles to formalise concepts and empirical research conducted and developed as part of consulting tasks. At the other end, you’ll contribute to our blog posts, voicing often controversial views on development. We are also involved in more formal research through project evaluations and longitudinal impact assessments. Here, you’ll be expected to use your knowledge of research methods to introduce innovation to the way we measure change within systems.
As a trainer, having developed your knowledge and experience through research and consulting, you’ll contribute to our internationally-recognised training programmes. You’ll guide participants from development projects and funders through key concepts and frameworks. You’ll help develop, refine and deliver new materials which emerge from your experience and thinking across your work with Agora.
Specific responsibilities in year 1
Provide advisory services to clients on existing contracts taking over responsibilities from an existing team member.
Develop new in person and remote training products based on our extensive existing materials
Publish at least two research and advocacy papers
Contribute to Conceptual development
Participate in business development for new proposals
Establish new client relationships based on your existing networks
Improve internal administration and organisational process development
Who are you?
Given the seniority of the position, it is critical that you invest in Agora as we invest in you. We want people that wake up in the morning and think about what they can do to help improve Agora and its impact on development. So, in considering whether to apply for the role, think about your motivation, your wants and needs in life, and whether being a key part of Agora could form an important part of your future. If it does, then read on.
This is a senior position and you are expected to be established in the field of MSD. This is necessary because, once up to speed with our approach, frameworks, and projects, you will be expected to work with limited support on projects soon after joining. If we hire you, we’ll be confident in your ability, but the industry requires CVs to demonstrate that and so the strength and diversity of your current CV to an MSD audience will help determine your initial position, speed of progression, and your position in the organisation.
In addition to the specific requirements for this senior position, there are additional person specifications we require of all of our staff:
There’s no archetype that makes you good at this type of work. The only mandatory skill is excellent written English. While most job adverts might say that, we really mean it. Being able to communicate complex concepts to a range of different audiences requires excellent written and presentation skills. Beyond that, most clients require a minimum of a Master’s degree, which we have to pass on as a requirement. That’s all the measurable criteria, but we really want you to study these qualitative criteria and we only want to hear from you if you genuinely feel they describe you.
Critical thinker: Do you naturally question the things you hear, the things you read, and the received wisdom that shapes people’s decisions? Many education systems don’t encourage this but it’s essential that you’re intellectually curious and challenge yourself and others with an evidence-based approach.
Likeable: there’s no point being right if you can’t get people to agree with you. You need to be able to bring people with you, whether they’re policymakers, business people, colleagues on development programmes or the disadvantaged people who our work hopes to benefit.
Multitasker: The nature of the work, with no project being a full time engagement, means that we might be working on several projects at once. You need to be on top of all of them and able to switch between them at short notice.
An appetite for travel: While we use technology to the best of our ability, infrastructure in some of our workplaces and the nature of learning mean that, often, in person engagement is more effective. If you’re not the type of person who enjoys travelling to new places then this probably isn’t the job for you.
Entrepreneurial and ambitious: this doesn’t mean it’s all about money. It’s an attitude. You should be the type of person that seeks out opportunity and wants to make something of it. That could be a new project, a new concept, a new method, or something else, but we need the type of person who thrive on innovation.
Experience: Having lived, worked, or conducted research in developing countries is important to give you some understanding of the work we do. There is an aspect of the business that’s based on a CV, so experience that looks good to a client is useful. Further summarised desirable criteria include:
Quantitative and applied qualitative research methods
Excellent communication and presentation skills
Experience in a non-academic environment – perhaps you’ve conducted consultancies during your academic work or worked in the private sector in a previous life
A rich and diverse personal profile
Experience managing people and projects
We aim to be a company fit for the 21st Century. A job is perhaps not the right term as what we’re seeking are bespoke partnerships with talented people to meet their personal and professional needs as well as those of Agora. That is to say we’re interested in building Agora and want you to want to be part of it. That sounds like marketing speak, but it is genuinely how we want to build the business. If we share principals and objectives and you have the right skills, then we’re open as to how we make it work on a case by case basis.
We will design a package that links incentives (that’s what we do after all!) for you with the incentives of Agora with the hope that these will eventually be one and the same. We, of course, need to make a profit and we may choose to link your package to that. This can be at a personal level, or a business level, or a combination of the two. We also need to build the future and sustainability of the business, so there may be options to combine other aspects to combine what you put in with what you want out.
All positions are based on remote working, while we aim to meet physically as regularly as possible. We have people across four continents and it can be a real advantage to keep travel time down.
Things like holiday entitlements are flexible too. Obviously, the more holidays you have, the less you’ll be working and we can build our partnership around that.
Beyond this, if there’s a way of working you have in mind, we’re open to the conversation.
You can submit a CV and covering letter to email@example.com. In it you should specify why the unique nature this opportunity including the role, the work, and the project are of interest to you. Generic cover letters and CVs will be discarded. As a next step, longlisted candidates will be sent a screening questionnaire relating to your conditions of employment after which, shortlisted candidates will be invited for interview.