Program Director, Sun Program

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About Mercy Corps

Mercy Corps is a leading global organization powered by the belief that a better world is possible. In disaster, in hardship, in more than 40 countries around the world, we partner to put bold solutions into action — helping people triumph over adversity and build stronger communities from within. Now, and for the future.


Program/ Department Summary

Mercy Corps has been working in Afghanistan continuously since 1986. Presently, Mercy Corps is working in ten provinces in Afghanistan with a portfolio of programs aimed at promoting improved prosperity for Afghan citizens through agri-business, natural resources management, youth vocational skills and deployment of renewable energy. These four pillars support livelihoods, increasing food security, access to financial services and strengthening private sector, civil society and government institutions. Donors include BPRM and OFDA from the US Government, UNODC, GIZ, KfW, the European Delegation, Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) and the British Council.

The SUN program is a 24 month initiative with the goal to stabilize urban neighborhoods in Kabul by improving the socio-economic living conditions of young people and promoting social cohesion.  The program’s specific objective is to increase social cohesion in Kabul through the participation of young people in decision-making and through supporting community-driven socio-economic development. The program is in alignment with the donor KfW’s commitment to increasing governance and stability in Afghanistan through increasing people’s confidence in state structures, and the German Government’s priority area of stabilization (including through strengthening the capacity of state structures and civil society) as well its focus on facilitating peaceful social development and opening up future prospects for young people in particular.


General Position Summary

This position is designed to manage the SUN complex program.  The SUN program is ambitious in terms of scope and limited time frame.  This position is responsible for implementing this complex program through a team in Kabul, supported by the country office and a team of technical, administrative and management professionals at MC’s headquarters.  This high profile program needs to be implemented on time and budget while achieving all program targets and objectives.  If the donor is satisfied with MC’s performance, there is a likelihood that the program will be implemented in other cities in Afghanistan.  The SUN program will secure for MC’s reputation for youth programming and infrastructure projects, providing a leadership position in Afghanistan and contributing to this area of expertise worldwide.  This position is responsible for building on already strong relationships with existing donors and developing new funding opportunities, from both existing and new donors and strengthen Mercy Corps thought leadership in the area of youth programming and infrastructure improvement.


Essential Job Responsibilities

Strategy and Vision

  • Leadership and guidance to the program team in implementing SUN on time, within budget and meeting all objectives and targets.
  • Build and manage collaborative partnerships with program stakeholders, local government officials and ministries and formal and informal community leaders.
  • Communicate effectively to ensure acceptance and understanding of the program’s objectives and targets by all program participants and stakeholders.
  • Capture lessons learned and practice adaptive management in this fast-moving program.
  • Promote accountability, communicate expectations and provide constructive feedback via regular performance reviews.


Influence & Representation

  • Represent Mercy Corps’ programs with national and international stakeholders and participate in community activities as appropriate;
  • Coordinate with leadership and HQ Comms and Policy and Advocacy teams regarding media representation and advocacy strategy and statements.
  • Maintain productive relationships with internal and external constituents such as private partners, local NGOs and civil society organizations and academic institutions;
  • Anticipate program needs, understand donor pool and contribute to shaping donor views on the evolving context;
  • Explore, evaluate and present innovative funding opportunities that support program objectives;
  • Identify, build and manage collaborative partnerships with consortium partners, sub-grantees, donors, governments and other stakeholders.


Team  Coordination

  • Create and sustain a work environment of mutual respect where team members strive to achieve excellence;
  • Promote accountability, communicate expectations and provide constructive feedback via regular performance reviews;
  • Participate in hiring and orientation of new team members as necessary;
  • Provide team members with information, tools and other resources to improve performance and reach objectives;
  • Work with the Senior Management Teams of each country participating in the regional response for a coordinated and coherent response.


Program Quality and Operations Management

  • Support on-time, on-budget, on-scope implementation of regional initiatives, provide troubleshooting and guidance on management issues per Mercy Corps standards.
  • Champion the integrity of Mercy Corps’ operations and program implementation through adherence to Mercy Corps and global best practices, policies and procedures.
  • Encourage a culture of learning and innovation among all Mercy Corps staff in the region.
  • Collaborate with HQ and regional teams to ensure highest program quality while supporting countries to apply Mercy Corps’ Adaptive Program Management, gender policy and related frameworks.
  • Mobilize and oversee effective human, material, financial and operational field support systems in the region, in cooperation with the appropriate HQ team.
  • In the event of a major disaster work and/or liaise with Humanitarian Leadership and Response team for appropriate response.


