Research Consultant to Conduct Mapping and Analysis of Key Stakeholders and Existing Efforts to Counter Information Pollution in the ECIS Region


Location : Home-based
Application Deadline :30-Sep-21 (Midnight New York, USA)
Type of Contract :Individual Contract
Post Level :International Consultant
Languages Required :
English  
Starting Date :
(date when the selected candidate is expected to start)
01-Oct-2021
Duration of Initial Contract :Estimated 05 October – 05 December 2021
Expected Duration of Assignment :Approximately 30 working days over 3 months

UNDP is committed to achieving workforce diversity in terms of gender, nationality and culture. Individuals from minority groups, indigenous groups and persons with disabilities are equally encouraged to apply. All applications will be treated with the strictest confidence.

UNDP does not tolerate sexual exploitation and abuse, any kind of harassment, including sexual harassment, and discrimination. All selected candidates will, therefore, undergo rigorous reference and background checks.


Background

Beyond the immediate ramifications for public health and economy, one of the rising challenges that COVID-19 continues to present is in the realm of social cohesion. The pandemic has generated unprecedented tension and anxiety as it spread throughout the world and has inevitably brought to question the ability of authorities to respond to this unprecedented crisis. The level of effectiveness of government response, coupled with issues of inclusivity, transparency, accountability, and respect for human rights has put the already precarious social contract and trust in many contexts to further test. While the pandemic has presented opportunities for reconciliation in some cases, it has further exacerbated existing socio-economic divides and polarization in many countries, which presents a particular risk in the context of political elections. The pandemic has also laid bare fault lines and tensions at the community-level, fueling stigma towards the “other,” as exemplified by the rise of Islamaphobic narratives in India, the increasing political narrative against refugees and migrants in Europe, and a violent incident of protests against evacuees from China in Ukraine.

In this context, the rise of information pollution (disinformation and misinformation) about COVID-19, including conspiracy theories,  have been of particular concern, with the potential to impact trust towards authorities and fuel tensions among communities adversely. Furthermore, this rise of conspiracy theories has significantly reduced the space for healthy skepticism which is an important part of a functioning democracy. Unfortunately, information pollution about COVID-19 has multiplied on social media like Facebook and is also spread via messaging apps such as WhatsApp, and Telegram.  In response to myths, conspiracy theories, and ill-intended information circulating to this effect, the World Health Organization declared the first ‘infodemic’ warning of an overabundance of information, both good and bad, which is causing confusion, frustration and lack of trust amongst the public.

In the COVID-19 context, our vulnerability to information pollution poses a real risk to public health and effective crisis communication. Beyond impact on response effectiveness, whether spread unknowingly or with malintent, information pollution hampers trust and adds to social disorder, fueling polarization, and causing stigma and anger towards particular individuals and identity-groups. In addition, since 2016, due to disinformation campaigns orchestrated in times of elections such as 2016 US elections and Brexit, the issue has gained increasing attention as a fundamental threat to the integrity of elections and democracy worldwide.

The ECIS region has not been immune to these challenges. Meanwhile, some governments’ efforts to curtail fake news often came at the expense of freedom of expression and further fueled distrust towards national authorities. In the Western Balkans, COVID-19 has given rise to narratives that the EU is “turning its back” on the Western Balkans encouraging Euroscepticism and nationalism or that COVID-19 is a bioengineered virus that is the pretext for a foreign invasion. The utilization of disinformation to advance political or economic interests in the region has been another concerning trend.

In the past years, we witnessed how information pollution has impacted the various elections, horizontal and vertical social cohesion, and policy decisions in a number of countries and territories in our region. At the same time, we see that measures and efforts to address information pollution have increased quickly in recent years. Many new initiatives from think tanks, fact-checking organizations, tech start-ups, and private initiatives have begun monitoring and responding to misinformation and disinformation campaigns. Additionally, governments are developing interventions to counter the impact of information pollution using legislation and regulatory frameworks, investigations, and dialogue with civil society and the media.

 

The need for a mapping exercise of stakeholders and initiatives to counter information pollution in the region emerges due to the lack of a comprehensive dataset of work done in the Europe and Commonwealth of Independent States (ECIS) region. To identify main stakeholders and best practices at the local and regional level and how can UNDP support and engage them, we propose a mapping exercise that aims to:

 

  • Identify measures, strategies and legal framework currently used by governments in the region to address information pollution;
  • Identify UN agencies, civil society, media, researchers, fact-checking organizations, tech start-ups, and private sector involved in efforts to counter information pollution in the region; Identify their tools and interventions currently being implemented and means of measuring impact;  
  • Identify cross-border and regional initiatives responding to information pollution.

