Building a strategy

Research Director, GiveDirectly – Deadline: 14 February, 2021

By 08/02/2021

Research Director

Salary range: £80,000-£100,000
Closing date: 14 February, 2021
Location: London, NYC, Nairobi, Monrovia, Kigali, Kampala, or Kilongwe
Seeking a versatile individual who can lead our research function through our next phase of growth. A dynamic leader with practical problem solving to drive research excellence, equip teams to design evidence-informed programs, set research agenda.

Locations: Kampala, Kigali, Lilongwe, London, Monrovia, Nairobi or NYC

About GiveDirectly

GiveDirectly aims to reshape international giving –  and millions of lives – by enabling donors to provide capital grants directly to some of the world’s poorest people. GiveDirectly’s cash transfers stand on the shoulders of giants, backed by hundreds of high quality research studies that have documented the myriad positive impacts of cash on peoples’ lives.

GiveDirectly has been at the forefront of this evidence generation effort since we launched a decade ago. Fifteen randomized controlled trials (RCTs) of GiveDirectly’s programs are either ongoing or completed. These have covered diverse, cutting edge research questions including: the macro impact of transfers on local economies, the impact of a universal basic income, and establishing cash as a benchmark that traditional, ‘in kind’ aid interventions should beat in order to be considered cost-effective. We are increasingly seeking to integrate qualitative and quantitative approaches within individual studies to better understand how and why change happens.

These studies do not just sit on dusty shelves – since 2018, GiveDirectly RCTs have been covered in top media outlets including: Washington Post (twice), New York Times, The Economist, Vox (several times over), QuartzNPR (twice), DevEx, Fast Company, Axios and Wired. Delivering and disseminating research studies have become a core part of GiveDirectly’s value proposition to donors, and central to our ability to raise the revenue that enables people living in poverty to transform their own lives.

Cash transfers are at a potential inflection point: COVID-19 has amplified the challenges of bulkier in-kind aid models, and governments are deploying cash as their most common tool of assistance to vulnerable populations. This brings new research challenges and opportunities. How do we combine existing research knowledge with recent data to design high-impact programs in a new humanitarian context? How do we evaluate the impact of those programs when in-person data collection is not possible?

GiveDirectly currently operates in multiple African countries: DRC, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Morocco, Rwanda, Togo and Uganda. We have also delivered disaster response programs in the United States and the Bahamas.

About the role

We are seeking a versatile individual who can lead our research function through our next phase of growth: overseeing high quality academic research studies (e.g. managing 11 ongoing RCTs), equipping our team to design evidence-informed programs (e.g. synthesizing existing research on nutrition impacts of different cash designs), and setting the research agenda for the coming years (e.g. what are the highest priority questions to answer?).

This role requires a dynamic leader, who is animated by both the practical problem-solving needed to drive research excellence (e.g. how do we deliver robust impact research at high speed in a humanitarian setting?), and the research uptake challenge of leveraging the evidence base to maximize program impact and grow the global cash movement.

Our team is passionate about shifting the status quo with respect to how and by whom decisions are made in the aid space. We believe elevating recipient choice is critical, as are demonstrably committing to transparency around metrics and evidence. We are looking for applicants who are deeply aligned with these objectives, and energized by the prospect of building an organization that advances them.

Reports to: Managing Director


Research oversight

  • Ensure excellence across all external GD research studies (most of which are RCTs) through proactive project and stakeholder management across academics, research delivery partners, GD Field Operations, Field Technology and Revenue teams and funding partners.
  • Support the GD Field Operations teams to design and deliver robust internal (non-experimental) monitoring and evaluation of a wide range of projects, leveraging GD’s extensive routine data collection through SMS, USSD and phone surveys.

Program and research design

  • Drive evidence-informed program design within GD by synthesizing existing data and evidence in accessible formats and championing research uptake during the program design process
  • Partner with Revenue and Field teams to design programs that are operationally feasible, evidence-driven and meet donor requirements, thoughtfully assessing the trade-offs required
  • Design new research studies — always in partnership with GD teams, and often in partnership with external academics
  • Develop a deep understanding of the impact of research design choices on the work of GD Field Operations and Field Technology teams, and use that knowledge to design research studies that thoughtfully negotiate the trade-offs between multiple priorities.


  • Equip GD’s Revenue teams (e.g. Partnerships, Communications, Growth) with high-quality, accessible tools (e.g. cash evidence summaries by topic / domain) that enable them to:
    • Communicate clearly with external audiences about the prevalence of cash programs and the impact of cash transfers, ensuring GD’s reputation for honest communication about evidence is maintained

    • Write funding bids that are informed by the latest evidence about cash transfers without needing to seek bespoke advice

    • Maximize the reach and impact of GD research publications by communicating externally about results, and synthesizing findings so others on the team can do so (e.g. summary notes, slide decks)

    • Enable high-quality donor reporting by providing timely progress updates on research studies

Research strategy

  • Develop GiveDirectly’s research strategy for the next 3 years. Establish the high priority research questions GD studies should seek to answer, integrating the perspectives of GD Field Operations and Revenue teams, and looking for new ways to advance our understanding of recipient perspectives (e.g. priorities and preferences)
  • Develop guidelines for how to assemble study teams that reflect a diversity of characteristics, perspectives and expertise

Core competencies and experiences

Understanding of the lives of people living in poverty – learned or lived experience of the reality of poverty — this could be extreme absolute poverty or relative poverty in a higher income country

Communication – be equally comfortable having a technical conversation with an academic as you are describing a study in straightforward terms to a donor who has zero context. Expertise in communicating about research in a clear and compelling manner with a range of internal and external audiences — both verbally and in writing — is crucial in this role.

