Program Officer (Urban Sanitation Markets)

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Seattle, WA, US

The Global Growth & Opportunity (GGO) division works to catalyze sustainable transformative change in the face of inequities and market failures, to realize the potential of untapped markets, and to see the economic and social benefits of including everyone. We focus on the areas of Agricultural Development; Financial Services for the Poor; Water, Sanitation and Hygiene; and Gender Equality. We seek solutions that are sustainable, transformative, and inclusive with an eye toward applying technology innovations as well as data evidence to drive change in the world’s developing countries.

4.5 billion people worldwide lack access to safely managed sanitation, and millions of these people live in dwellings whose sanitary facilities, if any, are connected to poorly managed septic tanks, cesspools or latrines. Health impacts of poorly managed sanitation are severe, including hundreds of millions of cases of serious oral-fecal illnesses each year, resulting in the preventable deaths of approximately 1.7 million young children, and lifelong stunting and cognitive impairment of tens of millions more children

Traditional sewer networks have historically been the preferred sanitation solution among urban planners and governments. However, this large and centralized infrastructure is often not the most sustainable, nor financially or technically feasible solution in developing countries, and often does not reach informal settlement populations and other vulnerable groups for a range of reasons including sewers not extending beyond central business districts, challenging topography, lack of legal recognition by government, or project cost estimates that don’t include the costs to connect poor households to sewers.

These factors make non-sewered sanitation solutions (NSS), also known as onsite sanitation systems, more context-appropriate and adaptable in many urban contexts. The Water, Sanitation & Hygiene (WSH) team focuses their efforts and resources towards advocating and developing an end-to-end ecosystem promoting NSS. This is achieved through:

  • Policy, Advocacy, and Communication (PAC) targets our focus regions to promote national policies and increase government accountability for responsible fecal sludge management (FSM). In addition, focus is also placed on advocating for funding innovative non-sewered sanitation interventions globally.
  • Transformative Technology Commercialization (TTC) supports upstream development of innovative technologies that practically address the sanitation challenge and respects the realities of developing world needs. Current focus has shifted towards bringing these technologies to market through diverse and locally relevant commercialization strategies.
  • Urban Sanitation Markets(USM) places emphasis on developing the market and ecosystem for city wide inclusive sanitation services, regulation, and transformative technologies. This includes building the capacity of those responsible for sanitation services to develop appropriate business models and build effective NSS systems and infrastructure. This is achieved through collaboration with national governments, development banks, private sectors, universities, and other champion organizations and individuals.
  • Monitoring, Evidence, and Dissemination for Scale (MEDS) is tasked with strengthening the evidence base for successful and innovative sanitation programs, supporting smart measurement and indicators within our grant making, and helping the NSS sector more broadly implement evidenced based programming through dissemination of findings.

As mentioned above, the Urban Sanitation Markets (USM) strategy is responsible for delivering sustainable and inclusive city-wide sanitation services and create an enabling environment for scaling innovative sanitation technologies and approaches through partnership and collaboration with key stakeholders across sectors (policy, sanitation, academic, etc.) To achieve this, USM is focused on four sub-strategies:

  • Capacity Building: Develop deeper NSS/FSM expertise amongst sanitation professionals, governments and policymakers, private sectors and other stakeholders. This includes building capacity through: educational opportunities, trainings, peer to peer learning, technical assistance, producing relevant knowledge products and tools, and policies.
  • Local Financing: Develop public and private financing mechanisms across the NSS value chain for cities, businesses, and households; pilot financing models to promote adoption of new technologies; increase investment in NSS/FSM across the sanitation value chain in our focus regions. 
  • Service Models: Demonstrate innovative city-scale models that improve services for the poor, improve the quality and quantity of services in low-income communities, and strengthen market incentives and demand for safe and inclusive sanitation services. This includes model demonstration in our ‘CWIS cities’ (see below), engagement of formal and informal service providers, and public-private partnerships. 
  • City-Wide Inclusive Sanitation (CWIS) Cities: CWIS cities serve as opportunities to demonstrate how capacity building, local financing, service models, policy, and innovative sanitation technologies can work at a city level to ‘bend the curve’ to achieve inclusive, sustainable sanitation.

Position Summary & Responsibilities

The Program Officer (PO) USM will focus on the Service Models and CWIS sub-initiatives and be responsible to identify, develop, structure and management investments that will build upon and develop pro-poor inclusive sustainable service models, pragmatic institutional and regulatory frames, viable fecal sludge management (FSM) business models, and demonstration of innovative sanitation technologies. The PO reports to the USM Initiative Lead/Sr. Program Officer and will work closely with USM and WSH team members.

