GSG began as Gaza’s first startup accelerator, launched by Mercy Corps and Google.org in 2011 and based on the premise that Gaza’s high-speed fiber internet could allow its people to compete in the global digital economy. Since then, GSG has grown and diversified into Palestine’s leading provider of co-working and tech community spaces, pre-seed tech startup acceleration, coding education, and other digital skills training. Today, GSG runs three coworking and tech education spaces across Gaza and the West Bank with over 10,000 community members who participate in training or events annually, of whom nearly 50% are women. Our alumni have earned or raised millions of dollars in revenue and investment thanks to GSG’s support, helping thousands of families survive and thrive. GSG is a vibrant, inspiring community of Palestinians eager to share their skills with each other and the world. This inclusive, peer-led education community is one of GSG’s most valuable assets.
GSG is now at a critical inflection point, poised for significant scale, higher impact, and increased sustainability over the next five years. It also will reassess its status as a program within Mercy Corps and explore opportunities to create new entities and spin-offs to enable commercial viability.
As the Gaza Sky Geeks Director, you will be the equivalent of a startup chief executive but in one of the most complex emerging markets in the world and within the global Mercy Corps family. You will run coworking spaces and educational programming in our physical hubs, as well as virtually, to launch startups, train software developers and freelancers, and lead a nascent yet collaborative tech sector across all of Palestine that creates well-paying, stable jobs. You will be setting precedents and shining a light on untapped possibilities for tech to level the economic playing field in frontier markets.
You will set long-term strategy for social and commercial objectives, raise capital and generate revenue to support those objectives, and cultivate/recruit top talent to help you do so. You will inherit and continue to build an amazing network of tech and policy leaders who will support you in those objectives. Likewise, you will be the leading voice, ambassador, and role model for an entire national tech ecosystem, influencing policy through inspiring speeches and commentary in global media.
You will lead a team of 50+ young and passionate team members for whom GSG is their home, not just a job– one of the greatest privileges of this role will be coaching this team to maximize their potential and propel GSG to be the best– and most diverse– tech and startup education provider in the Middle East. GSG is proud to be one of the most gender inclusive tech communities globally and you will champion diversity in all forms as GSG grows.
You will also lead GSG’s strategic development, including leveraging some of the region’s best educational and startup acceleration content, products and services for new opportunities, exploring geographic expansion within and beyond Palestine, and shifting to a more commercial model for some GSG activities.
- Building and maintaining a network of tech, government, and global influencers: GSG has survived a decade and thrived in no small part because of our influential friends and network of volunteer mentors. From Google and other major tech company executives, to foreign dignitaries and senior government officials, to the World Economic Forum and UN, to some of the most successful startup founders, investors, and corporate executives from Silicon Valley to Europe to Dubai, you are the connective tissue to all of them and their various abilities to influence change in Palestine and the region.
- Fundraising and revenue generation— for most of GSG’s life, the Director has been the driving force behind raising funds to keep GSG going. While a part of Mercy Corps, GSG’s ongoing operations are contingent on GSG’s leadership continuing to generate revenue through grants or commercial means. This starts with setting GSG’s overall strategy for growth and impact and translating that into revenue/grant generation. Mercy Corps’ headquarters and other departments are there to support you in fundraising, but the buck literally stops with you. To that end, your network of high net worth individuals, corporates, foundations, diplomatic missions, and development finance agencies, will be critical to GSG’s next phase of growth. Writing proposals and designing programming that fits our strategic objectives and is appealing to major donors is essential. GSG is as stable as it has ever been with several years of runway, but you will begin to drive the next multi-million dollar round of major GSG fundraising and revenue generation efforts beginning in 2021 that should carry GSG forward for another 3-5 years.
- Growing recurring sources of commercial revenue. You will be in charge of not only winning grants, but winning customers. GSG has leveraged our donor subsidies to create tech education content, products, and services for Palestinians and international companies looking to hire tech talent. We also run fee-based coworking and event spaces in Palestine. With the team, you will set GSG up with the proper backend infrastructure, automation tools, sales and marketing talent, and client success teams to continue GSG’s evolution from a donor-funded initiative to a self-sustaining entity that relies on predictable commercial revenue streams for its longevity.
- Being a spokesperson and convener at the forefront of Palestine’s growing technology and entrepreneurship ecosystem— your voice and leadership will influence national policy on education, commerce, finance, and Palestine’s innovation economy. Palestine is a relatively small place at the center of a lot of global attention and GSG gives you a megaphone. There is strong international media interest in how GSG and Palestine’s tech economy overcomes occupation and physical barriers and thus you and your team should be comfortable handling for media inquiries from outlets like TechCrunch, CNN, BBC, the Financial Times, AlJazeera, The Guardian, and the New York Times.
