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Evidence Action

Economist/ Senior Economist

Beta Incubator – Washington DC, District of Columbia
Department Beta Incubator
Employment Type Full-Time

Job Title: Economist/ Senior Economist, Beta Incubator 

Who We Are

Evidence Action aims to be a world leader in scaling evidence-based and cost-effective programs to reduce the burden of poverty for hundreds of millions of people in the poorest places. Our two flagship at-scale programs, Deworm the World and Dispensers for Safe Water, reached approximately 280 million people in 2017 alone. Meanwhile, our Beta incubator explores interventions with initial evidence of impact that might be suitable for massive, cost-effective scale up to become our next flagship programs. The Beta portfolio includes a diverse range of initiatives, including No Lean Season (seasonal migration subsidies) and Winning Start (teaching at the right level).

Our approach fills the gap between research about what works to alleviate poverty and implementing solutions at scale, through designing and pressure-testing delivery models and an in-depth understanding of the essential conditions for programmatic success across a variety of sectors. Across our flagship and incubation work, we collaborate with a variety of leading academics, including, for example, as members of our Board of Directors (Dina Pomeranz) and Board of Advisors (Stephen Luby) and as collaborators on research (Mushfiq Mobarak, Michael Kremer).  We are widely recognized among evidence-focused funders, such as GiveWell, the Global Innovation Fund, and USAID’s Development Innovation Ventures for our rigorous, evidence-based approach to intervention selection and use of data for decision-making. We adhere strongly to our value of “Evidence First”, ensuring that as interventions progress in our portfolio, there continues to be strong evidence of effectiveness and impact, and as a result do not hesitate to exit programs from our portfolio if there is insufficient evidence of impact.  

Evidence Action has a presence across 10 countries, with major offices in Nairobi, Kenya; Delhi, India; and Washington, D.C.

What We’re Looking For

Evidence Action seeks a highly motivated Economist (a Senior Manager-level specialist role) or Senior Economist (an Associate Director-level specialist role), to evaluate the effectiveness of Evidence Action programs (including, at times, as part of Principal Investigator teams including some of the leading development economists) and serve as a key thought partner to program staff and leadership on emerging evidence and its potential implications for what we do and how we do it, to ensure we are living and breathing our organizational values, which include being “Evidence First” always. This is a serious career opportunity for a PhD - the opportunity to be part of cutting-edge research in an applied setting with an organization  serious about generating rigorous evidence and cost-effectiveness models and making hard decisions based on them.

This role will, formally, report into the Beta Incubator; however, it will serve an organization-wide function, given the importance of evidence across our flagship and incubation programs. The Economist / Senior Economist will join a growing evidence function, as Evidence Action continues to deepen and expand our in-house technical talent. The exact reporting line will be determined prior to a candidate joining.

Whether a candidate is considered at an “Economist” or “Senior Economist” level will be based on our assessment of the candidate’s overall qualifications and experience. The qualifications outlined in this job description should be considered the floor for an “Economist” level role.

The ideal candidate will:

  • Be excited and passionate about engaging in a unique environment focused on the twin goals of “Evidence” and “Action,” distinct from other settings, such as exclusively research institutions, traditional NGOs, and think tanks

  • Are experienced in and energized by collaborating in research/implementation partnerships that may involve top academics from leading research institutions and non-research program leadership and staff

  • Are motivated by the opportunity to contribute to the ‘science of scaling’ - rigorously understanding and validating intervention impact over time, across geographies, and along the path to scale, in an effort to both contribute to an evidence base and to inform important real-world decisions with which the organization and its partners are grappling

  • Appreciate the need for and have the ability to provide program and country teams with applied, implications-driven analysis understandable to a non-technical audience that can translate into deeper understanding of program impact and inform action

  • Thrive in an environment where you can be engaged in multiple different workstreams simultaneously,  and with a diverse set of technical and non-technical colleagues.

What You’d Do

The Economist / Senior Economist will evaluate the effectiveness of Evidence Action programs and serve as a key thought partner to program staff and leadership on emerging evidence and its potential implications for what we do and how we do it. The Economist / Senior Economist will provide support across our spectrum of programs, including our at-scale flagship programs (currently, Deworm the World Initiative and Dispensers for Safe Water) and our growing and diversifying portfolio of interventions in our “Beta” incubator (currently, No Lean Season, Winning Start, and numerous interventions at earlier stages of incubation).

