Call for interest | Researchers | UNHCR Innovation Service

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May 2019

Geneva, Switzerland
UNHCR Overview
The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) is a global organization dedicated to saving lives, protecting rights, and building a better future for refugees, forcibly displaced communities and stateless people.

We work to ensure that everybody has the right to seek asylum and find safe refuge, having fled violence, persecution, war or disaster at home.

UNHCR Innovation Service Overview

UNHCR’s Innovation Service is committed to creating an enabling environment for innovation to flourish in UNHCR by equipping staff with the knowledge, resources, and skills needed to ensure that they can increasingly draw on innovation to solve the most pressing challenges.

We create safe spaces for experimentation to take place in field operations, as well as at Headquarters, whilst instilling a future-oriented approach into how we solve problems.

About Connectivity for Refugees (CfR)

Connectivity for Refugees is an initiative by UNHCR Innovation Service to develop a practical roadmap towards bridging the digital divide and connecting those who are currently not connected, ensuring that all refugees, regardless of age, gender and diversity, have the ability to fully participate in the digital revolution that is taking place globally.

Our vision is that “displaced populations and communities that host them have the right, and the choice, to be part of a connected society, and have access to technology that enables them to build better futures for themselves, their families and the world.”  

Introduction to CfR research and future of forced displacement

Within the effort to drive Connectivity for Refugees, the research component serves as a crucial precursor to deepen our understanding of the complexity of connectivity to practical efforts to bring the internet to the doorsteps of affected communities. We work with traditional approaches such as anthropology, but also explore relevant themes from studies of communication, transnationalism, exclusion, privacy, inequality, and interlinked resilience, among other areas.

The objective of this research agenda is to provide a comprehensive outlook on connectivity, from different angles and different perspectives, to understand how connectivity intersects with other domains and fields. Some of the key questions driving this research include the following: How does connectivity influence decision-making processes? What happens when connectivity is harmful? Will new infrastructures create more or fewer risks to socio-economic systems?  How can we align ourselves today to meet a more nuanced future if personal technology, connectivity is used increasingly to fringe upon the rights, values, and privacy of our communities?

Objectives for Research Brief consultancy

To collaborate with UNHCR’s Innovation Service on research briefs (including a literature review, an overview of key research areas,) related, but not limited, to the following forced displacement and connectivity for refugees thematics:

  1. Digital ecosystems:  The Service is interested in understanding how systems and infrastructures and social interventions interlink and explore how UNHCR can approach interventions in these systems to minimise system failures, and encourage resilience;
  2. Inclusion and inequality in the digital space through gender, race, and ability: Looking at the right to connectivity through diversity and inclusion lenses, exploring the nuances of access, understanding inequalities in a connected society;
  3. Cybersecurity and privacy: Understanding the tension between connectivity/technology as a force for good and a force that, today or in the future, may undermine rights, values, and privacy of the displaced.

Additional objectives include:

  • Collaborate with an interdisciplinary research team, and take leadership in the research brief work (research, writing);
  • Deliver research briefs to inform the wider CfR team and its partners and collaborators on areas worth exploring.

Qualifications and criteria for selection

  • Alignment with UNHCR’s Innovation Service’s values of inclusion, diversity, and equity;
  • Excellent English communication and writing skills;
  • Excellent collaboration skills;
  • Ability to express complex ideas and concepts in simple and succinct terms;
  • Ability to translate complexity and science to broad audiences;
  • Interest in humanitarian affairs, future of displacement, innovation, creative thinking, behavioural science and learning;
  • University degree in any of the following areas: innovation, social sciences, humanitarian response, development, digital ecosystems, inclusion and diversity, and/or cybersecurity and privacy, or equivalent discipline;
  • Resourcefulness in identifying and analyzing relevant literature, for example, access to journals and other relevant academic resources.


  • Two research briefs (3-4 pages per brief) on research areas to be confirmed; and
  • Contributing to research brief documentation that may include blog posts.

Details on how to apply

  • Send your up to date CV;
  • A one-page cover letter outlining your interests in the email body, outlining the required qualifications;
  • Send a brief writing example that reflects your interest and ability to work in the aforementioned thematics;
  • We are open to ideas and suggestions: if you are passionate and have expertise in a topic that is not mentioned but intersect with our research areas please let us know!
  • Address your application to [email protected] with subject line ‘CfR Research Brief Application, by 16 June 2019, 23:59 Central European (Summer) Time.

More on Connectivity for Refugees and UNHCR’s Innovation Service


Q: How much can a single applicant apply for? In other words, is there a maximum limit with regards to fees?

A: Consultancy fees will be negotiated once applicants have been shortlisted

Q: Similarly, are you looking to fund empirical research? Or should briefs be based on already completed research?

A: The briefs should be based on already completed or ongoing research. The consultancy is a home-based position, no travel or on-site empirical research is expected.

Q: Can teams apply or is it limited to individual applicants?

A: Teams cannot apply. Applicants can only apply for the consultancy as individuals.

Q: What’s the deadline for submitting the briefs?

A: 2019 Q3 and Q4.

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