Program Director - Mercy Corps, Northeast China

Closing date:  24 Dec 2011


Mercy Corps has maintained an operational presence in Yanji City, Jilin Province, China since 1998 and has been implementing a humanitarian and developmental relief program there for the past four years. Program activities include educational programming support, microfinance lending, the provision of food, shelter and medical care to identified vulnerable populations, community health training in partnership with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Yanbian University School of Nursing, job and skills training. Projects are implemented in cooperation with local partners, with funding coming from a variety of multilateral and private donors.


The Program Director is expected to oversee project development, implementation, monitoring and documentation in the field and to coordinate the flow of information between Mercy Corps headquarters and the Yanji program field office. Specific responsibilities include managing humanitarian assistance, the PATRA microfinance program, and community health training in all aspects of the operations. The Program Director is also expected to regularly report to the Regional Program Director and the management team in program development, grants management, project evaluation, personnel and staff development, and other administrative duties. At this time the Yanji program is not integrated with the MC China operations/management structure.


Work with the Deputy Program Director and project staff to implement relief and development assistance projects that meet key humanitarian and developmental needs, utilize local capacity, and support overall program goals.

Collaborate with the Deputy Program Director and relevant Mercy Corps headquarters staff in the design and implementation of training activities for local staff to enhance the impact of projects and build local capacity.

Oversee the Deputy Program Director who manages the PATRA programs in Hunchun and Yanji in all aspects, including program planning, day to day management, proposal writing, budgeting, reporting to Mercy Corps and donors, staff management/training.

Explore new opportunities for expanded humanitarian assistance, economic development, and training projects and prepare proposals in response to the opportunities in consultation with Mercy Corps HQ. Develop other program activities as circumstances allow including proposal preparation, input in to strategy and direction of programs.

Develop and modify existing systems in overall management of grant process, grants review, grants tracking and monitoring, donor reporting and follow-up.

Prepare and submit regular donor and Mercy Corps Board reports; track project expenditures and liaise regularly with China-based Admin/Finance Manager and Portland-based Regional Finance Officer.

Assess the capacity and resources of local organizations and communities to deliver relief and development assistance for unmet needs.

Provide one on one troubleshooting support to local partners and staff to ensure good project design, implementation, and monitoring and evaluation.

Recruit, train, manage and assist in the identification & implementation of staff development plans and evaluate program staff.

Oversee the Deputy Program Director who manages field programs and communicate regularly with headquarters.

Oversee program budgets and ensure that proper project, administrative and financial management systems are in place and correctly utilized.

Liaise with other members of Mercy Corps' projects and offices in China, North Korea, and East Asia.

Conduct himself/herself both professionally and personally in such a manner as to bring credit to Mercy Corps and to not jeopardize its humanitarian mission in China/North Korea.

The Program Director serves as the Chairman of the Board for the PATRA microfinance organization and serves in a variety of advisory positions to various program operations.

Other duties as required.

Organizational Learning

As part of our commitment to organizational learning and in support of our understanding that learning organizations are more effective, efficient and relevant to the communities they serve - we expect all team members to commit 5% of their time to learning activities that benefit Mercy Corps as well as themselves.

Accountability to Beneficiaries

Mercy Corps team members are expected to support all efforts towards accountability, specifically to our beneficiaries and to international standards guiding international relief and development work, while actively engaging beneficiary communities as equal partners in the design, monitoring and evaluation of our field projects.


