Re-advertising: Project Specialist – SDG Hotspots Accelerator Initiative (Those who already applied need not re-apply)


The Decentralization policy was developed following the 1998 Local Government Act, however the implementation of decentralization has been challenging. Up to now, the devolution is not fully implemented, planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation at national and district levels has not been harmonized and the capacity of the district councils to involve communities in planning or to deliver services is challenged. Local councils have governance structures established by the Decentralization policy as hierarchical decision making (policy making) structures. The stakeholders interviewed for the government’s Integrated Rural Development Strategy strongly agreed that institutionalization and implementation of decentralization is key to making rural development interventions sustainable, promoting self-reliance and social justice through quality participation. The effectiveness of the district commissioner as the head of all the sectors in his/her district is hampered by a dual reporting system that allows sectors to report to their sectoral ministries, leaving the DC with limited opportunity to effectively coordinate.

Due to the lack of harmonization of development planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation at national and district level, national development plans have been formulated every five years with an M&E Plan, whereas the district development plans have been formulated at different times, with different M&E Plans. This has negatively affected the mobilization and accountability of resources and results. The 2017-2022 Malawi Growth and Development Strategy III has fully integrated the Sustainable Development Goals, but so far, the process of aligning district development plans to SDGs has only been completed in few districts. Without external funding, most districts are struggling to have district development plans based on Village Action Plans, as this makes the process costly and time-consuming. The alignment of available resources to priority areas also seems to be problematic in the face of patrimonial politics that results in politically induced projects in some cases.

Local councils are mandated by the local government act to effectively deliver services in their areas of jurisdiction. However, the local councils face challenges to function to the satisfaction of citizens mainly due to the limited availability of qualified staff and financial resources. They are unable to provide the required infrastructure, education, communication, transport, health, markets, roads and electricity that their populations are demanding, and there is little data available to help the councils priorities the interventions that have the most impact or to conduct effective, targeted resource mobilisation to attract partners to support the delivery of local development.

Weak coordination remains a challenge both nationally and locally. Line ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) struggle to coordinate sectoral programmes. Even with sector working groups (SWGs) coordination has remained a major challenge in development programmes in Malawi. Sectors implement projects, instead of letting District Councils implement, on the basis that District Councils have limited capacity. While there are Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Councils and NGOs in some districts, there is no national guidance to facilitate effective implementation of such MoUs by MoLGRD, resulting in duplication and fragmentation of rural development programmes.

As can be seen from the above, a key development challenge for decentralized multi-sector and multi-level service delivery in rural Malawi are weak implementation capabilities on the ground. Multiple, diverse actors including the private sector, NGOs, faith-based organizations, traditional structures and community-based organizations play an important role in the delivery of services at district and community levels in Malawi. However, often the providers and the services they offer are unknown to the relevant ministries, local authorities and stakeholders. The services do not always conform to government standards and systems, and they are rarely well integrated within government structures. The provision of services depends on available projects and funding, resulting in services on offer to beneficiaries being unpredictable and unsustainable. Further, the provision of quality services is often hampered by limited mobility, poor infrastructure, lack of equipment, lack of qualified human resources, weak management and weak coordination.

Past experiences with top-down planning, integrated development projects, inconsistent data availability, weak execution and/or weak financial sustainability suggest that effective service delivery depends on closing the implementation gap at the village, area and district level. In recent years, tailored approaches to multi-sectoral and multi-level service delivery have tackled the implementation gap in a number of LDC and middle-income countries. Brazil, Mexico, Chile, Colombia and Ecuador — and more recently, Honduras and the Dominican Republic — provide examples of management systems that make use of real-time data, administrative registries and digital platform to accelerate progress on the SDGs. To address some of the key challenges faced by the districts in Malawi, with the aim of strengthening the district councils to be able to lead, plan, coordinate, implement and monitor service delivery, the project has identified some potential drivers of change. The Hotspot approach will focus on strengthening the leadership and coordination role of district council, equipping and capacitating them to take charge of the local development process and make the most out of the resources available.

The hotspots approach addresses the implementation gap by merging an integrated management tool designed to help decentralized implementation of services across social, economic and environmental sectors, into Malawi’s District Development Planning and Budgeting processes. At its core, the hotspots approach involves: (a) a real-time data dashboard collected from household and service providers — that digitalizes and geo-references both well-being indicators and service indicators — allowing policymakers and citizens to measure progress and identify health, nutrition, education, employment, resilience, capacity and other bottlenecks as services are delivered, and (b) a multi-stakeholder platform led by local planning authorities, using evidence to target services to those in most need, build resilience to shocks, and accelerate coordinated critical mass interventions across villages, areas and districts – including line/sector ministries and all other partners on the ground.

UNDP and Ministry of Local Government is currently designing a hotspot dashboard to roll out the hotspot approach for a few districts. It is against this background that UNDP requires the services of a Project Specialist for the Hotspots Approach. This position is located in the UNDP Malawi Country Office. Under the general supervision of the Portfolio Manager, the incumbent will be responsible for leading the daily implementation of the Hotspots project components.

Duties and Responsibilities

Implementation and Project Management:

Provision of management and technical advice for the implementation of Hotspots focusing on achievement of the following results:

Manage the day to day work of the Hotspots team to successfully deliver activities

In consultation with the Hotspots team, prepare project implementation activities and implementing partners such as government institutions, service providers, and NGOs.

Provide technical inputs for the effective implementation of Hotspots through developing work plans, objectives, and plans for monitoring and evaluation of the process, and resolving all challenges that arise in the process.

Work with the Country Office in the implementation and monitoring of Hotspots, ensuring participation and coordination with relevant CO units and making use of available information on government and donor priorities for decentralization.