- Maintaining and supporting a team that is truly unique for Gaza and Palestine in its progressiveness, inclusivity, openness, embrace of critical reasoning and questioning at all levels, relatively little hierarchy, and— most uniquely— strong familial and social culture that brings the warmest and best of Palestine to work each day. One of the things GSG team members love is that they feel their voices are heard and understood by leadership. You will create and iterate on effective management structures and reporting lines (you will inherit a growing team that is already 50+ members) but understand that being a super active, curious listener with an open door policy is key to role modeling good modern management practice and effective leadership/coaching for GSG’s future managers on how to provide excellent programs and community spaces. Even after a long day of calls with Silicon Valley or the World Bank or judging a hackathon in Gaza, you will make time to walk with your team a few blocks to the shores of the Mediterranean Sea to chat with your colleagues.
- Driving the ongoing geographic expansion of GSG’s educational programs, in person and virtually, to new cities across Palestine and the Middle East while creatively overcoming movement restrictions imposed by the military, pandemics, and other unpredictable but inevitable challenges. At this moment, GSG is piloting its work for the first time outside of Palestine and there is strong internal momentum and empirical evidence to merit building GSG into a best-in-class tech education and startup support organization for the entire Middle East. GSG has been the first accelerator in Palestine, first code academy in Palestine, first to attain gender parity in a tech community in the Middle East (and maybe even globally), and first of many other things. As GSG grows, you will be the first again in many new initiatives or geographies. There is little precedent and few roadmaps to follow, and so as you lead you also are making a roadmap by iterating, documenting, and building an evidence base on what works and what doesn’t.
- Serving as a “role model in chief” inside GSG and Palestine, just as you are an external ambassador to the world for Palestine’s nascent tech industry. Every day you exemplify the highest international standards of excellence in management, communication, human-centered program design, and care of our community— from GSG’s staff, to our thousands of community members, to ecosystem players, your every move will be observed closely and should demonstrate to others how to conduct international business with the highest ethical standards and attention to detail, how to think critically and creatively, and promote autonomy, confidence, reasonable risk taking to promote an innovation economy here.
- Flexing your diplomatic and foreign affairs savvy as a leader of an apolitical, economic growth project that can only operate day to day with support from governing authorities in Gaza, the West Bank, and Israel who are often at odds with each other. Each of these authorities closely monitors our work and you must guide our programming, communications, and operational activities to make GSG thrive, but always keeping optics and political perceptions by all sides in the back of your mind to preserve GSG’s ability to operate.
- Supporting the Mercy Corps Palestine Country Director as a member of the Senior Leadership Team including on matters of physical security and team care during emergency situations; overall country leadership, risk analysis, and strategy; program development; and coordination with other Mercy Corps programs globally.
- BA/S or equivalent required. Master’s degree in management or leadership fields strongly preferred.
- 5+ years of experience in management/leadership roles– ideally with experience managing a team of 20 or more and particularly in the education sector, technology sector, startup support or coding education organizations, or other hands on management experience in frontier markets or resource constrained environments. Experience in entrepreneurial or startup leadership positions preferred. A coding/engineering background is not necessary, but should be comfortable/knowledgable communicating with technical audiences about technology trends/skills.
- History of successful fundraising or business development (philanthropic fundraising, investment fundraising, or sales positions are all relevant experience).
- Excellent written communication skills (as in excellent even for a native English writer/reader) and English oral presentation skills that can cater to a wide range of management, donor, commercial, and public audiences.
- Experience setting policies, procedures, knowledge management practices, and communication guidelines in fast growing organizations.
- Superb attention to detail, ability to prioritize against competing priorities, and effective delegation skills.
- Experience coaching and holding team members accountable to deliver against against ambitious goals on tight deadlines.
- Experience living and working in challenging environments and managing diverse teams across language and culture barriers.
- Arabic language comprehension/speaking proficiency is a plus, but not required.
This is no ordinary leadership role. It is energizing, demands creativity, and filled with unique economic, cultural, and political challenges. Leading GSG is not just a job, but a personal multi-year commitment to creating major economic and educational changes in Palestine that can support the basis of a strong Palestinian future. The ideal candidate understands that the stakes of this work can and should be high. That said, you also know your limits, are mindful of others’ limits, and know that taking time for yourself to recharge makes you a stronger team leader and role model.
