Director of Design & Innovation at the International Rescue Committee (IRC)

The International Rescue Committee (IRC) responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises and helps people to survive and rebuild their lives. Founded in 1933 at the request of Albert Einstein, the IRC offers lifesaving care and life-changing assistance to refugees forced to flee from war or disaster. At work today in over 40 countries and 22 U.S. cities, we restore safety, dignity and hope to millions who are uprooted and struggling to endure. The IRC leads the way from harm to home.

We are recruiting to fill the position below:

Job Title: Director of Design & Innovation

Requisition ID: req25602
Location: Abuja
Sector: Research & Development
Employment Type: Full-Time
Employment Category: Regular
Ability to Travel: Up to 25%
Position Reports to:  Chief Research & Innovation Officer
Open to Expatriates: No


  • The IRC is among the world’s leading non-profit humanitarian relief and development organizations.  
  • As the single largest contributor of impact evidence among humanitarian agencies, the IRC is particularly known for its rigorous research and evidence-based programs.  
  • The IRC’s 13-year strategy is focused on delivering impact at scale for our clients.  
  • The Airbel Impact Lab, IRC’s Research & Innovation team, is key to supporting this strategy by designing, testing, and scaling life-changing solutions in humanitarian contexts.
  • We apply best practices from human-centered design, behavioral insights, incubators and accelerators, strategy and research.
  • Combining these capabilities and approaches with IRC’s extensive field presence and deep sector expertise, we believe it is possible to design and scale breakthrough humanitarian programs that can impact millions of people affected by conflict and disasters.

Job Overview

  • This role will establish an innovation strategy that focuses on ideas with the highest potential for impact and scale both within and outside of the IRC. You will oversee the portfolio for ideation and design of new and improved solutions within the IRC as well as shape how we increase our incubation and acceleration of local innovators and solutions.
  • You will generate relationships with innovation partners, hubs, startups and entrepreneurs in the places we work while facilitating their relationships with IRC country programs, innovation consultants, technical units and Airbel staff.  
  • This role will nurture and grow a high performing team of design and innovation management staff and consultants working across, service, product, business and digital design in the regions where we work. You’re excited to model creativity, inclusivity, and rigor in how we work and collaborate. You will build an inclusive community that defaults towards co-creation and collaboration. 
  • This role will define creative excellence in Airbel’s work – both in terms of how we work and in terms of what we create. You will work closely with the Chief Research and Innovation Officer to define and communicate excellent practices and results and ensure that the team is guided by a clear vision and approaches that support it. 

Major Responsibilities 
Generate Strategic Vision:

  • Develop bold early stage innovation strategies for IRC’s 4 Global Research and Innovation Priorities in collaboration with priority leads: Tackling Child Malnutrition, Last Mile Learning, Empowering Women’s Reproductive Choice and Saving Mother’s and Newborn Lives, and Climate Resilient Agriculture
  • Collaborate with priority leads to develop and source ideas, and design and evaluate solutions with high potential for impact and scale, scope projects
  • Oversee reviews of the innovation landscape and scope and evaluate potential partnerships with innovation partners, hubs, startups and entrepreneurs in the places we work.

Generate a Compelling, Fundable Digital Strategy for Airbel and Support its Implementation:

  • Identify Airbel’s unique role and value proposition in the digital development space  
  • Create a digital strategy and establish internal and external partnerships to support our strategic and tactical needs.

Operationalize the Vision – Advance our Innovation Methods and Approach:

  • Oversee a talented and ambitious Design Team to design high impact, scalable products, services and delivery mechanisms 
  • Conduct workforce planning for designers with Priority leads and Ops team
  • Scout and hire designers and consultancies to build teams for Airbel projects
  • Support high quality, ambitious and impactful work across ongoing innovation projects
  • Ensure quality standards for early stage innovation work across Airbel projects and portfolios and support staff in meeting them and delivering high return on investment
  • Build support systems, resources and partnerships to execute and replicate high-quality innovation processes.

Refine Airbel’s Approach to Incubate and Accelerate Promising Local Solutions Aligned with Airbel’s Mission: 

  • Develop innovation models to support the incubation, replication and adaptation of promising local solutions and build on the multidisciplinary approach established in Airbel’s early stage design phase 
  • Collaborate with priority leads to define high impact innovation models and ensure that innovation agendas and projects can be rapidly supported by in-country capacity 

Create an Enabling Environment for Innovation:

  • Build internal and external relationships and structures to support innovation processes that are locally led and partnership driven
  • Identify and improve organizational systems to increase innovation in partnership with other departments
  • Collaborate with country and regional leadership to ensure strategic alignment, support innovation teams and internal capacity building while connecting teams to local expertise
  • Build design and innovation capacity within Airbel, country teams and with local innovators

Fundraise and Support Financing Solutions: 

  • Support the business development team and priority leads on high value opportunities that align with our capabilities and strategy
  • Work with the innovative finance lead to identify sustainable pathways to scale solutions through a blend of grants and social impact investment.

Minimum Requirements   

  • 10+ years of experience leading innovation or R&D teams in complex organizations or systems (government, nonprofit, large company)
  • Experience working collaboratively in human-centered design techniques in a wide range of product and service design projects and contexts
  • Deep understanding of at least two design disciplines (e.g. product design, UX,)
  • Extensive experience building and managing relationships with external partners
  • Outstanding manager, mentor, and coach to people of all backgrounds and creating an inclusive culture
  • Builder of a creative culture that thrives across borders and screens within a large organization and works in synchronous and asynchronous ways
  • Strong track record of scaled digital and analog innovations in low- and middle-income countries 
  • Experience managing multiple multi-disciplinary projects with multi-disciplinary collaborators in an inclusive way
  • Ability to influence across a wide range of diverse stakeholders, utilizing excellent visual storytelling and synthesis skills, including public speaking and writing
  • Ability to bring people along with a stated vision and strategy
  • Strong professional network and recognized expertise.


  • French, Arabic or Spanish language skills strongly preferred.

Key Working Relationships
Position Reports to:

  • Chief Research & Innovation Officer.

Position directly supervises:

  • Associate Director for Health Innovation; Design Leads; Innovation Manager; Deputy Director Innovation Venezuela Crisis Response.

Other Internal and / or external contacts:

  • Internal:
    • Technical Unit Directors and Team Members 
    • Country and Regional Directors 
    • IRC IT Leadership
    • Airbel Priority Leads
    • Airbel Practice Leadership
    • Airbel’s business development team
  • External:
    • Key public sector design and innovation schools, institutions, and professional societies
    • Private sector local design consultancies
    • Innovation hubs, networks and other groupings of innovation talent where we work.

Working Environment:  

  • Dispersed design and innovation team across numerous countries
  • Potential to travel to IRC program locations up to 25% of the time.

Application Closing Date
Not Specified.

Method of Application
Interested and qualified candidates should:
Click here to apply online

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