Senior Leader SPO Digital Solutions, Agriculture at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

15 March, 2018

The goal of the Global Growth & Opportunity (GGO) division is to catalyze sustainable transformative change in the face of inequities and market failures. The focus is on creating and scaling up market-based innovations to stimulate inclusive and sustainable economic growth. Division is made up of Agricultural Development; Financial Services for the Poor; Gender Equality; and Water, Sanitation and Hygiene.


The Agricultural Development program aims to catalyze country-led inclusive agricultural transformation by developing and scaling products, services, policies, and system-wide innovations that benefit smallholder farmers, empower women, and improve nutrition. We want farmers to be empowered with the knowledge, tools and technologies to improve their livelihoods and lift themselves and their families out of poverty.


The success of the program team depends on the deep knowledge of what effective systems look like, deep understanding of the root causes of systems failure in specific geographies, designing in partnership with regional teams (Africa & Asia) and the relevant governments, innovative interventions and models that would improve the effectiveness of the systems that serve small holder farmers at scale.


Position Summary & Responsibilities

We are looking for a senior leader with a background in the application of information and communication technologies (ICTs) to address challenges faced in rural developing country agriculture. The Senior Program Officer (SPO) for Digital Solutions, working within the IDEAS (Innovations Driving Effective Agricultural Systems) team, is responsible for championing practical, cost-effective, sustainable, and scalable solutions that impact smallholder farmers. You will have a basic mastery of, and stay up-to-date on advances in, a wide range of ICTs, including but not limited to the fields of remote sensing, management of geospatial data, mobile applications, sensors, networks and predictive analytics. You will need to frame ICTs in agricultural development from a functional perspective, identifying where and how the application of ICTs may add value to rural economies, crops and livestock value chains, and farmers themselves.

Thought leadership and grant making in Digital Solutions is designed to contribute to the larger Agricultural Development portfolio of investments. The SPO, therefore, will collaborate with many others to create, manage, and oversee investments while also serving in a technical advisory role bringing ICT expertise to other grants in the portfolio. The work requires collaboration with diverse stakeholders. These stakeholders are within the foundation (including interaction with many different teams in addition to Agriculture Development) and external to the foundation (including with national government partners, private sector and NGOs, and development organizations).


Key areas of work include:

  • Work in close collaboration with internal and external partners to design, and manage a performance-based catalytic grant portfolio ‘Digital Farmer Services’ focused on the application of ICTs to benefit smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.
  • Provide leadership and partnership with other staff working on ICTs, including technical backstopping and updates on technology areas and applications.
  • Work with national and state governments, private companies, and NGO service providers in our target countries in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia to co-create catalytic investments.
  • Consult with grantees and other partners in public and private sectors to maximize impact of interventions and to ensure continuous learning. This may include: site visits, providing operational guidance, working with companies, and convening meetings of key stakeholders.
  • Develop projects with clear, measurable outcomes and milestones that clarify expectations up-front and enable nimble course-correction.
  • Analyze and synthesize lessons and results to improve the overall operating model for the foundation's investments in ICTs in agricultural development, including collaborative development of strategic directions and priorities for ICT investments, target setting for the portfolio, and implementing a learning agenda for all staff in Agricultural Development.
  • Work closely with other teams to incorporate the use of appropriate ICTs for gathering quantitative/qualitative information to measure progress against strategic goals.
  • Contribute to the evolution of the Agricultural Development Program's vision, strategic objectives, priorities, processes, culture, organizational structure, etc.
  • Prepare action-oriented communication materials to build awareness of the

    applications of ICTs to agricultural development.

Reports to: Deputy Director, Agricultural Development


Leadership and Culture

We believe that energized people, working well together, fueled by great leadership in an inclusive environment in which they thrive, will do phenomenal things.


Core Knowledge & Skills

We are looking for people who enjoy the challenge of working on complex problems and collaboratively creating solutions that have the potential for transformational change in the lives of people around the world. You must be prepared to work across diverse sides of this field, bridging a wide range of expertise, including that of: farmers, development practitioners, technical experts, analysts, policymakers, business people, investors, and philanthropists. You will be a team player, with a demonstrated ability to work with flexibility, efficiency, and diplomacy in a fast-paced, challenging environment, using a hypothesis-driven approach and analytical rigor to develop sound strategies and

 implementation plans.


Additionally, you should have:

  • 10+ years of relevant work experience in an ICT-related field with responsibility for developing, implementing, and managing projects/programs. Outstanding record of achievement required.
  • Experience within a developing country context, strongly preferred.
  • Thorough knowledge of information and communication technologies and how they work differently in rural emerging and developing country markets, as well as the ability to communicate how they can improve Agricultural Development investments by the foundation.
  • Comfortable in a wide range of cultural, geographic and operational situations, demonstrating culturally sensitive behavior with a diverse range of people.
  • Ability to orchestrate effective decisions across a broad range of issues and stakeholders, assess progress, analyze gaps, and make necessary changes.
  • Innovative and open-minded approach; ability to question and challenge colleagues including managers and partners in a constructive manner.
  • Ability to travel up to 25% of time as needs dictate.
  • MBA, or Master's in engineering, economics, development studies, social sciences, agricultural engineering, or related field.


As part of our standard hiring process for new employees, employment with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will be contingent upon successful completion of a background check.



As part of our standard hiring process for new employees, employment with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will be contingent upon successful completion of a background check.



The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is dedicated to the belief that all lives have equal value. We’re committed to creating a workplace where employees thrive both personally and professionally. We also believe our employees should reflect the rich diversity of the global populations we aim to serve—in race, gender, age, cultures and beliefs—and we support this diversity through all of our employment practices.


All applicants and employees who are drawn to serve the mission of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will enjoy equality of opportunity and fair treatment without regard to:

* Race

* Color

* Age

* Religion

* Pregnancy

* Sex

* Sexual Orientation

* Disability

* Gender Identity

* Gender Expression

* National Origin

* Genetic Information

* Veteran Status

* Marital Status

* Prior Protected Activity

Interested? For more information click here.

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