BA/S in Administration, Management, International Development or relevant field required; MA/S in a relevant field and three years of program experience in economic development and/or humanitarian relief preferred

Seven years experience working on multi-sectoral relief and development programs, including humanitarian assistance, economic development, and capacity building

Proven success implementing programs in an international setting

Fives years of international experience with an NGO, international organization or donor agency is preferred

Proven experience operating in complex and rapidly changing security environments

Familiarity with grants management

Solid understanding of compliance with UN, US and other donor rules and regulations 

Proven verbal and written English, multi-tasking, organizational and prioritization skillsDemonstrated attention to detail, ability to follow procedures, meet deadlines and work independently and cooperatively with team members

Strong commitment to participatory decision-making and staff development

Experience living and traveling under difficult conditions

Experience working in China, Korea or another East Asian nation is highly preferred

Working-level knowledge of Korean and English is required; Mandarin Chinese is preferred


The successful Program Director will display an entrepreneurial spirit that is both creative and flexible, and will understand how to work closely with the Senior Staff and represent Mercy Corps at Yanji. S/he will combine strong communication skills, creativity, initiative, participatory leadership and tactful decisiveness to manage in the development and implementation of Mercy Corps Yanji's broader program strategy. Multi-tasking, prioritizing, problem solving and simultaneous attention to detail and strategic vision are essential. An understanding of the current political, economic, cultural and historical context of the region is vital. S/he must possess the ability to work effectively with a large variety of people who will be diverse culturally, economically and politically. S/he must be sensitive to political and cultural nuances.

The successful Program Director will display a commitment to the Mercy Corps mission and values, and will work to enhance and protect the reputation of the organization throughout the region and within the international development and donor communities. The most successful Mercy Corps staff members have a strong commitment to teamwork and accountability, and make effective written and verbal communication a priority in all situations.

SUPERVISORY RESPONSIBILITY: Deputy Program Director, Humanitarian Affairs Program Officer, Monitoring and Evaluation Program Officer, Finance Officer and the remaining national staff


REPORTS DIRECTLY TO: Regional Program Director and the Program Director at Mercy Corps Headquarters

WORKS DIRECTLY WITH: Yanji based Deputy Program Director, Program Manager and M&E Manager, Administrative/Finance Manager, PATRA management & staff, the Portland based Program Director & Regional Finance Officer, Security Advisor, and Johns Hopkins consultants.

The population of Yanji is approximately 400,000, which would make it a relatively small city by Chinese standards. Yanji is located about an hour's drive from the North Korean border, in upper northeast China. The city serves as the capital of the Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture, an ethnic minority region within Jilin Province, and roughly 50 percent of Yanji's population is of ethnic Korean descent. As such, official and commercial signs throughout the city are almost always written in both the Chinese and Korean languages and Korean serves as an official language within the prefecture.

Yanji is a fairly developed city with access to most modern amenities. However, it does not offer many of the "comforts" that may be found in much larger cities in the region such as Harbin, Shenyang, Beijing, Shanghai, etc. The cost of living in Yanji is quite low compared to US standards and one can get by on a very minimal monthly budget.

Entertainment/recreation options include bike riding, swimming, pool/billiards, bowling, hiking in nearby mountains, restaurants, pubs, karaoke rooms and saunas. As coal remains the primary source of energy, Yanji is relatively polluted, especially in the winter, when many of the older homes burn charcoal.

Yanji has four seasons, with a climate comparable to that of an upper mid-west state in the US, such as Minnesota or Wisconsin. The first snow usually falls sometime in November, with snow often lasting into early April. Spring and fall are quite temperate and usually considered to be the most comfortable seasons. Summer is warm, not oppressively hot, but can become quite humid during the rainy season, which lasts from late July through August.

Taxi and bus transportation to and from the office and throughout Yanji city is convenient and very inexpensive. Taxi rates are either 5.00 Chinese RMB or 10.00 RMB, depending on your destination within the city limits, and bus fares are usually around 1 RMB (US$1 = 6.50 RMB).

Expatriate housing will be provided in the form of an apartment. Apartment has modern amenities, including heat, hot water, gas range, television, washing machine, etc. Housekeeping services can be obtained at a very minimal monthly cost, to be paid by employee (average monthly cost is approximately US$40).

Mercy Corps Team members represent the agency both during and outside of work hours when deployed in a field posting or on a visit/TDY to a field posting. Team members are expected to conduct themselves in a professional manner and respect local laws, customs and MC's policies, procedures, and values at all times and in all in-country venues.