 

The mapping aims to increase best practice sharing and opportunities among civil society, governments, and the international community. Further, it will be used as a basis for UNDP to support existing initiatives and create partnerships for future efforts to counter information pollution. The data will be gathered using a combination of different methods such as desk research, and interviews with key experts and informants from the region. The study will result in an initial dataset of initiatives and a compendium of good practices in the region and practical recommendations for the next step. The mapping will present and examine the following questions:

 

  • Who are the key actors in the region currently conducting activities to counter information pollution?
  • What are some direct and indirect approaches developed and implemented by governments, CSOs, media, tech start-ups, and the private sector in the region?
  • How are the governments in the region responding to information pollution? What branches/provisions of the government are responsible for dealing with the topic? 
  • What are the types of information pollution that the above-mentioned entities are most focused on and trying to counter and why?
  • What initiatives and tools implemented by the non-governmental sector exist to counter information pollution? What are the initiatives implemented by informal grassroot groups of ‘new’ civic actors, representing youth, women, minorities, etc at the local level?
  • How is the UN engaged in the region on the topic? Which UN agencies are active in the field?
  • Who are the main donors/funder supporting initiatives that work on countering information pollutants? 
  • How can UNDP support national partners, CSOs, researchers, and journalists to increase the impact of existing initiatives?


Duties and Responsibilities

The consultant will work under the supervision of the Communication, Youth and Digital Inclusion Analyst (Istanbul Regional Hub- IRH) and in close collaboration with the Senior Advisor, Information Integrity
Oslo Governance Centre (OGC). The consultant will be tasked with the following:

  • Develop a workplan and methodology for the full assignment and agreed with UNDP colleagues;
  • Conduct a mapping of key actors in the region currently conducting activities to counter information pollution;
  • Identify measures, strategies and legal framework currently used by governments in the region to address  information pollution;;
  • Identify at least 5 successful case studies of successful approaches developed and implemented, with demonstrable impact, covering each sub-region in ECIS;
  • Conduct and facilitate and/or group discussions and interviews with relevant stakeholders as identified with UNDP IRH colleagues;
  • Support the conceptualization of an online validation/consultation, support the implementation of the consultation and present initial findings for feedback;
  • Based on the mapping exercise, analysis findings and the consultation exercise, finalize the mapping and analysis paper integrating feedback received from UNDP IRH and OGC. 

Expected Deliverables and Schedule of payments

The total number of days of work is estimated approximately 30 working days over a 3 month period. The breakdown corresponds to the expected outputs and schedule of payments as follows:

  1. Workplan and methodology developed and endorsed
  2. Draft mapping, analysis, and case studies (compendium) developed
  3.  “Mapping and Analysis of Key Stakeholders and Existing Efforts to Counter Information Pollution in the ECIS Region” document is finalized and validated.

Deliverables/ Outputs 

Estimated Duration to Complete

Target Due Dates

Review and Approvals Required

Workplan and methodology

6 Days  

20th of October

Communication, Youth and Digital Inclusion Analyst, IRH & Senior Advisor Information Integrity, OGC

Draft mapping, analysis, and case studies (compendium) developed

 

15 Days  

19th of November

Communication, Youth and Digital Inclusion Analyst, IRH & Senior Advisor Information Integrity, OGC

Mapping and Analysis of Key Stakeholders and Existing Efforts to Counter Information Pollution in the ECIS Region” document is finalized and validated

9 Days

20th of December

Communication, Youth and Digital Inclusion Analyst, IRH & Senior Advisor Information Integrity, OGC

 

Payments  will be made only upon confirmation of UNDP on delivering on the contract obligations in a satisfactory manner.

The lump-sum price is fixed regardless of changes in the cost components.

  • First Tranche – 10% upon submission and approval of Deliverable 1 ("Workplan and Methodology") 
  • Second Tranche –40% upon submission and approval of Deliverable 2 ("Draft mapping, analysis, and case studies (compendium) developed
  • Third Tranche – 20% upon submission and approval of Deliverable 3 ("Mapping and Analysis of Key Stakeholders and Existing Efforts to Counter Information Pollution in the ECIS Region” document is finalized and validated ") 
  • Fourth Tranche –30% upon submission and approval of Deliverable 4 ("Final report inclusive of recommendations") 


Competencies

Corporate competencies: 

  • Demonstrates integrity by modeling the UN’s values and ethical standards;
  • Promotes the vision, mission, and strategic goals of UNDP; 
  • Displays cultural, gender, religion, race, nationality and age sensitivity and adaptability; 
  • Treats all people fairly without favoritism; 
  • Fulfills all obligations to gender sensitivity and zero tolerance for sexual harassment. 

