Managing Director, Partnerships and Strategy

Job Description

IDEO.org has an opportunity for a Managing Director focused on partnerships and strategy to co-lead our growing Nairobi studio. As a leader of a dynamic, diverse, and multi-disciplinary team, you’ll develop the strategy for the organization in Sub-Saharan Africa, build and maintain partnerships, own the pipeline of new business for the studio, and guide projects and programs to ensure IDEO.org is maximizing our impact. In this role, you will serve on IDEO.org’s global leadership team and report directly to the CEO.

You will co-lead the Nairobi studio to develop, shape, and execute the organization’s strategy on the continent. You will be responsible for identifying opportunities, pursuing the right partners, bringing in compelling and impactful work, guiding our teams to deliver strategic and creative work, and maintaining key relationships. This will mean engaging with a broad set of players, including large-scale foundations, donor agencies, companies, NGOs, social enterprises, and grassroots organizations across Africa. You will co-lead IDEO.org’s global partnerships team, working alongside three Managing Directors based in the U.S.


IDEO.org’s Nairobi studio was launched three years ago and is still in start-up mode in many respects–as is IDEO.org itself. We’re looking for a leader who is excited to build and grow the team and our presence in the region in the coming years. Your leadership will be critical in building and maintaining the creative culture of the Nairobi studio, supporting talent recruitment, growth, and development, serving as a business lead and mentor to four-to-six employees, and guiding studio operations. You will partner closely with IDEO.org’s finance, operations, talent, and communications teams to ensure the studio is running efficiently and effectively on all counts.

You have a proven track record as a leader of teams, are skilled at building relationships internally and externally, love supporting the growth of others, and are excited to serve as a leader of a global organization. While you may not be a trained designer, you embrace creative processes and are eager to explore new ways of building solutions and changing systems in service of widespread social impact.

You will

Partnerships and Strategy:

  • Lead the development of the studio’s partnership strategy.
  • Hold accountability for filling the business pipeline of the Nairobi studio
  • Lead the four-person Nairobi-based partnerships team, at times leading proposal writing efforts, and at times supporting others to do the same.
  • Build IDEO.org’s external network to surface opportunities and create new value for IDEO.org and partners or potential collaborators.
  • Gain a deep understanding of and empathy for partners’ mission, business, and strategy in order to identify ways IDEO.org’s network can support them and proactively begin to connect them to resources.
  • Bridge partnership development and project launch and communicate critical information about the project/partner, like the scope, to position teams for success on a project.
  • Guide project teams to ensure the work is creative, strategic, impactful, and meets the needs of our partners. Serve as a design strategist on design projects and programs.
  • Support the stewardship of projects once they’ve been handed off from the design team back and look for opportunities for further engagement.
  • Collaborate with the Managing Director of Impact to continually improve the studio’s M&E frameworks and systems for collecting, analyzing, and reporting data.
    Talent and Operations:
  • With the other Managing Director, develop and operationalize annual goals for IDEO.org Nairobi.
  • Provide input into and/or lead IDEO.org’s initiatives around driving design excellence, including activities towards upskilling studio talent, guiding cross-cultural teams, etc.
  • Work with the other Managing Director and the Senior Talent and Operations Lead to define IDEO.org’s talent needs and talent acquisition plan.
  • Partner with the other Managing Director on studio leadership activities and decision-making (talent, operations, administration, and organizational planning).
  • Support the CFO & the other Managing Director in the development and analysis of annual budget and plan.
  • Work with the COO, the Senior Talent and Operations Lead, and ops team to ensure the studio has what it needs to be successful (e.g. physical studio space, technology, etc.), teams are operating safely and securely, and the studio and its policies are in compliance with local regulations.
    General Leadership:
  • Serve on IDEO.org’s eight-person global leadership team, participating in weekly meetings, leading organization-wide strategic initiatives, and tackling our biggest challenges and opportunities as they arise.
  • Directly manage the professional growth of 4 – 6 individuals within the organization
  • Provide empowering and empathetic mentorship, guidance, and support to members of the Nairobi studio.
    You have:
  • Significant work experience. An MBA degree or similar depth of experience, and 10+ years of professional experience
  • Great empathy and listening skills. You love spending time with people to understand their needs and are energized by supporting their growth and development.
  • Rigor. You develop incisive strategies and know how to help teams get to deeper levels of rigor in their work so their solutions will be more effective and resonant.
  • A great network. You have a strong network in the East Africa region and know who to connect with in order to advance IDEO.org’s work and impact.
  • Great communication skills. You have the ability to present to a boardroom, a small NGO, as well as the people we aim to serve. You have strong written communication skills.
  • Deep expertise. You have demonstrated expertise in one or more of the following topics: Women’s economic empowerment, digital financial services, agriculture, workforce development, humanitarian aid, and/or health.
  • Leadership skills. The people you’ve mentored are now great mentors themselves. You are excited about playing a global leadership role.
  • A love of design. You have an understanding of the value of human-centered design and can articulate how it can bring value to a particular challenge.
    IDEO.org Commitment to Diversity

At IDEO.org, we are committed to the work of advancing diversity, equity and inclusion within our organization and in the world. Our mission to design a more just and inclusive world is directly connected to our ability to bring many different perspectives to the table. This applies to our candidates, the people we hire, and the partners and communities we work with.

As a human-centered organization, we are committed to working with and designing for people of every race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, socio-economic status, physical ability or attribute, religion, national origin, or political belief. We recognize that this commitment requires ongoing work and sustained attention, as well as adaptation to new insights and best practices.


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About IDEO.org

At IDEO.org, we design products, services, and experiences to improve the lives of people in poor and vulnerable communities. We practice human-centered design, a creative approach to problem solving that starts with people and arrives at new solutions tailored to meet their lives. We've organized our work into four main programs, areas of deep focus that each offer a unique opportunity for design to improve lives at scale. IDEO.org is a non-profit design and innovation organization focused on solving challenges in poverty and spreading human-centered design through the social sector. Human-centered design enables organizations to create and deliver innovative solutions to pressing challenges that are rooted in the needs of people. IDEO.org works directly with organizations on projects using the human-centered design process across a wide range of focus areas related to poverty, including health, financial services, gender equity, water and sanitation.2011