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Associate Innovation Officer


  • Organization: UNHCR - United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
  • Location: Geneva
  • Grade: Level not specified - Level not specified
  • Occupational Groups:
    • Innovations for Sustainable Development
  • Closing Date: Closed

Hardship Level (not applicable for home-based)

H (no hardship)

Family Type (not applicable for home-based)


Staff Member / Affiliate Type


Target Start Date


Job Posting End Date

February 29, 2024

Terms of Reference

Background Information
Led by UNHCR’s Innovation Service, the UNHCR’s Data Innovation programme is inspired and in support of creating evidence for the advancement of the UN Secretary General Digital Roadmap, the UN Secretary General Data Strategy and the UNHCR Data Transformation Strategy 2020-2025 and the UNSG quintet of change (UN 2.0). This programme works to innovate, experiment and leverage data in new and creative ways to improve UNHCR’s work and the lives of the people it serves. Innovative solutions include ethics and human rights-based approaches, responsible data practices, evidence-based humanitarian decision making, and privacy-enhancing technologies that can shape the future of the humanitarian sector.

Within the framework of the Data Innovation Programme, the flagship initiative, the Data Innovation Fund, is dedicated to optimizing the acquisition, storage, processing, analysis, and visualization of data. This is aimed at facilitating the operationalization of UNHCR’s protection mandate through the integration of emerging technologies, including information and communication technologies. This fund is a collaborative initiative between UNHCR’s Innovation Service, Global Data Service (GDS), and Division of Information and Telecommunications (DIST) and UNHCR Transformation and Change Service (TCS). The fund goal is to empower UNHCR teams to address challenges and create opportunities to enhance UNHCR’s work in data analytics in responsible and appropriate ways. The fund targets motivated teams with brand new ideas, not yet fully developed to create proof of concepts (POCs) or prototypes that can advance the creation of evidence for potential scaling (out,up,deep) into UNHCR’s work.

This initiative encourages the implementation of innovation methodologies, along with data science and non-conventional analysis techniques, to explore new possibilities in the realm of data analytics. UNHCR Innovation supports the exploration of emerging technologies for creative data analysis, with suitable adaptations for humanitarian contexts. The Fund provides financial resources, technical support, and mentorship.

Organisational Context
Recognizing that the information and communication technology industry is rapidly advancing, developing innovations that help understand, collect, analyze and visualize data at an accelerated pace. UNHCR Innovation understands that these advancements are nascent and can create self-reinforcing narratives about intelligence and innovation. The Data Innovation Fund then aims to address the challenge of responsibly adapting or developing the products and services created by these advancements. In order to facilitate the appropriate adaptation of these technologies to support humanitarian work, while ensuring compliance with organizational policies, such as data protection policies, and adherence to a human rights–based approach and humanitarian ethics standards. We are looking for a motivated and determined individual to join the Data Innovation team who is committed to upholding the humanitarian principles of “do no harm”, neutrality, impartiality, independence, and humanity while embedding innovative projects with human-centered and innovation/participatory design.

This individual will support the implementation of the fund, as well as other collaborative initiatives of UNHCR Innovation Service, related to data analytics and the use of emerging technologies. Firstly, the individual will support in the the design and development of innovative country-level, regional-level and finally global-level projects under the Data Innovation Fund who has passed a rigorous selection process to endorse their initiatives. The Fund covers project’s related to data analytics, emerging technologies (e.g. artificial intelligence, machine learning, generative AI, internet of things, privacy enhancing technologies and exploration of other priority areas). This may also include providing project management/coordination support, as well as direct implementation support, if required by the team. Secondly, given the overarching demands of the workstream, the individual will also contribute to the global goals of the workstream including inter alia developing capacity building frameworks and materials, building partnerships with relevant stakeholders, and managing the development advocacy materials, user guides and other necessary inputs to advance the dat innovation agenda . While there are defined activities to be covered under the project, these require further development and it is expected that the postholder will have space to contribute to this process.**