Work with other UN agencies and central/local counterparts to support the implementation of Hotspots. Support the use of existing information management systems and databases to implement, monitor and evaluate the roll out of Hotspots at the field level.

Ensure the Hotspots approach incorporates international best practices and principles, with an eye towards ensuring adherence to international principles of integrity.

Identify risks and challenges to the ongoing operations of Hotspots and provide advise the portfolio manager on mitigation strategies.

Undertake analytics to assess bids and proposals for the selection of implementing partners within the UNDP contractual framework for project activity implementation when required.

Design scope of works and TORs for bids and call for proposals.

Advise UNDP portfolio managers on progress and, where relevant, additional needs in relation to the project implementation and follow up activities.

Provision of programme support for the implementation of Hotspots, focusing on the following actions and achievement of the following results:

Provide support for monitoring the overall progress and performance of Hotspots by ensuring proper planning, benchmarking and target setting (substantively and financially).

Continuously assess the implementation of Hotspots though field visits and monitoring missions.

Support the preparation of work plans, monitoring, and reporting on project achievements.

Ensure accurate and timely reporting on the progress of Hotspots with a specific focus on the activities and funds utilized. Ensure that reports are provided to donors according to UNDP’s contractual obligations

Building strategic partnerships and implementation of the resource mobilization strategy of the Hotspots portfolio and the CO focusing on achievement of the following results:

Identify areas of cooperation and coordination with other UN Agencies for the implementation of Hotspots.

Participate and contribute to UNDP global practice, incl. by providing inputs to networks and participating to thematically relevant meetings.

Identify opportunities to expand Hotspots

Undertake resource mobilization and partnership building

Prepare donor briefings

Knowledge Management and Communications:

In consultation with the Hotspots team and UNDP Communications, distil lessons learned and best practices and share them with the UNDP Country Office, the UNCT, the UNDP global network.

Facilitate participation of stakeholders in regional and global best practice meetings on decentralized governance and service delivery

Map and analyze current and emerging support and lessons learned on decentralized mapping and service delivery.

Support the formulation of a communications strategy to raise awareness of Hotspots performance and to showcase project results and awareness to key stakeholders at district, national, and international levels.

Support knowledge exchange, through south-south cooperation and other means, as part of the knowledge management strategy for the project.

Stay abreast of emerging issues and innovations in e-governance, alternative finance mechanisms and contribute to the development and maintenance of the project knowledge networks and in the development of knowledge products.


Core Competencies


Ability to make new and useful ideas work

Creates new and relevant ideas and leads others to implement them


Ability to persuade others to follow

Plans and acts transparently, actively works to remove barriers

People Management

Ability to improve performance and satisfaction

Models high professional standards and motivates excellence in others


Ability to listen, adapt, persuade and transform

Gains trust of peers, partners, clients by presenting complex concepts in practical terms to others


Ability to get things done while exercising good judgement

Critically assesses value and relevance of existing policy / practice and contributes to enhanced delivery of products, services, and innovative solutions

Functional Competencies


Ability to try out / test new ways of engagement and communications. Openness to different and new ways of doing things; willingness to modify one’s preferred way of doing things

Originate: Catalyzes new ideas, methods, and applications to pave a path for innovation and continuous improvement in professional area of expertise

Strategic thinking/Visioning

Ability to analyse the organization’s value proposition and shape visionary/long term plans. Use insight to identify target audiences and partners and to inform communication objectives, messages and solutions.

Originate: Catalyzes new ideas, methods, and applications to pave a path for innovation and continuous improvement in professional area of expertise

Collaboration and Partnership

Ability to develop, maintain, and strengthen partnerships with others inside (Programmes/projects) or outside the organization who can provide information, assistance, and support. Sets overall direction for the formation and management of strategic relationships contributing to the overall positioning of UNDP

Originate: Catalyzes new ideas, methods, and applications to pave a path for innovation and continuous improvement in professional area of expertise

Required Skills and Experience

Master’s-level degree or equivalent

At least 5 years of relevant experience in civil society and/or democratic governance-based work

Demonstrated ability to prepare project proposals and administer budgets/resources/people.

5 or more years of experience within an International organization, preferably UN, working on governance and project management issues.

Demonstrated ability to work on development projects.

Knowledgeable of democratic and participatory governance issues and approaches in development countries.

Experience working in a developing country (other than one’s own) in a developmental capacity.

Experience and knowledge of UN financial, human resources, procurement, management and general operations policies, an asset.

Experience working in a multi-cultural and/or international work environment

Fluency in English essential

Knowledge of other UN official languages an asset.


Important information for US Permanent Residents (‘Green Card’ holders)

Under US immigration law, acceptance of a staff position with UNDP, an international organization, may have significant implications for US Permanent Residents. UNDP advises applicants for all professional level posts that they must relinquish their US Permanent Resident status and accept a G-4 visa, or have submitted a valid application for US citizenship prior to commencement of employment.

UNDP is not in a position to provide advice or assistance on applying for US citizenship and therefore applicants are advised to seek the advice of competent immigration lawyers regarding any applications.

Applicant information about UNDP rosters

Note: UNDP reserves the right to select one or more candidates from this vacancy announcement. We may also retain applications and consider candidates applying to this post for other similar positions with UNDP at the same grade level and with similar job description, experience and educational requirements.

Workforce diversity

UNDP is committed to achieving diversity within its workforce, and encourages all qualified applicants, irrespective of gender, nationality, disabilities, sexual orientation, culture, religious and ethnic backgrounds to apply. All applications will be treated in the strictest confidence.

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