1) Rigorous Evaluation Design and Implementation (~60-70%)

In close collaboration with program staff and research partners, including other PIs and research partner organizations, the Economist / Senior Economist will lead the design and implementation of rigorous evaluations of Evidence Action programs, serving as a Co-Principal Investigator and co-author with external researchers where possible.  Exact roles and responsibilities will vary depending on the specific study, constellation of research partners, and timeline, but will include many, if not all, of the following:

  • Collaborate to develop overall experimental design, identification strategy, sampling strategies, and instrument design

  • Oversee and coordinate timely evaluation design discussions and decisions, including maintaining clear records of design decisions made

  • Ensure that all IRB approvals and processes are sought and followed throughout the evaluation, including ensuring external co-PIs receive necessary approvals from their institutions

  • Prepare and finalize the pre-analysis plan and study registration

  • Perform power calculations

  • Develop innovative, cost-effective data collection strategies that take into account best practice technical approaches and practical considerations, such as budget, operational considerations in the field, etc., including identify where existing administratie data can be leveraged

  • Pilot, field test, and finalize data collection instruments

  • Craft and implement data quality control measures and activities, including data cleaning and preparation for analysis

  • Conduct analysis and prepare preliminary results reports to inform decision making about program implementation and learning agenda

  • Prepare and finalize a working paper on study results and publish results in relevant academic and policy journals, wherever possible

  • Engage with program budget holder and research partners to understand budget implications of evaluation design options and decisions; work within evaluation budget; and engage in collaborative problem-solving to achieve study objectives and balance cost considerations

  • Contribute to using results to refine program theories of change, revise learning agendas, and brainstorm ideas for modifying program on the basis of those results to enhance potential impact

The Economist / Senior Economist should not expect to work exclusively one one impact evaluation at a time or to work on a diverse portfolio of impact evaluations simultaneously. The amount of time needed on a particular evaluation may vary, and at times working on multiple evaluations simultaneously may be required while at other times, focusing only on one more time-intensive evaluation may be required.  

2) Evidence Review and Program Advisory (~15-25%)

In close consultation with program teams:

  • Proactively stay abreast of research developments related to sectors and interventions in which Evidence Action is already engaged as part of its flagship programs and its Beta incubation portfolio as well as emerging research about interventions backed by rigorous evidence that might make a good candidate for Beta

  • Synthesize and share with relevant program and country teams the potential implications of new research developments, including for Evidence Action’s cost-effectiveness modeling, new interventions that Beta should explore, areas for further research to which Evidence Action could meaningfully contribute; follow-up with researchers, as needed, to tease out implications of these new developments for Evidence Action’s work

  • Advise program and monitoring teams on monitoring frameworks and data that would contribute to our ability to more effectively validate our implementation adherence to the theory of change

  • Serve as a thought partner to program staff and leadership and organizational leadership on various issues pertaining to Evidence Action’s consumption of and contributions to evidence, on an as-needed basis

3) Technical Mentorship (~10-15%)

  • Provide technical guidance to and technical oversight of more junior technical staff, such as Postdoctoral Fellows and Research Associates, who are engaged on research agendas and cost-effectiveness modeling [note: this is not equivalent to direct supervisory and people management responsibilities]

  • Potentially manage 1-2 more junior technical staff - will depend on the particular interests and people management capabilities of the top candidate for this role

  • Support the talent recruitment process by participating in the technical assessment of candidates for more junior technical roles

  • Potentially develop and implement, or support the development and implementation of, trainings for technical and non-technical staff on select topics

4) External Engagement (~10-15%)

  • Share Evidence Action’s research agenda and findings through academic papers, events, presentations, and written pieces (e.g., blogs, learning briefs) within relevant academic, practitioner, and donor communities and across technical and non-technical audiences

  • Participate in and represent Evidence Action’s research agenda and findings at high-level research and policy events (e.g., conferences, partner meetings, presentations to policymakers)

  • Lead the preparation of research funding proposals and contribute to research-focused sections of broader program proposals; engage in discussions on research

  • Support the building and engagement of external expert advisory groups, composed of leading researchers on specific topics to inform Evidence Action’s consumption of and contributions to evidence

The Economist / Senior Economist will  be expected to fulfill these responsibilities  and others with professionalism and on strict deadlines. As Evidence Action is a young organization still rapidly evolving and growing, we expect a high degree of self-motivation in shaping this role in collaboration with program and organizational leadership and a sense of responsibility for contributing to other workstreams as needed. We also expect flexibility as we iterate on this role and figure out the optimal portfolio of responsibilities and balance of time across responsibilities, both of which will in part depend on the successful candidate’s experience and interests as well as organizational needs. Over time, the Economist / Senior Economist will have the opportunity to develop new projects and initiatives aligned with Evidence Action’s needs and priorities.