Finance & Compliance Management

  • Ensure continuing effective, transparent and responsive compliance mechanisms are in place regarding donors and MC guidelines;
  • Ensure compliance with donor and Mercy Corps regulations.
  • Maintain oversight of overall program budgets ensuring appropriate allocation of resources to meet program objectives;



  • Ensure compliance with security procedures and policies as determined by country leadership.
  • Proactively ensure that team members operate in a secure environment and are aware of policies.
  • Ensure that Mercy Corps maintains a high degree of risk awareness and impartiality and that all team members are in compliance with security protocols.


Accountability to Beneficiaries

Mercy Corps team members are expected to support all efforts towards accountability, specifically to our beneficiaries and to international standards guiding international relief and development work while actively engaging beneficiary communities as equal partners in the design, monitoring and evaluation of our field projects.


Organizational Learning

As part of our commitment to organizational learning and in support of our understanding that learning organizations are more effective, efficient and relevant to the communities they serve, we expect all team members to commit 5% of their time to learning activities that benefit Mercy Corps as well as themselves.


Supervisory Responsibility:  Program team


Reports Directly To: Country Director

Works Directly With: Country senior management team and complex program support team


Knowledge and Experience

  • BA/S in management, international relations or other relevant fields. MA/S preferred
  • 7 – 10 years of experience in managing increasingly large and complex programs in insecure environments.
  • Demonstrated ability to build staff capacity as well as excellent team and interpersonal relationship skills, especially in a cross-cultural setting, required.
  • Ability to communicate program objectives and represent Mercy Corps to international donors, government officials, local groups and community members is critical.
  • Demonstrated attention to detail, while also being able to see the ‘bigger picture’ of a large and complex program, ability to follow procedures, meet deadlines and work independently and cooperatively with team members is required.
  • Proven knowledge in building training institute capacity including trainers and the supporting learning infrastructure and resources.
  • Previous experience working in Afghanistan, South Asia or Middle East and/or knowledge of the region is preferred.


Success Factors

A successful candidate will have strong management and organizational skills and the ability to interact effectively with international and national personnel.  S/he will have excellent communication skills, both verbal and written, and a demonstrated ability to multi-task and process information into action. The successful candidate will have proven experience working with a cross-cultural team and possess capacity building and strong mentoring skills. S/he will demonstrate an understanding of cultural, political and religious considerations in the region.


Afghanistan is a very challenging yet equally rewarding place to work and Mercy Corps recognizes that it requires a unique set of skills and interests in the successful candidate. Academic background and previous experience are very valuable but are not the only driving criteria for selection. A personality that enjoys working in difficult locations, can accommodate the insecurity that defines Afghanistan and can cope with periods of intense activity as well as periods of isolation and potentially loneliness is imperative.


Living/ Environmental Conditions

The position will be based in Kabul, with limited travel outside of the city. The security situation is volatile and may spike into acute periods of insecurity. S/he is expected to follow all security protocols including limited movement when necessary. A certain international standard of medical care is available in Kabul, however for serious cases, evacuation is required, and therefore staff must be able to be 24 hours away from medical care. All offices have internet connectivity and communication is reliable. Accommodation is shared housing, equipped with generators and heating, with cooks and cleaners provided by MC.


Mercy Corps team members represent the agency both during and outside of work hours when deployed in a field posting or on a visit/TDY to a field posting. Team members are expected to conduct themselves in a professional manner and respect local laws, customs and MC’s policies, procedures, and values at all times and in all in-country venues. It will be important for the successful candidate to show an ability to work in an austere environment where personal liberties may be restricted from time to time, based on ambiguous information. A cordial demeanor is required so as to not impose on the peace of mind of colleagues.


Fostering a diverse and open workplace is an important part of Mercy Corps’ vision.  Mercy Corps is an Equal Opportunity Employer regardless of background. We are committed to creating an inclusive environment.


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