Duties and Responsibilities
Data Innovation Programme: Coordination and Facilitation support
Lead and strategize on data and AI innovation projects – via UNHCR Data Innovation Fund - with multiple stakeholders including coordination with UNHCR field operations, UN agencies, international organizations, non-profit organizations, refugee-led organizations, government entities, private sector and academia. Ensure the efficient management of assigned data innovation projects and solutions, acting as focal point for stakeholders, partners and UNHCR personnel, and in general act as a translator between data science/technology and development/humanitarian subject experts.
Coordinate between different UNHCR stakeholders and the broader UNHCR Innovation Service programmes in order to achieve inclusive and innovative solutions for their project’s the scoping, research, development and implementation/production. Strengthen existing projects developed by colleagues in the field, regional bureaus - including DIMAs - multi-country offices, and HQ units and divisions (e.g. DIST, Global Data Service, to mention some) to narrow project scope.
Conduct research data and/or humanitarian innovation, as well as emerging technologies research, and better design and adapt solutions to humanitarian settings by identifying potential risks and opportunities in the development of solutions in order to uphold the humanitarian principle of ‘do no harm’ as well as UN ethical norms and standards in the application of innovation and nascent technologies to challenges in the country operations and UNHCR teams.
Support the data innovation programme in the growth and development of the Big Data and AI working group (WG) and coordinate the webinar series to continue to nurture a highly informed technical culture with UNHCR.Managing content for the Big Data & AI working group and maintaining ongoing communication with the community. Present and share research, including AI, technical developments, ethical considerations, reports on humanitarian action and pieces by digital rights/data privacy.

Innovation Service Support, overarching
Support work around identifying and developing big data, AI and emerging technologies documentations including but not exclusively: concept notes, new research briefs, reports, background papers, stories, white papers, donor reports. literature reviews, and content relating to Big Data, emerging technologies including artificial intelligence (AI), including policy, guidelines, regulation, and legislation.
Support the Strategic Communications team with editorial work related to articles and communication products and editorial work on big data, and other exponential technologies (e.g., AI, machine-learning ML), including ethical considerations and human rights approaches.
Amplify UNHCR Innovation Service work by presenting at trainings, webinars, workshops, conferences, panels, or other external facing events where needed.
Support and advise UNHCR and/or UN policy, talking points, and/or inter-agency activities, as required.
Perform such other duties as may be assigned.

Qualifications and Experience
Core competencies
Innovation and Creativity: Generates innovative and creative solutions to problems that contribute to Organizational and inter-agency effectiveness. Tries different and novel ways of approaching work to create added value in the services provided.
Knowledge sharing: Actively develops and shares knowledge, leverages expertise to improve organizational and inter-agency effectiveness and add value within sphere of influence
Collaboration and Influence: Encourages teamwork and cooperates with others to achieve mutually beneficial results. Gains the support of others for own ideas and initiatives, regardless of formal authority and organizational boundaries
Critical Thinking and Judgment: Uses data, experience, and good judgment to make sound decisions and devise effective solutions to problems. Assesses and manages risk in own work
Technology awareness: Understands the value and power of technology and how to apply it for maximum benefit; sees it as an ongoing aspect of all work; invests time and energy to incorporate it.

Experience (Desired)
Strong experience in coordination and project management, with experience in the UN system a distinct advantage
Prior Experience working on issues of human rights, ethics, humanitarian principles particularly applied to emerging technologies is desired
Prior experience in a supporting function to humanitarian country operations (particularly strategy design and implementation pilot projects designed for scaling). Previous work experience with UNHCR country operations and other UNHCR teams in the topics of data innovation and/or emerging technologies, as well as innovation project design and implementation, desired.
Prior experience working in forced displacement and/or humanitarian contexts

