United Nations Foundation

Director, User Insights and Innovation, Clean Cooking Alliance

Employment Opportunity - Remote - Full Time

Position Overview

The Clean Cooking Alliance (CCA), a program of the United Nations Foundation, works with a global network of partners to build an inclusive industry that makes clean cooking accessible to the three billion people who live each day without it. Established in 2010, CCA is driving consumer demand, mobilizing investment to build a pipeline of scalable businesses, and fostering an enabling environment that allows the sector to thrive. Clean cooking transforms lives by improving health, protecting the climate and environment, empowering women, and helping consumers save time and money. In alignment with the Sustainable Development Goals, CCA is working to achieve universal access to clean cooking by 2030. At CCA, we commit to cultivating an environment that is diverse, inclusive, and equitable in our work and in the communities, we will serve through the “Market Strengthening Program.” We affirm and reinforce our belief in equality and inclusion at all levels by hiring from diverse backgrounds, perspectives, and voices. And we recognize that by committing to gender diversity, we will be better equipped to build an inclusive industry that makes clean cooking accessible to the three billion people who live each day without it.

CCA seeks to make high-impact clean cooking solutions desirable, affordable, and accessible for consumers and viable for businesses to provide sustainably at scale. It supports companies that design, manufacture, distribute, and retail biomass, ethanol, biogas, and LPG-based clean cooking solutions in addition to more efficient wood and charcoal cookstoves. It also supports technology innovation with the aim to commercialize new technologies such as highly energy-efficient electric cookers for off-grid/mini-grid communities.

The Market Strengthening Program aims to accelerate markets for clean cooking through a systems approach that incorporates activities focused on supply, demand, and the enabling environment. The Venture Catalyst component aims to develop a stronger pipeline of investible clean cooking companies, the Demand Catalyst aims to develop more robust demand for clean cooking solutions, and the Market Catalyst aims to build the market ecosystem that enables clean cooking companies to be profitable and achieve impact at scale.

The program seeks to engage, support, and influence the ecosystem of ventures, policymakers, and funders at the level of individual clean cooking companies, country ecosystems, and the global market ecosystem using grant funding, access to technical assistance, development of research and market intelligence, and advocating for the development of improved policies for clean cooking and increased capital flows into the industry.
To achieve universal access to clean cooking by 2030, the clean cooking ecosystem will need to deploy solutions that can much more effectively address the needs of end-users to massively scale clean cooking. The User Insights Lab (UIL) is a major new initiative within the Market Strengthening Program’s Demand Catalyst and aims to significantly drive demand in the market by enhancing the availability of insights into clean cooking end-users’ needs, behaviors, and preferences, and embed these insights into the design and implementation of clean cooking products, programs, and policies. It does so through an agenda of action-research, data analytics, collaborative innovation, knowledge sharing and peer learning. The UIL will also aim to support stakeholders in the clean cooking industry, including enterprises, policymakers, program implementers and funders to develop new capabilities that will fuel a transformational shift towards user-centered innovation that accelerates demand for clean cooking solutions.

The UIL will adopt an adaptive innovation strategy that systematically and continuously tests hypotheses through a pipeline of agile prototypes and experiments that aim to validate that it is possible to generate new user insights, that these insights will be incorporated by stakeholders into clean cooking solutions, and that these insights will successfully drive increased demand for these solutions.

The Director will be responsible for designing and implementing an innovation management process that facilitates the action-research agenda of the UIL, engages partners in collaborative innovation projects, generates new knowledge products based on insights gained within and across projects, and engages a community of practitioners and researchers in peer-to-peer learning that disseminates knowledge, generates new learning opportunities and builds the capacity of the sector to use this knowledge to massively increase demand for clean cooking.

We seek applicants with the interest and ability to design and lead innovation management structures, platforms, and processes that can systematically deliver a strong pipeline of innovation activities in alignment with the UIL’s action-research agenda. We are particularly interested in applicants with experience in innovation management as part of developing inclusive market systems, private sector engagement, building ecosystems, supporting the development of small and growing businesses, and system thinking, especially related to clean cooking, energy access, climate change, health, and gender. We are interested in candidates who can cultivate effective working relationships with people, internally and externally, from a wide variety of organizations, cultural backgrounds, and areas of expertise.