You need to set multi-quarter priorities, but also always be opportunistic– when borders open or a new company shows interest in hiring from GSG’s talent pool, you may have to act even if it does not align with your plans. You have to also be patient and resilient— politics are always a challenge, security may suddenly deteriorate and stop your biggest hackathon of the year, or your startups may be trapped at a checkpoint on the way to a pitch competition and you need to think creatively how to make the most of what you can and cannot control. In an environment where uncertainty is the norm, you are able to quickly analyze a situation, provide clarity, decisiveness, and a plan to your team (and a plan b, plan c, and plan d…).
You are an active and curious listener. Maybe you are an introvert, but love socializing and laughing with your team (or know how important it is to do so). You tend to speak last after taking in as much input as you can. But then you are bold, decisive, and inspire confidence loudly, even if you aren’t sure yourself if your decision is right or your plan will work.
You care deeply about justice and fairness in the world and in Palestine, but know there are different ways to approach challenges and achieve real progress for real people. Tact, diplomacy, humility, and knowing when strategically to be quiet or shout from the rooftops are critical to remaining thriving and surviving in leadership here.
6-8 direct reports on the GSG management team, flowing down to all 50+ GSG team members (management structure to be determined by the incoming Director)
Reports Directly To: Mercy Corps Palestine Country Director
Works Directly With: Mercy Corps Palestine Finance, Procurement, HR, Program Quality, and Logistics teams; Mercy Corps RegionalMercy Corps HQ-based fundraising, technical support, innovations, and social ventures teams
Living Conditions / Environmental Conditions
The position is based in Jerusalem but requires weekly multi-night visits to Gaza and day trips around the West Bank. With COVID19 travel restrictions regularly changing between Israel, Gaza and the West Bank, more remote management of a large team in Gaza may be required initially. In a non-COVID world, quarterly travel to regional capitals (Cairo, Istanbul, Amman, Dubai, etc.) and the US, UK, or EU is required to represent GSG at industry conferences/events or Mercy Corps meetings.
In Jerusalem and the West Bank, Mercy Corps covers individual accommodation with full freedom of movement and excellent amenities. In Gaza, there is shared accommodation in staff guesthouses with limited solo freedom of movement, depending on the security situation.
Accountability to Participants and Stakeholders
Mercy Corps team members are expected to support all efforts toward accountability, specifically to our program participants, community partners, other stakeholders, and to international standards guiding international relief and development work. We are committed to actively engaging communities as equal partners in the design, monitoring and evaluation of our field projects.
In support of our belief that learning organizations are more effective, efficient and relevant to the communities we serve, we empower all team members to dedicate 5% of their time to learning activities that further their personal and/or professional growth and development
Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
Achieving our mission begins with how we build our team and work together. Through our commitment to enriching our organization with people of different origins, beliefs, backgrounds, and ways of thinking, we are better able to leverage the collective power of our teams and solve the world’s most complex challenges. We strive for a culture of trust and respect, where everyone contributes their perspectives and authentic selves, reaches their potential as individuals and teams, and collaborates to do the best work of their lives.
We recognize that diversity and inclusion is a journey, and we are committed to learning, listening and evolving to become more diverse, equitable and inclusive than we are today.
Equal Employment Opportunity
Mercy Corps is an equal opportunity employer that does not tolerate discrimination on any basis. We actively seek out diverse backgrounds, perspectives, and skills so that we can be collectively stronger and have sustained global impact.
We are committed to providing an environment of respect and psychological safety where equal employment opportunities are available to all. We do not engage in or tolerate discrimination on the basis of race, color, gender identity, gender expression, religion, age, sexual orientation, national or ethnic origin, disability (including HIV/AIDS status), marital status, military veteran status or any other protected group in the locations where we work.
Safeguarding & Ethics
Mercy Corps is committed to ensuring that all individuals we come into contact with through our work, whether team members, community members, program participants or others, are treated with respect and dignity. We are committed to the core principles regarding prevention of sexual exploitation and abuse laid out by the UN Secretary General and IASC. We will not tolerate child abuse, sexual exploitation, abuse, or harassment by or of our team members. As part of our commitment to a safe and inclusive work environment, team members are expected to conduct themselves in a professional manner, respect local laws and customs, and to adhere to Mercy Corps’ Code of Conduct Policies and values at all times. Team members are required to complete mandatory Code of Conduct elearning courses upon hire and on an annual basis.