In addition to specific grant making responsibilities, the PO will also have responsibility for:

Integration of pro-poor services: Support efforts to assess and communicate welfare impacts of changes in approaches for sanitation service delivery, in addition to financial implications for service providers. Identifying, strengthening and communicating links among accountability tools like regulation, demand for private sector services and quality of those services, and inclusivity of service models will be an active cross cutting area of work that will be integrated into grantmaking, supporting team internally, and our team’s contributions to improving sector norms. Enhancing the effectiveness of those accountability tools will be an active topic for research and exploration.

Investments for scaling sustainable business models: Identify successful FSM business models and develop mechanisms within existing investments, new investments, and within broader sector engagement to support scaling and replication across the priority geographies.

Demonstration and scaling of CWIS : Provide strategic guidance to CWIS partners around integration of sustainable pro-poor services into cities’ service delivery systems, institutional frameworks, and mainstreaming gender and social inclusion. Support efforts to scale CWIS concept in large urban development programs funded through national flagship programs, development banks’ investments, and development banks’ investment approaches and priorities.

Partner relationships: Develop relationships within the sector to find the most promising opportunities; engage relevant actors (who may not necessarily be from the sanitation sector) as innovations are developing. Expand the pool of partners engaged with sanitation that serves the poor. Through grantmaking, support the creation and development of multi-stakeholder partnerships (government, city authority, development partners, academia, and private sectors) in the countries and cities that are scaling the best practices. Interact and communicate clearly and consistently with grantees and partners in the field.

Support measurement of our results: Develop projects with clear, measurable outcomes and milestones. Analyze and synthesize results from these grants to sharpen the WSH team strategy and our ability to report on progress and value for money.

Represent the foundation to key external constituencies, including participation in conferences and meetings, to government, private sector leaders, and key funding institutions. Disseminate our emerging experience and approach to inclusive non-sewered sanitation; especially with regards to city-wide service models.

Internal Communications and Collaboration: Prepare clear, concise, and insightful written analyses on new grants and progress reports on existing grants. Communicate effectively with senior management through memos, meetings and field visits. Prepare background evidence materials for the WSH team as well as foundation leadership. Collaborate with program and functional teams across the foundation to inform critical strategy and investment decisions.

Leadership & 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. Contribute positively to team culture through collaboration and transparency, empowerment of others, developing and practicing leadership skills, trusting good intention of others, effective communication, and participation in team building activities.

Core Qualifications, Knowledge & Skills

We are looking for people who enjoy the opportunity of working on complex problems and collectively creating solutions that have the potential for transformative change in the lives of people around the world. You must be prepared to work across a diverse set of disciplines, bridging a wide range of expertise all the while being a team player, with a demonstrated ability to work with flexibility, efficiency and diplomacy in an exciting, challenging environment. The responsibilities of this role require that you should have a minimum of five years relevant work experience with utility or city authority operations with diverse service models; including a broad understanding of service models that can cost-effectively reach low-income customers. Additionally, we seek:

Sanitation, Development & Education Experience:

  • Experiences on business assessment and/or development programs in Africa or Asia,
  • Working experience with development banks, utility or city authority.
  • Understanding of and engagement with sanitation or the fecal sludge management field and preferably in the developing world (Africa or Asia) for several years preferred.
  • MBA, MA/MSc. in Business, Engineering, Sciences, Planning, or equivalent experience. Advanced degree preferred.

Additional Skills:

  • Creative problem-solving approach and an aptitude for research, information synthesis, and quantitative analysis. Proven strategic problem-solving skills to structure the analysis needed to address a complex and ambiguous question, within the resources and time constraints provided.
  • Demonstrated initiative to solve unstructured problems with creativity, high energy, a positive attitude, and little oversight.
  • Top-notch organizational and project management skills and an ability to prioritize work based on minimal direction and multiple competing priorities.
  • Strong relationship management skills including experience working with a range of clients, colleagues, consultants, and other partners with broad exposure to private, public and NGO sectors.
  • Oriented toward team collaboration, with the ability to be flexible and adjust to changing circumstances.
  • Ability to think/act like an investor.
  • Excellent listening, verbal and written communication skills to effectively calibrate input and synthesize information to connect with varied and diverse audiences. Ability to communicate clearly and convey complex ideas in easily understood ways.
  • Innovative and open-minded approach to all aspects of work. Ability to question and challenge colleagues, including managers, and partners in a constructive manner.
  • Comfortable in a wide range of cultural, geographic and operational situations, demonstrating culturally sensitive behavior with a diverse range of people.
  • A high level of proficiency in Microsoft Excel and PowerPoint.
  • Ability to travel up to 33% of time as needs dictate.
  • Commitment to the foundation’s core values, mission and programs with an approach that is consistent with the foundation’s guiding principles while holding oneself to the highest ethical standards.

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.


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