Director, Economic Programs, Program Specialists Group

Location: Asia, TBD
Program area: Economic Opportunity
Deadline: March 1, 2021

While Asia is expected to drive global economic growth in the coming decades, sweeping structural changes are transforming globalization and conventional trade and manufacturing practices that were central to Asia’s earlier growth, with significant implications for the region’s future competitiveness and inclusive development. As the Fourth Industrial Revolution takes deeper hold in Asia, development is increasingly driven by rapid advances in new technologies that are becoming cheaper and more efficient and by expansion of the open or “gig” economy—leaving many workers in traditional services sectors vulnerable to redundancy and job loss. At the same time, Asia’s economic growth and affluence co-exist with persistent inequalities that leave women and other vulnerable populations struggling to escape from poverty and violence. A sharper focus on the Future of Work calls for a range of STEM, vocational, digital literacy, and broader educational reforms to expand opportunities more equitably and ensure that Asia’s future work force is equipped for an increasingly knowledge-based global economy. At the same time, most Asian countries are failing in their efforts to balance economic development with climate action and environmental sustainability, with a growing understanding that conventional approaches to economic growth lie at the heart of the global environmental crisis. Adding to the complexity, several countries have reached, or will soon reach, Advanced Middle-Income Country (AMIC) status (roughly $4,000 to $20,000 GNI per capita), with attendant risks of stagnating growth, rising inequities, and political instability. Sustaining progress in AMICs requires a shift to higher value-added industries and innovation-driven growth, which in turn requires bold and often politically difficult new investments and policy measures in governance, infrastructure, education, work force development, low-carbon energy, green growth, and other areas.

The Asia Foundation’s Economic Programs focus on current and emerging issues that will most affect Asia’s future economic growth, forging synergies with its work on governance, women’s empowerment and gender equality, technology, environment and climate action, and education. The Foundation has begun to explore new platforms and approaches through which to forge new relationships with the private sector, including corporate engagement, promotion of social enterprises, impact investing, and shared value creation. To lead these critical efforts, the Foundation seeks a director for Economic Programs who brings energy, experience, inspired vision, and network connections in addressing issues and opportunities that are most critical to Asia’s inclusive economic growth.


The director, Economic Programs provides technical support and intellectual leadership in country-focused and regional program design, implementation, review, and refinement, in collaboration with country offices and other program units; helps to raise public and private funds for economic programs; catalyzes the exchange of ideas and information on economic issues and trends within the Foundation; facilitates opportunities for the Foundation to engage with, influence, and benefit from the broader community of development actors; and leads Foundation programs in new directions that address emerging issues through innovative economic and multisectoral programs and approaches. Areas of focus include competitive and resilient workforce development through education reforms, STEM, digital literacy, and other initiatives; micro, small and medium enterprise development and business start-up facilitation; promotion of women’s economic empowerment through education, employment opportunities, and entrepreneurship; sustainable infrastructure development; clean energy and green growth; and exploration of Fintech, data for development, and other emerging fields.

The director regularly engages with governments, partner organizations, current and prospective donors, diplomatic missions, national and international institutions, academic specialists and think tanks, and the media. S/he plays a prominent thought leadership role through publications, public speaking, conference participation, mentoring colleagues through communities of practice and in-house training, and other contributions. As a member of the Program Specialists Group, s/he joins fellow program directors and their teams in pursuing more rigorous cross-thematic discourse, collaboration, and other coordinated efforts to enhance the quality of Foundation programming, including the interface of inclusive economic growth, governance, women’s economic empowerment and gender, environment and climate action, and technology.


  • The director reports to the managing director for the Program Specialists Group. S/he supervises long and short-term consultant technical specialists, and works in close collaboration with country offices, other program directors and their teams, and counterparts in the Foundation’s public and private sector fundraising units. Regular contact with country representatives and deputy country representatives, field-based program staff, and technical specialists. Regular contact with the Foundation’s president, senior vice president for Programs, and other vice presidents and periodic engagement with members of the Board of Trustees.
  • Frequent contact with headquarters and field-based counterparts in key donor and diplomatic agencies (including FCDO, Australian DFAT, the U.S. Department of State, USAID, Global Affairs Canada, the European Union, the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, and UN agencies), local partner organizations, academics institutions, research organizations and think tanks, and specialists in the field of economic development. Periodic contact with Asian government officials, diplomatic officials, and print and broadcast and social media professionals.


Required Experience: At least 10 years of professional experience of increasing responsibility in international development programs (or relevant policy or academic experience) focused on economic development, with an emphasis on 4IR, Future of Work, inclusive and sustainable livelihoods, public sector governance and reforms, promoting public-private partnerships, green growth, and/or other relevant program areas. Proven experience in managing projects and research by multisectoral teams in a matrix institutional structure. Knowledge of and experience in working on programs across Asia’s diverse economies. Established networks with prominent multilateral, academic, civil society, and other respected institutions and innovators in the region. Extensive experience in program design, implementation, and review, informed by robust political economy, gender equality and social inclusion, and policy analysis. Proven track record in proposal writing and successful fundraising with public sector development agencies and private donors. Proven capacity to work cross-sectorally and beyond conventional program categories.

Preferred Experience: Professional experience in one or more Asian countries or sub-regions. Language proficiency in at least one Asian language an asset.

Skills: Proven ability to link strong, data-driven analytical approaches and understanding with practical, on-the-ground programming. Strong team building, representational, and problem-solving skills. Demonstrated experience managing multi-disciplinary teams; excellent verbal and written communication skills, including public speaking experience; and proven interpersonal and intercultural skills and sensitivity.

Other: Readiness to undertake extensive travel in Asia when the Covid-19 situation permits (including periodic missions to countries that may be experiencing political tensions and security challenges) and occasional visits to Washington, D.C, Canberra, London, and other donor capitals.

Education: Master’s or doctoral degree or equivalent in Economics, Development Economics, or related field.


Supporting country and regional programs and cooperating with other program teams

  • Coordinate technical support to country programs for the design and development, review, and refinement of economic programs.
  • Work in close cooperation with other program teams in developing and advancing integrated approaches to issues and opportunities whose solution or response lies at the interface of economics, governance, women’s empowerment and gender, environment and climate impact, and technology.

Resource mobilization

  • Lead fundraising efforts spanning public and private donors, in coordination with country offices, other program units, and the Public Sector Development Services and Resource Development units.

Manage Economic Program-led regional programs

  • Manage Economic Program-led or coordinated program activities with a regional or multi-country focus, with responsibility for delivering effective program results, meeting donor reporting requirements, financial management and oversight, and other commitments specified in funding agreements.

Thought leadership

  • Expand the Foundation’s role and profile as a thought leader on economic development in the Asia-Pacific region by leading engagement with different external audiences through research and writing, conference participation, public speaking, design and testing of innovative program tools and approaches, and engaging donors in dialogue on emerging issues and program opportunities.

Mentoring program staff and raising country program capacity

  • Engage and build the economic program capacity of a community of practitioners from across the Foundation’s offices; enhance program staff capacity and confidence in economic programming; share relevant literature; and convene periodic virtual and in-person gatherings of program staff to share experience and refine program activities and approaches through training and shared learning.
Apply now

The Foundation offers excellent benefits and salary commensurate with experience. The Asia Foundation is an equal opportunity employer. Women and people of color are encouraged to apply.

No phone calls please.


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