Digital Risk Research Consultant (Messaging Apps)

NGO Jobs / UN Jobs Vacancy

Organization: UN High Commissioner for Refugees
Closing date: 1 Dec 2020

Project Title: Digital risk analysis of engaging with refugees through messaging apps

Organisation: UNHCR

Job Title: Digital Risk Research Consultant

Duty Station: Home Based Consultant

Duration: ASAP - 31st December 2020 with likely extension

Contract Type: Consultancy

Closing date: 1st December


Never has Accountability to Affected People been more important in light of the COVID-19 pandemic; a wealth of evidence points to the importance of systematic, meaningful community engagement in communication of risks, prevention and treatment during outbreaks. Furthermore, physical distancing requires UNHCR to draw on its adaptive capabilities, leverage diverse channels of communication and rapidly scale emerging practices if the organization - and its partners - is to maintain its proximity with forcibly displaced populations during this time.

Assessments indicate that one of the most commonly used digital communication channels used by Refugees is messaging apps. Many UNHCR operations use messaging apps to directly communicate with refugees, either through ad-hoc groups, broadcast lists, business apps, or through more structured ‘Trees’. Feedback from UNHCR colleagues - and refugees - indicate that these channels can be challenging to maintain, particularly in low-resource settings. The specific nature of social media, in terms of the variety and velocity of information being shared and the expectations for ‘immediacy’ of response, requires UNHCR to explore possible solutions to ensure the organization can most effectively use these channels to engage with Persons of Concern. Finally, use of messaging apps does not come without risks. The data captured, processed and transferred by such applications is extremely sensitive and needs to be managed with due safeguards unique to each application of the technology. Furthermore attention needs to be paid to other dimensions of digital risk, also beyond the sphere of data protection.

Organizational context:

UNHCR’s Innovation Service has aimed to enhance the agency’s approach to utilising messaging apps through developing learning, based on field research and practical implementation of pilot projects that utilise messaging apps. Specifically as a protection organisation with a robust Data Protection Policy, UNHCR includes aspects relating to digital risk and data protection as key components to any initiative in this space. This builds off key analyses relating to such humanitarian interventions including the ICRC’s ‘The Humanitarian Metadata Problem’ report and ‘Humanitarian Futures for Messaging apps’, to which UNHCR contributed, and also UNHCR’s own reports, such as Connecting with Confidence (final report forthcoming).

In this context, the Innovation Service has developed a pilot that puts data protection considerations at the fore alongside other dimensions of digital risk management to see how the agency could engage with communities through their preferred channels, but with an approach and application that maintains the highest standards of protection of personal data.

While internal assessments are promising, the Innovation Service is looking to bring on board a consultant to both draw together existing practice on use of messaging apps within UNHCR and processes to assess and mitigate digital risks of their use. The consultant will assess the pilot project from a digital risk and data protection perspective to ascertain shortcomings, opportunities for strengthening approaches and provide broader recommendations on the use of messaging apps for the organisation moving forward. This research will complement user testing taking place at country level, which looks at real and perceived risks relating to use of messaging apps.

Duties and Responsibilities:

  • Consultation with select UNHCR operations (number to be determined but ensuring regional diversity) using or considering using messaging apps to engage with communities, with a focus on safety and security concerns of utilising such platforms

  • Reviewing pilot documentation to assess the process through and extent to which digital risks and data protection considerations have been assessed and addressed through design and implementation phases

  • Interview key HQ and regional stakeholders involved in the pilot project across Data Protection, Digital Engagement, Innovation and Operations functions

  • Select country level consultation with UNHCR field teams delivering the pilots, with potential engagement with community members utilising the services (circumstance dependent)

Core Deliverables:

  • Desk review report on the application of messaging apps by UNHCR, building off existing internal and external guidance, with a focus on digital risk

  • Digital Risk Report on the Innovation Service Pilot project for engaging communities through WhatsApp

  • Recommendations note

Qualifications and Professional Experience Required:


  • University level qualifications Bachelor's (essential) or Master’s degree (desired) in a relevant area including but not limited to international relations, technology policy, refugee or humanitarian law, data protection

Job Experience

  • Minimum 7 years experience in issues relating to human rights and technology, data protection, humanitarian protection, data ethics, digital risk etc.

  • Demonstrated experience in undertaking research projects similar in nature and level of complexity.

  • Operational experience in community engagement / accountability to affected people, with a focus on digital channels

  • Experience in undertaking operational activity to address issues of digital risk or data protection in community-facing projects an advantage

  • Experience working for a UN agency or international organization, with a focus on aid and development issues

  • Knowledge of humanitarian intervention as it pertains to refugees, migrants, and other displaced populations is an advantage.

  • Previous experience with undertaking Data Protection Impact Assessments an advantage


  • Fluency in English (required) and Spanish (an advantage)


  • Highly organized and autonomous, able to multitask and prioritize workload when necessary.

  • Excellent writing and documentation skills, demonstrating high levels of attention to detail.

  • Strong time management skills, including the ability to work quickly and to meet deadlines.

  • Ability to work as a team, including remotely.

  • Strong interpersonal and communication skills, including across cultural contexts.

  • 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 database managers.


The consultant will be home based. S/he will have frequent interaction with UNHCR Innovation Service´s colleagues working under the Digital Access, Inclusion and Participation initiative based at the Regional Bureaux in Nairobi and Panama.

How to apply:

Interested applicants should submit their letter of motivation and Personal History Form (PHF) to indicating ‘Digital Risk Research Consultant’ in the subject of the email.

Personal History Forms are available at PHF Form / Supplementary Sheet.

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.

Applications must be received by 23:59 CET on 1st December 2020 to be considered

Apply to Job


Popular posts from this blog

Escuintla Associate, Guatemala

Consultant - Business & Financial Management of SMEs

Consultant - Market System Development & Value Chain Development