Skills and Competencies
Advanced professional knowledge of English (both written and spoken) and working knowledge of another UN language is an advantage, particularly French, Arabic and/or Spanish.
Demonstrated knowledge and interest in humanitarian innovation and affinity with UNHCR’s mandate;
Advanced understanding of the big data, and emerging technologies such as: artificial intelligence, machine learning, ethical considerations and human right-based approach to emerging technologies as well as, humanitarian innovation landscape, including trends in new tools and platforms, and particularly those gaining traction among targeted audiences;
Advanced knowledge in international humanitarian law, human rights frameworks and/or ethical principles applied to humanitarian initiatives and/or emerging technologies initiatives.
Knowledge of big data analytics, data science method, statistics and/or artificial intelligence is a distinct advantage
Specific knowledge on data protection, privacy and cybersecurity issues is a distinct advantage.
Highly organized and autonomous, able to multitask and prioritize workload when necessary
Strong editorial skills and an ability to manage multiple communications editorial calendars and products. Excellent writing and documentation skills, demonstrating high levels of attention to detail
Works well in a multicultural team and has a strong work ethic: strives to deliver high-quality, error-free deliverables potentially targeting different types of users (e.g. senior management, fundraising specialists and advocacy officers
Ability to work on multiple projects at one time in a fast-paced environment;
Ability to work well independently as well as in a team environment.

The UNHCR workforce consists of many diverse nationalities, cultures, languages and opinions. UNHCR seeks to sustain and strengthen this diversity to ensure equal opportunities as well as an inclusive working environment for its entire workforce. Applications are encouraged from all qualified candidates without distinction on grounds of race, colour, sex, national origin, age, religion, disability, sexual orientation and gender identity.

Please note that UNHCR does not charge a fee at any stage of its recruitment process (application, interview, meeting, traveling, processing, training or any other fees).


Standard Job Description

Associate Innovation Officer

Organizational Setting and Work Relationships
UNHCR's Innovation Service aims to create an enabling environment for innovation to flourish in UNHCR by equipping staff with the knowledge, resources, and skills they need to use innovation as a tool to solve challenges.
The Innovation Service facilitates creative problem-solving alongside colleagues, partners, and refugees, generating new and needed, multi-disciplinary approaches that benefit displaced communities and the Organization.
All team members are expected to be able to work on a range of projects in a collaborative manner regardless of subject area and geographic location (HQ, Multi-Country or Country Office). At times this means working directly with the High Commissioner's team, at other times with the Division of Human Resources, with a remote field operation in an emergency, or in a CRRF operation. As such, the incumbent is experienced in using innovation processes and methodologies through which to innovate, on a wide-range of challenges faced by refugees, UNHCR staff, and partner staff, agnostic of subject area.

All UNHCR staff members are accountable to perform their duties as reflected in their job description. They do so within their delegated authorities, in line with the regulatory framework of UNHCR which includes the UN Charter, UN Staff Regulations and Rules, UNHCR Policies and Administrative Instructions as well as relevant accountability frameworks. In addition, staff members are required to discharge their responsibilities in a manner consistent with the core, functional, cross-functional and managerial competencies and UNHCR's core values of professionalism, integrity and respect for diversity.