This position is a remote position based in the U.S. or U.K. Working hours must align with DC or Nairobi.

Essential Functions

  • Work with the Senior Director to shape the design of the UIL over time and develop its core capabilities and processes
  • Lead the development of and engagement with a multi-disciplinary network of experts in clean cooking, product development, human-centered design, behavioral science, data analytics, business model design, and policy development among others, to develop new ideas, hypotheses, experiments, and initiatives that improve understanding of end-users, and embed this knowledge into the design of clean cooking products, programs, and policies
  • Develop an innovation pipeline that supports the UIL’s action-research agenda through systematic prototyping and hypothesis testing
  • Develop processes and platforms to engage with complementary CCA initiatives that can contribute to or be informed by the UIL including the Results Based Financing Accelerator, the Evidence to Impact Hub, and the Delivery Units Network
  • Support the development and evolution of the UIL’s action-research agenda with internal and external partners including the Market Strengthening team’s Research and Learning Manager, the Market Systems Learning Partner, and CCA’s Evidence and Impact team
  • Ensure timely implementation of action-research and collaborative innovation projects
  • Contribute to the design and development of UIL knowledge products and thought leadership
  • Coordinate UIL innovation activities with the Market Strengthening team, other CCA teams and initiatives, and key sector stakeholders
  • Contribute to the UIL’s dissemination work to share insight and thought leadership through websites, articles, reports, webinars and presentations and other channels
  • Supervise UIL consultants and contractors who may be required to support the above functions.
  • Other duties as assigned

Selection Criteria

  • Master’s degree in relevant field (innovation management, business administration, marketing, and consumer analytics, etc.) is required
  • At least 10 years of relevant work experience; including 5 years of applicable work experience in international development contexts, preferably related to working with market systems and in the clean cooking, energy access, climate change, health, or gender impact areas
  • Experience in designing and implementing innovation management structures, platforms, and processes
  • Experience uncovering user insights through research, data analytics, and innovation
  • Experience in designing and implementing innovation activities with a wide range of collaborators from different sectors and backgrounds
  • A firm grasp of design research, design management, behavioral science, and data analytics.
  • Strong writing and analytical skills
  • Solutions-oriented and able to manage and advance multiple tasks and responsibilities in a dynamic, fast-paced environment
  • Attention to detail and strong organizational skills
  • Creative problem-solver with a proactive, no-task-is-too-small nature, who takes initiative and displays a ‘growth mindset’
  • Team-oriented, supportive work style, and able to work independently
  • Excellent communicator, able to synthesize and convey complex information clearly
  • Excellent judgment and creative problem-solving skills, including negotiation and conflict resolution skills
  • High ethical standards and ability to maintain confidentiality and discretion with sensitive information
  • Ability to learn new systems and collaboration platforms efficiently
  • Ability to create compelling and professional PowerPoint materials
  • Ability to work under pressure and handle stress
  • Ability to meet regular attendance/tardiness policy
  • Note that a case study assessment is part of the interview process

Benefits & Compensation 

For full-time, benefit eligible employees, UNF offers an excellent range of benefits, including:

  • a choice between two health plans through UnitedHealthcare (PPO or HDHP with HSA)
  • dental insurance
  • vision insurance
  • flexible spending accounts
  • 403b retirement savings plan with a generous matching contribution
  • group term and supplemental life insurance
  • short-term disability
  • long-term disability
  • health club discounts
  • commuter subsidy
  • back-up care
  • employee assistance program

Additionally, all benefit eligible employees have 12 paid holidays, 20 vacation days, 10 sick days, 3 personal days, and 8 weeks of family leave care.

The United Nations Foundation is proud to be an equal opportunity and affirmative-action employer. The United Nations Foundation provides equal employment opportunity to all employees and prohibits discrimination and harassment of any type without regard to race, color, religion, age, sex, national origin, disability status, genetics, protected veteran status, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or any other characteristic protected by federal, state or local laws.

This policy applies to all terms and conditions of employment, including recruiting, hiring, placement, promotion, termination, layoff, recall, transfer, leaves of absence, compensation and training.

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