Research Assistant Position: Early Childhood Development (Parents+ and Building Blocks) (full-time post-graduation)


Research Assistant Position: Early Childhood Development (Parents+ and Building Blocks)
Knowledge for Policy Team, Bernard van Leer Foundation, The Hague
full-time, post-graduation

After five decades of investing in early childhood development, the Bernard van Leer Foundation is entering a new phase where we believe the major challenge is the transition to scale. Plenty of ideas to improve the youngest children’s health, nutrition, protection and learning have proven their worth in small-scale projects – but how do we effectively reach hundreds of thousands or millions of children? In our current strategy (2016-2020), we have chosen to address this question in two ways. Pioneering Scalable Solutions: First, we are focusing on two ideas emerging from the inspiring work of our partners that we believe have potential for impact and scale. Both ideas – Parents+ and Urban95 - look for opportunities to incorporate greater focus on early childhood development in activities already taking place at scale. Parents+ combines coaching activities for parents and other caregivers about early child development with at least one other service designed to meet a child and/or her parents’ basic needs. For example, health workers who provide coaching on health, nutrition and early learning to families that also benefit from cash transfers; home visitors who provide coaching on child health and nutrition combined with mental health screening of mothers; coaching on early learning and child protection to parents also receiving agricultural productivity inputs to improve crop yields; and parent coaching on emergent literacy skills delivered in combination with pre-school services. Urban95 partners with cities around the world to look at their cities from an elevation of 95cm – the average height of a healthy three-year-old – and incorporate the resulting insights into city planning, design and management. For example, working with city planners and designers to transform storefronts, rooftops and vacant lots into green areas for children and caregivers to play, meet and rest; helping city administrators develop neighbourhood level dashboards with comprehensive data about early childhood development that can be seen by all city departments; or working with city transportation officials to make it easier and safer for parents with young children to walk to services such as healthcare, childcare and pre-school education. Building Blocks: Second, we will continue our long history of helping to track, curate and share the latest advances in the field of early childhood development. In the next five years, we will focus this aspect of our work on promoting the science of nurturing care and sharing best practices in how to transition successful early childhood programmes to scale. Through this work, we will engage both specialists in early childhood development, as well as non-specialist advocates, policymakers, funders and managers who are responsible for early childhood development within a larger portfolio of responsibility. Our primary activities will include (1) expanding the scope of our signature journal Early Childhood Matters to include a suite of products for a wider audience, a series of live events to encourage discussion and the use of strategic partnerships to increase distribution; (2) providing financial and technical support to advocacy that uses the science of nurturing care to raise awareness about the importance of the early years and secure more public and private financing for early childhood development; and (3) providing financial and technical support to the development and delivery of capacity building activities for policymakers, funders and managers to help them transition small-scale projects to large-scale policies and programmes. In the next five years, we will concentrate on seven countries chosen for their economic, geographic and cultural diversity: Brazil, India, Israel, Ivory Coast, the Netherlands, Peru and Turkey. We are also launching one regional initiative to improve support for Syrian families who have been forcibly displaced across the Middle East and Europe. Finally, we will reserve a portion of our budget to invest in selected partnerships in other geographies where we observe the kind of exceptional momentum and energy required to achieve large scale change for the youngest kids. In addition to providing financial support, we also act as a ‘knowledge broker’ to track, develop and share knowledge on early childhood development policies and programs with organizations who work at a large scale, such as governments, foundations, international organizations and businesses. This work is organized primarily by the new Knowledge for Policy (K4P) team. As we are building up the team and engaging in a number of new activities, we are seeking short-term research and project support. Responsibilities: The role of Research Assistant, Parents+ and Building Blocks, is a one-year position to provide high-quality research and project support to the K4P team, with a focus on our Parents+ and Building Blocks investment areas. The successful candidate will have the opportunity to help build a new team and to develop knowledge on early childhood policies and programmes, with a focus on transitioning programs to scale and on communications and advocacy. Core activities of the K4P team include (1) gather and disseminate knowledge on early childhood development, for example publication of our signature journal Early Childhood Matters; (2) support advocacy that uses the science of nurturing care to raise awareness about the importance of the early years and secure more financing for early childhood development, for example partnering with neuroscientists to collate beautiful new images of the brain with messages on why the early years are important, co-fund and advise an immersion course for journalists on early childhood development at Columbia University; (3) support capacity-building activities for policymakers, funders and managers to help them transition small-scale projects to large-scale policies and programmes, for example sponsoring participants and providing technical inputs to our executive education programme on scaling early childhood development programmes at the Harvard Kennedy School; and (4) provide direct technical assistance to major strategic partners in our country programmes, for example providing inputs on parent coaching models to support programme design across the countries where we work. The following competencies are important for all BvLF positions: (1) teamwork; (2) learning ability; and (3) result orientation. Job specific competencies include (1) problem analysis; (2) market orientedness; (3) client orientedness; and (4) written communication. Position is 85% research (providing high-quality research support to workstreams, grant management and technical assistance on Parents+ and Building Blocks activities co-ordinated by the Knowledge for Policy team; this might include (1) organizing and conducting primary and secondary data collection and analysis, e.g. desk research and interviews; (2) developing and presenting findings, e.g. via memos, policy briefs, presentation slides and decks; and (3) summarizing reports and tracking news and key topics to support knowledge management) and 15% general support (providing general support to the K4P team, e.g. supporting team management and the organization of team building activities). Requirements and Qualifications: (1) Minimum of Bachelor’s degree in International Development, International Relations, Economics, Business, Social Sciences, Humanities, Psychology, Science or other field requiring significant research, analysis and writing; (2) excellent academic record; (3) strong analytical abilities – primarily qualitative, but quantitative also desirable; (4) able to present information in an insightful and structured way, especially in writing; (5) demonstrated ability to manage projects and to organize one’s own work; (6) good skills in Word and Powerpoint; (7) fluent in spoken and written English; and (8) passionate about social change or international development, and driven to make a difference in the lives of the youngest citizens. Desirable qualifications include (1) experience in policy or business research or consulting, as part of an internship, work experience or degree programme; (2) professional proficiency in other languages used in the Foundation’s programs, e.g. currently Arabic, Dutch, French, Hebrew, Hindi, Portuguese, Spanish, Turkish; and (3) knowledge of early childhood development. Additional Information: Position reports to Director of Knowledge for Policy and is a one year contract. Location is The Hague, The Netherlands. Principal relationships inside BvLF are the Knowledge for Policy Director, Knowledge for Policy Team, Executive Director, Programme Team, and Operations Team. Principal relationships outside BvLF are Strategic institutional or individual contacts, partners. To Apply: Contact Rachel Machefsky at (posted 3/2017)