- Participate in innovation projects and programmes (both within the service and at organizational level), including research, design, planning, coordination, implementation and monitoring functions as and when requested/appropriate.
- Support UNHCR colleagues in identifying pressing challenges in their context and co-develop novel and creative solutions by drawing on a broad range of innovation approaches, frameworks and methods.
- Cultivate and manage diverse strategic relationships with both UNHCR and external partners, including consultants, donors and subject matter experts, academia, civil society and private sector organisations.
- Proactively solicit and exchange views and methods, ensuring that relevant and promising lessons learned are incorporated from broader ecosystems into UNHCR's work.
- Support fundraising opportunities for project partners or UNHCR field operations, either through the application and management of a fund or supporting projects managed by innovation fund opportunities.
- Work with strategic communications, designers and writers to contribute to the production of compelling written and visual material to advance the goals of the Innovation Service.
- Promote and support a culture of innovation, learning, risk-taking, diversity and inclusion within operations and teams and across portfolios.
- Remain up-to-date on new innovations, approaches and technologies, particularly those that could be potentially applied to the humanitarian sector and/or forced displacement settings.
- Document and share insights on innovation in UNHCR as a way of strengthening the Innovation Service's work and building internal credibility for innovation as a respected source of good ideas and tested approaches.
- Ensure that Age, Gender and Diversity (AGD) sensitive analyses, rights and community-based approaches inform human-centred design processes.
- Apply relevant research, evidence and data-driven decision making to support UNHCR and Partners in the improvement of services and programmes, as well as innovative approaches through assisting in documenting, codifying and disseminating key programme processes and lessons learned.

- Support the identification and management of risks and seek to seize opportunities impacting objectives in the area of responsibility. Ensure decision making in risk based in the functional area of work. Raise risks, issues and concerns to a supervisor or to relevant functional colleague(s).

- Perform other related duties as required.

Minimum Qualifications

Years of Experience / Degree Level
For P2/NOB - 3 years relevant experience with Undergraduate degree; or 2 years relevant experience with Graduate degree; or 1 year relevant experience with Doctorate degree

Field(s) of Education
Social Sciences; Science, Technology,
Engineering; Humanities; Administration,
Management; or other relevant field.

Certificates and/or Licenses
Not specified,

Relevant Job Experience
Experience of forging and/or maintaining partnerships and collaborative working methods, simultaneously with a range of stakeholders, including private sector entities, donor governments, civil society, communities of concern, INGO, NNGO, and other UN entities. Experience applying innovation and/or innovative methodologies in forced displacement contexts. Experience of providing support to a range of operations through capacity building around scale, evidence building and provision of guidance and creation of tools. Experience managing budgets for innovation activities, including experimentation. Experience working in organisations with multi-year planning processes, such as development agencies, whether governmental, UN, or other.

A strong understanding of theory, principles, established approaches and evidence concerning effective innovation and programme design.

Functional Skills
HR-Inclusion, Diversity and Gender strategy design and implementation
MG-Team building (development/facilitation)
(Functional Skills marked with an asterisk* are essential)

Language Requirements
For International Professional and Field Service jobs: Knowledge of English and UN working language of the duty station if not English.
For National Professional jobs: Knowledge of English and UN working language of the duty station if not English and local language.
For General Service jobs: Knowledge of English and/or UN working language of the duty station if not English.

All UNHCR workforce members must individually and collectively, contribute towards a working environment where each person feels safe, and empowered to perform their duties. This includes by demonstrating no tolerance for sexual exploitation and abuse, harassment including sexual harassment, sexism, gender inequality, discrimination and abuse of power.

As individuals and as managers, all must be proactive in preventing and responding to inappropriate conduct, support ongoing dialogue on these matters and speaking up and seeking guidance and support from relevant UNHCR resources when these issues arise.

This is a Standard Job Description for all UNHCR jobs with this job title and grade level. The Operational Context may contain additional essential and/or desirable qualifications relating to the specific operation and/or position. Any such requirements are incorporated by reference in this Job Description and will be considered for the screening, shortlisting and selection of candidates.

Required Languages



Desired Languages



Additional Qualifications


HR-Inclusion, Diversity and Gender strategy design and implementation, MG-Team building (development/facilitation)


Bachelor of Arts (BA): Administration, Bachelor of Arts (BA): Engineering, Bachelor of Arts (BA): Humanities, Bachelor of Arts (BA): Management, Bachelor of Arts (BA): Science, Bachelor of Arts (BA): Social Science, Bachelor of Arts (BA): Technology


Work Experience

Other information

Remote work is accepted but in consistency with the time zone related to the respective areas of operation/projects.This position doesn't require a functional clearance


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