 

Functional competencies:

  • Ability to analyze policy documents and make constructive policy suggestions;
  • Strong interpersonal skills, communication and diplomatic skills, ability to work in a team;
  • Capacity building skills and flexibility depending on the public;
  • Demonstration of commitment to the Project’s mission, vision and values;
  • Good writing and reporting skills;
  • Good presentation skills;
  • Ability to work under pressure and stressful situations, and to meet tight deadlines.


Required Skills and Experience

Education:

  • Master’s Degree in International relations, International Development, Social Sciences, Political Sciences, Public Policy, or another relevant field. PhD is an asset.

Experience:

  • At least five years of relevant research and work experience in international development, journalism, communication, non-governmental organization and/or Civil Society organization.
  • Proven policy, advisory and/or advocacy experience, and track record of research and/or project management in relation to misinformation, disinformation and information integrity
  • Experience working in the Europe and CIS region;
  • Experience conducting mapping exercises, surveys, interviews, focus group discussions or consultations with governments and civil society actors;
  • Experience working with international organizations, particularly UN/UNDP is an advantage.

Language:

  • Excellent writing and oral communication skills in English. Knowledge of Russian language is an asset .

Evaluation of Applicants

Individual consultants will be evaluated based on a cumulative analysis taking into consideration the combination of the applicants’ qualifications and financial proposal.

The award of the contract should be made to the individual consultant whose offer has been evaluated and determined as:

a) responsive/compliant/acceptable, and

b) Having received the highest score out of a pre-determined set of weighted technical (P11 desk reviews and interviews) and financial criteria specific to the solicitation.

 

(If interviews are planned to be conducted the following sentence is to be used: “Only highest ranked candidates who would be found qualified for the job based on the P11 desk review will be invited for an interview”.)

 

(If no interviews are planned except of the verification interview with the selected candidate the following sentence shall be used: “Only the highest ranked candidates who would be found qualified for the job will be considered for the Financial Evaluation”.)

 

Financial

Technical Criteria - 70% of total evaluation – max. 70 points:

Criteria 1:  Education– max points: 10

Criteria 2: Working Experience – max points: 20

Criteria 3: Analytics, research and writing abilities – max 20 points

Criteria 4: Interviews – max 10

Criteria 5: Excellent command of English – max 10

 

Financial Criteria - 30% of total evaluation – max. 30 points

Only candidates obtaining a minimum of 70 points for technical criteria (approx. 70% of the total technical points) would be considered for the Financial Evaluation.? 

For those passing technical evaluation above, offers will be evaluated per the Combined Scoring method:

a) Technical evaluation (70%)

b) Financial evaluation (30%)

The application receiving the Highest Combined Score will be awarded the contract. 

6. Application procedures

 

Qualified candidates are requested to apply online via this website. The application should contain:

  • Cover letter explaining why you are the most suitable candidate for the advertised position and a brief methodology on how you will approach and conduct the work (if applicable). Please paste the letter into the "Resume and Motivation" section of the electronic application.
  • One example of a previous publication
  • Filled P11 form including past experience in similar projects and contact details of referees
    (blank form can be downloaded from http://europeandcis.undp.org/files/hrforms/P11_modified_for_SCs_and_ICs.doc ); please upload the P11 instead of your CV.
  • Financial Proposal* - specifying a total lump sum amount for the tasks specified in this announcement. The financial proposal shall include a breakdown of this lump sum amount (number of anticipated working days, travel, per diems and any other possible costs).
  • Incomplete applications will not be considered. Please make sure you have provided all requested materials

*Please note that the financial proposal is all-inclusive and shall take into account various expenses incurred by the consultant/contractor during the contract period (e.g. fee, health insurance, vaccination, personal security needs and any other relevant expenses related to the performance of services...). All envisaged travel costs must be included in the financial proposal. This includes all travel to join duty station/repatriation travel. 

Individual Consultants are responsible for ensuring they have vaccinations/inoculations when travelling to certain countries, as designated by the UN Medical Director. Consultants are also required to comply with the UN security directives set forth under dss.un.org

General Terms and conditions as well as other related documents can be found under: http://on.undp.org/t7fJs.

 

Qualified women and members of minorities are encouraged to apply.

Due to large number of applications we receive, we are able to inform only the successful candidates about the outcome or status of the selection process.



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