Research and Development Specialist, New York, United States

Organization: UNDP - United Nations Development Programme

Country: USA

City: New York

Office: UNDP New York, USA

Closing date: Wednesday, 18 May 2022

Job Identification : 3445

Locations : New York, United States

Posting Date : 05/04/2022, 06:14 PM

Apply Before : 05/18/2022, 03:56 PM

Job Schedule : Full time

Agency : UNDP

Grade : P4

Vacancy Type : Fixed Term

Practice Area : Management

Bureau : Executive Office

Contract Duration : 1 Year with Possibility for extension

Education & Work Experience : Master’s Degree - 7 year(s) experience OR Bachelor’s Degree - 9 year(s) experience

Required Languages : English

Vacancy Timeline

1 Week

Mobility required/no mobility

mobility required

Job Description


UNDP is committed to achieving workforce diversity in terms of gender, nationality and culture. Individuals from minority groups, indigenous groups and persons with disabilities are equally encouraged to apply. All applications will be treated with the strictest confidence.

UNDP does not tolerate sexual exploitation and abuse, any kind of harassment, including sexual harassment, and discrimination. All selected candidates will, therefore, undergo rigorous reference and background checks.

About us:

We are building the largest and fastest learning network on sustainable development challenges. 91 social innovation labs embedded within UNDP’s global architecture and country platforms. This network builds on the latest thinking from the fields of complexity science, lead user innovation and collective intelligence to accelerate development impact.

Our network of social innovation labs create a range of knowledge:

We generate experiential knowledge created on how to deploy a range of innovation methods: what is the most effective way to convene a hackathon? What are the benefits and limits of behavioral insights experiments? What does a data powered approach to positive deviance look like? This is an essential kind of knowledge as we test out and codify new ways of working within global development.

Our solutions mappers and their teams also generate forms of ethnographic evidence that unpack the practices, knowledge and inventions of women and men who are innovating around problems they face in their communities. Inspired by the Grassroots Innovation Augmentation Network, we try to learn from frugal innovation to inform the design and delivery of development programmes.

As a sensory platform, we see and cultivate weak signals of change to understand the real time state of sustainable development. How is the pandemic unfolding and affecting people’s livelihoods? What does the future of work look like? Weak signals of change are a form of intelligence that this lab network creates.

When labs design experiments, we probe systems to see what effect our interventions make. Here we create and share experimental knowledge. This is where we are trying to learn how to document tests and probes so that practitioners across the world can pick up where another lab team left off, modifying to suit the contexts that make or break the utility of knowledge transfer.

The UNDP Accelerator Lab Network recently undertook its mid-term evaluation and is looking toward future iterations to embed this work in the organization and create new value offers. Given the current maturity of the Accelerator Labs and their integration into UNDP, the evaluator recommended exploring how to establish the Labs as a permanent R&D function within UNDP Country Offices around the world, to ensure continuous exploration and experimentation related to evolving sustainable development challenges. This position is a temporary post dedicated to support the regional bureaus and the wider UNDP Global Policy Network to embed and spread insights, new value offerings and regional and thematic learning agendas based on the insights generated by the UNDP Accelerator Labs.

About you:

You are immersed in the latest developments in public and social innovation and research and development practices. You’re an integrator, synthesizer and curator capable of codifying emergent knowledge in innovation for sustainable development. You are at ease engaging a broad range of stakeholders productively, undertaking the dance between divergence and convergence, and producing documentation of consensus and learning from and with a distributed network spread across different contexts. You know how to identify knowledge gaps, latent intelligence and the cutting edge of empirical knowledge in order to define action research questions to drive regional and thematic R&D agendas. You write in English with ease, addressing nuance while driving home the point easily for the reader. You’re keen and have ideas on how to demonstrate how the network of Accelerator Labs can feed into regional and UNDP thematic practice agendas as part of UNDP’s R&D function to evolve its offer to deliver on UNDP’s Strategic Plan 2022-2025.

III. Position Purpose

This post is designed to convene UNDP regional bureaus and global thematic teams in UNDP to codify and articulate R&D agendas based on the signals and solutions picked up by the Accelerator Labs and meeting the needs of regional and thematic strategies. The post will also explore external avenues for partners to look at data, find partners and recombine and reconfigure signals, insights, experimental results based on the lab network’s public domain R&D. The position is part of the global Accelerator Lab team to contribute to and create where needed an R&D function for the organization and for the wider ecosystem. The post will convene stakeholders to define regional and thematic R&D (research and development) agendas including criteria for take up and learning from failure. The incumbent will play an active role in the roll out of the Accelerator Lab network learning prototype and the collective intelligence agenda of the UNDP Accelerator lab network and contribute to UNDP’s emergent knowledge strategy with a focus on elevating new forms of evidence and knowledge generated from ethnographic evidence, experimental results and exploratory data and futures.