Quantitative research expertise – 3+ years experience of designing, undertaking or overseeing experimental / quasi-experimental research studies (e.g. RCT, RDD, PSM designs) is essential; experience of cognitive testing survey questions, survey design and analysis, developing power calculations, and quality-assuring quantitative research designs would all be helpful

Qualitative research expertise – experience of qualitative research design (e.g. sampling), interview guide development, undertaking interviews / FGDs, qualitative analysis, integration of qual and quant in design and analysis

Research stakeholder management – speak the language of external researchers (primarily academic economists), understand the norms and incentives of academic researchers, experience of influencing research decisions that are made by consensus rather than contract, experience of project managing organizations / individuals to deliver research on time and to budget, experience of overcoming unexpected roadblocks that derail research projects

Project management – experience of keeping multiple large-scale projects on track, proactively managing risks and stakeholder communications, maintaining project tracking systems

Strategic planning and strong execution – ability to seamlessly navigate between big-picture strategy and day-to-day operational decisions, ability to navigate through ambiguity

Alignment with GiveDirectly Values:

Recipients first

We prioritize recipient preferences over those of donors or ourselves.

We do not impose our preferences, or judgments, on the beneficiaries; instead we respect and empower them to make their own choices, elevating their voices in the global aid debate. This value is core to GiveDirectly’s identity as the first organization exclusively devoted to putting the poor in control of how aid money is spent. It comes at a potential cost, as it means that neither we nor donors get to set priorities (and we may even lose some “efficiency” in providing this option).

Team next

We do what’s best for organizational – not individual – success.

This is a team sport, where we will succeed (or fail) together. The best players are not those with the best individual statistics, but those with biggest impact on our overall performance. We avoid territoriality, self-promotion, and I’m above this attitudes.

Be proactively candid

We say what we believe, and are honest in sharing information.

Having confidence that other people are telling us what they truly believe, without gloss or omission, is critical to effective communication and to our ability to learn and grow from feedback. We owe it to each other – and our donors – to instill this confidence even though giving and receiving information candidly are unusual in both professional and social life, and can be very uncomfortable.

Create positive energy

We strive to be a source – not drain – of energy for our colleagues.

Our work is hard, practically and emotionally, and we cannot overemphasize the importance of maintaining a positive attitude, enjoying the company of our colleagues, and not taking ourselves too seriously.  In doing so, we aspire to generate energy and excitement amongst our colleagues in pursuing our mission. This should not preclude candor, and we aspire to achieve both.

Think rigorously; act quickly

We are intellectually rigorous with a drive towards action – not debate.

We reason from first principles, grounding our decisions in objective claims about the world, rather than hard-to-disprove assertions or hierarchy. We aim to brainstorm inclusively and respectfully, but critically self-vet ideas we put forward, so as to ensure productive and prudent decision making.

Demanding this level of rigor forces us to think harder about decisions and our assumptions than we otherwise might. This is a real cost. It can be taken too far: it is possible to overthink decisions, and we avoid debate for the sake of debate.  We are not here to philosophize or ensure consensus. We decide and act quickly, avoiding getting bogged down in debates.

Accept reality. Propose solutions

We do not dwell on problems. We work actively to create solutions.

There will always be an endless list of things to improve. We focus on the things that can be changed; find the most important of those things, and propose actionable answers. We do not allow “problems” to weigh us down and be a source of negativity.  We are forward looking, which we believe not only leads to better team outcomes, but also creates a more enjoyable, energizing environment for all.

Be productively ambitious

We take the risks to pursue industry-changing success, not incremental progress.

We seek step-change improvements at all levels, and are willing to make big-bets; we do not accept complacency nor do we simply optimize existing processes. In doing so, we allow ourselves to dream big with a belief that perceived constraints are merely opportunities for creativity.

Such ambition not only requires hard work (i.e., this is not a 9-5 job), but also a willingness to accept and learn from temporary setbacks and failures.  In accepting these failures, we’re conscious to not point fingers, nor obsess over “mistakes” made.

Know yourself and grow

We recognize and accept our imperfections with a focus on growth.

We are an organization of exceptional people and trust in each other’s abilities, yet we recognize that none of us is perfect. We strive to maintain an accurate understanding of our individual and institutional strengths and weaknesses, in order to position ourselves to maximize our chances of success.

At the same time, we seek personal growth for ourselves and our teammates. Feedback is given with a spirit of helpfulness; and sought out with a desire to learn.

**GD is committed to observing all local, national and international laws that protect children, vulnerable adults, and basic human rights of all.  GD is committed to a policy of “zero tolerance for sexual exploitation, abuse, and harassment (SEAH)” and expects anyone who works for GD to uphold the protection and safeguarding of our recipients as a priority.**