What Qualifications We’re Expecting in Candidates

Evidence Action places strong value on relevant personal qualities: innovation, responsibility, tenacity, motivation, and work ethic. We seek a highly committed and adaptable individual with the ability to take the initiative when asked, to work effectively in a high-pressure environment, and to handle multiple tasks simultaneously.

Minimum Required Qualifications:

  • PhD in economics, statistics, public policy, public health, data science, or other applied quantitative field

  • At least four years of relevant professional experience in applied economics with a focus on developing country contexts or other low-resource settings; experience should include designing and managing rigorous impact evaluations

  • Intellectually curious and deeply passionate about international development and generating and using rigorous evidence to answer scale-relevant questions

  • Experience living, working, and/or conducting research in/about at least two different countries

  • Experience conducting research and engaging in policy and practice in at least two different sectors, preferably at least one of which is health, education, and/or economic development

  • Advanced econometric and statistical analysis skills with demonstrated hands-­on experience with Stata, R, and/or Python; experience with additional programming languages (e.g., Stan) a plus

  • Highly structured analytical thinker

  • Extremely detail-oriented and well-organized with excellent project management ​​skills, including ability to create and adhere to work plans

  • Excellent synthesizer and communicator generally and of technical concepts and quantitative methods and data, including proven ability to adjust communication and engagement style for different audiences (important, non-academic program staff and partners) and to synthesize and digest large amounts of data and translate findings into effective presentations and impactful and actionable programmatic recommendations

  • Experience writing research proposals, with proven success mobilizing funding for research

  • Flexibility and ability to work effectively both as part of a team and independently

  • Willingness and ability to multitask effectively, including engaging simultaneously across different workstreams and types of programs and interventions

  • Curiosity and willingness to learn about the constraints faced by governments and other local implementing organizations with which we partner

  • High level of proficiency in Microsoft Office, particularly Excel, PowerPoint, and Word, and the Google Apps suite, Slack, Asana, and other collaboration tools

  • Ability to travel internationally at least 15% time

  • Fluency in spoken and written English

Preferred Qualifications:

  • Experience directly managing and coaching more junior technical staff

  • Experience managing field-based execution of one or more randomized controlled trials, including overseeing, for example, pre-trial intervention piloting and iteration, testing of data collection instruments, data collection, etc.

  • Experience ​​working​​ with ​​administrative data

  • Experience with data visualization tools (e.g., Tableau)

  • Interest in and/or knowledge of machine learning and multilevel probabilistic modeling (e.g., Bayesian modeling)

  • Experience with qualitative research methods, especially to inform intervention design and to understand mechanisms alongside quantitative research

  • Established research record, including contributions to peer-reviewed journals and presentations at conferences and seminars

  • Professional affiliations with research institutions


The Economist/ Senior Economist will preferably be based in Evidence Action’s US office in Washington, DC to facilitate co-location with US-based staff and ease of communication with US- and Europe-based academics with which Evidence Action closely partners. Remote arrangements with regular travel to Washington, DC or other locations as appropriate may be possible for the right candidate, in particular if that individual has demonstrated a solid track record of meeting deadlines and working effectively in teams in a similar remote arrangement and if that individual is in US Eastern Time. Candidates must have work authorization to be based in the US.

Start Dates and Timeframe

Given the technical nature of this role, we anticipate our recruitment process may take 6-9 months to yield a strong candidate. We are therefore targeting May to September 2019 as the likely timeframe within which the successful applicant will start. That said, we are open to bringing on board the right candidate sooner. Applicants are encouraged to apply early, as applications will be reviewed and candidates assessed on a rolling basis.

Evidence Action is an Equal Opportunity Employer with a commitment to diversity. All individuals, regardless of personal characteristics, are encouraged to apply.

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  • Location
    Washington DC, District of Columbia
  • Department
    Beta Incubator
  • Employment Type
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