IV. Key Duties and Accountabilities

1. Design and convene strategies tailored to regional and thematic units within UNDP for articulation of R&D agendas based on signals, experiments and solutions unearthed by Accelerator Labs

Design safe space reflection and design sessions, and tailor as needed, to arrive within 3 months at consensus-based R&D agendas for teams inside UNDP

Convene sessions with UNDP regional bureaus to explore signals from the labs on new areas, solutions and experiment results

Undertake necessary desk review research based on signals from the labs and regional priorities and strategic directions

Listen and support the framing opportunities for synergy between learning from the labs and global/regional level bureaus and teams within UNDP

Draft and refine, as the basis of consultation, learning questions for each R&D strategy

Design short cycle prototypes to model the codification of knowledge based on the learning questions.

2. Codify and document R&D outputs and agendas based on emerging signals from the Accelerator lab network and in consultation with sustainable development experts and partners.

Document, through blogs and short policy papers, experiential knowledge of the labs that contribute to creating knowledge at the frontier of what is known

Write strategy documents based on bureau consultation and supplemental research to define research and development agendas

Support through interviews with lab teams and external research the development of Accelerator Lab case studies in collective intelligence for development. (

3. Coordinate prototypes and events focused on learning and R&D

As opportunities emerge within R&D agendas, design short cycle prototypes to generate clarity on what learning and adaptation look like in practice

Design and coordinated the delivery of acceleration campaigns in order to mobilize the UNDP Accelerator Labs and their partners as part of a global ecosystem advancing towards Sustainable Development Goal achievement.

Provide framing and design support for online conferences as needed

Contribute to the framing of R&D events and processes to capture, share and embed learning into UNDP

Support the development of the R&D function and the network learning prototype as needed

V. Requirements:


Master’s degree in innovation, development studies, public sector management, anthropology or related fields or

Bachelor’s degree with 2 additional years of experience will be given due consideration in lieu of Master’s degree

Experience, Knowledge, and Skills

Minimum of 7 years (with Master’s degree) or 9 years (with Bachelor’s degree) of relevant work experience in social innovation or organizational performance/R&D/operational research (required)

Experience as part of a research and development function (required) and R&D in the public sector desirable

Stakeholder management skills, including ability to create coherence while integrating divergent view points and bottom up signals of change into strategic directions (required)

Experience writing blogs and/or contributing to research publications in the field of social innovation and/or sustainable development (required)

Prior experience designing public sector action and programmes resulting from research an asset

Publication in academic journals or other innovation fora an asset

Excellent written English required

Knowledge of French (desirable)

Expected Demonstration of Competencies


Achieve Results:

LEVEL 3: Set and align challenging, achievable objectives for multiple projects, have lasting impact

Think Innovatively:

LEVEL 3: Proactively mitigate potential risks, develop new ideas to solve complex problems

Learn Continuously

LEVEL 3: Create and act on opportunities to expand horizons, diversify experiences

Adapt with Agility

LEVEL 3: Proactively initiate and champion change, manage multiple competing demands

Act with Determination

LEVEL 3: Think beyond immediate task/barriers and take action to achieve greater results

Engage and Partner

LEVEL 3: Political savvy, navigate complex landscape, champion inter-agency collaboration

Enable Diversity and Inclusion

LEVEL 3: Appreciate benefits of diverse workforce and champion inclusivity.

People Management

UNDP People Management Competencies can be found in the dedicated site.

Cross-Functional & Technical competencies (insert up to 7 competencies)

Thematic Area

Business Development

Collective Intelligence Design - Ability to bringing together diverse groups of people, data, information or ideas, and technology to design services or solutions

Business Direction and Strategy

Systems Thinking - Ability to use objective problem analysis and judgement to understand how interrelated elements coexist within an overall process or system, and to consider how altering one element can impact on other parts of the system

Business Management

Communication - Ability to communicate in a clear, concise and unambiguous manner both through written and verbal communication; to tailor messages and choose communication methods depending on the audience

Business Direction and Strategy

Negotiation and Influence- Ability to reach an understanding, persuade others, resolve points of difference, gain advantage in the outcome of dialogue, negotiates mutually acceptable solutions through compromise and creates situations

Business Development

Knowledge Generation - Ability to research and turn information into useful knowledge, relevant for content, or responsive to a stated need

Digital and Innovation

Story Telling - Ability to empathise with people’s perceptions, motivations, feelings and mental models and craft narratives to build an emotive argument for change accordingly. Ability to present data, insights or information in compelling ways to mobilise resources, talent or action. Ability to choose media and channels that is fit for purpose to reach specific target audiences.

Digital & Innovation Systems thinking & transformation

Systems thinking and transformation - Understand that complex problems need a non reductionistic, holistic approach.

Please note that continuance of appointment beyond the initial 12 months is contingent upon the successful completion of a probationary period.


Important information for US Permanent Residents (‚Green Card‘ holders)

Under US immigration law, acceptance of a staff position with UNDP, an international organization, may have significant implications for US Permanent Residents. UNDP advises applicants for all professional level posts that they must relinquish their US Permanent Resident status and accept a G-4 visa, or have submitted a valid application for US citizenship prior to commencement of employment.

UNDP is not in a position to provide advice or assistance on applying for US citizenship and therefore applicants are advised to seek the advice of competent immigration lawyers regarding any applications.

Applicant information about UNDP rosters

Note: UNDP reserves the right to select one or more candidates from this vacancy announcement. We may also retain applications and consider candidates applying to this post for other similar positions with UNDP at the same grade level and with similar job description, experience and educational requirements.

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