Start Network

Senior Innovation and Design Advisor


We are Start Network, a global network of more than 50 aid agencies, ranging from large international organisations to national NGOs. Together, our aim is to transform humanitarian action through innovation, fast funding, early action, and localisation.

We're tackling what we believe are the biggest systemic problems that the sector faces - problems including slow and reactive funding, centralised decision-making, and an aversion to change, means that people affected by crises around the world, do not receive the best help fast enough, and needless suffering results.

Please visit our website for more information -


The Senior Innovation and Design advisor will be responsible for supporting technical innovation and design competencies across the Start Network, providing hands on support to staff team members, with hubs and with Start Network member organisations.

The candidate will be a thought leader, introducing new concepts and ideas and leading on necessary internal processes of change as the Start Network adapts to new ways of working.  The post holder will be able to work independently, leading on cross organisational design processes and the introduction of new tools and approaches.

  • Very strong technical skills to support the application of systems and design thinking across the network

  • Advocate for the use of appropriate learning systems to support adaptive management practices and will ensure that learning is shared effectively both with our members and outside of our network.

  • Work across the organisation on multiple projects, including a substantial role in the design and delivery of the upcoming DFID funded community innovation programme and supporting the ‘proof of concept phase’ of Start Network Hubs.

The candidate will report to the Head of Innovation working within a small Innovation team that works across the organisation within cross functional teams on specific initiatives.


Technical support

  • Provide thought leadership within the innovation team on the use of systems and design thinking and other innovation approaches

  • Mentor team members

  • Working with teams to provide technical support on the use of design and systems thinking approaches to team and project members across the organisation

  • Support teams on the application and adaptation of human centred design and other innovation tools and methodologies, designing and delivering training where appropriate

  • Play a strong design and / or facilitation role in cross functional and product teams to support the end to end delivery of specific initiatives

  • Support Hubs throughout their proof of concept phase to develop effective, collaborative system change strategies

  • Support on other member facing innovation support activities such as problem identification processes or innovation challenges

Learning and analysis

  • Support or lead on the development of learning frameworks that enable adaptive decision making for different initiatives, driving collaborative learning across the organisation

  • Support specific research where required and support or lead on the development of other learning products

  • Share both formal and informal learning products using diverse mechanisms for communication, especially with Network members

  • Assist in the analysis, interpretation and application of data and learning products

Strategy development

  • Play a strong role within the Innovation Team helping to design and deliver team plans and strategies

  • Work across the team, hubs and members to support an open, adaptive learning culture across the organisation

  • Help to develop the organisations thinking on working effectively to achieve our humanitarian system change mission

  • Support Start Network’s vision and values by proposing alternative approaches to strategy development and work planning, maintaining a user centred focus.

Representation and General

  • Working as a member of the Innovation Team, contribute to the achievement of the team outcomes

  • Credibly represent the Start Network externally, showcasing our learning and approach to influential actors in the sector

  • Work independently, showing leadership across the Start Network, helping the organisation to think critically and to adapt new approaches where necessary

  • Be a dynamic team player, contributing to the success of the Start Network


This role is for a team member who thrives on enabling collaboration, on supporting change and whose primary focus is the end user of our services. We are looking for a person who understands the need for change in the sector and who has the necessary design and systems thinking skills to support a dynamic network. Above all, the successful candidate will be committed to learning processes that help the network to more effectively solve system level problems.

Ideally, the individual will have:

-        Great design and systems thinking skills

-        Technical credibility and leadership skills with ability to influence others across the organisation

-        A collaborative approach and a vision for change

-        Brilliant analytical and strategic thinking abilities

-        Excellent coaching and facilitation skills

-        Excellent team working skills


The following are the most important competencies for this role:

-        Problem-solving and decision making

-        Showing leadership

-        Innovating and adapting

-        Working effectively with others

-        Communicating with impact

-        Delivering results


  • Excellent systems and design thinking skills

  • In-depth knowledge of the international humanitarian system and experience of supporting partnerships in a humanitarian context

  • Experience of running / leading design processes

  • Knowledge and experience of evidence and learning approaches and tools

  • Experience of designing or adapting tools and helping others to use them effectively

  • Experience of commissioning research and learning products


  • Excellent written and verbal communication skills

  • Excellent analytical skills

  • A confident communicator who excels and enabling collaboration

  • A champion for change who believes in the power of collaborative approaches

  • Ability to prioritise work, managing time and resources effectively

  • A flexible, ‘can do’ attitude with the ability to manage an unpredictable workload

  • Willingness to travel


  • At least 5 – 7 years experience in a design / innovation related field

  • Experience of working internationally within the humanitarian or development sectors

  • Graduate degree or equivalent experience (desirable)

  • Language skills in French, Spanish, Arabic (desirable)

Role posted - 2020-04-17T08:15:13Z 9:15am, 17th Apr 2020 BST