Portfolio Manager, Adaptable Public Services Portfolio

EWB Canada
Deadline for Applications
Where to Apply
Applications will close October 11th, though if we find the right candidate before then we will hire that person. To apply, please submit a CV and cover letter, in PDF form, by e-mail to recruitment@ewb.ca and put “Application: Portfolio Manager Adaptable Public Services” in the subject line.

Portfolio Manager, Adaptable Public Services

EWB Canada is hiring a Portfolio Manager to manage and grow a portfolio of disruptive ventures that improve public service delivery in Sub-Saharan Africa. This position is your opportunity to be at the vanguard of innovation in making public services more adaptable and responsive to the needs of underserved citizens, ensuring basic needs are met in a cost-effective, sustainable way.

About EWB:

Engineers Without Borders Canada (EWB) invests in leaders and innovations that deliver scalable solutions to tackle poverty and inequity in Sub-Saharan Africa.

EWB raises charitable donations and builds partnerships that allow us to provide catalytic, flexible investments & grants to early stage, scalable social enterprises across Sub-Saharan Africa. We support people, ideas, and early-stage organizations that are finding practical, impactful ways of tackling the toughest challenges related to public services in Africa. We pride ourselves on being smart risk-takers. We're excited to invest in unproven models that show great promise. We support people to spearhead new solutions to old problems.

The Opportunity:

As Portfolio Manager, you will lead the development, management and impact of EWB’s Adaptable Public Services portfolio in Sub-Saharan Africa, a senior level role within EWB’s Strategy & Investment team. In this role, you will provide management support to existing ventures by building relationships, identifying and diagnosing key challenges, and mobilizing both financial & non-financial resources, while growing the portfolio by identifying and developing a strong pipeline of investment opportunities. You will also coordinate with EWB’s Small & Growing Business Portfolio Manager, as our goal is to work together using a diversity of models and innovations to solve systemic problems.

In addition, you will 1) play a key role in shaping EWB’s portfolio strategy and influence across Africa and across relevant public service sectors (e.g. governance, water, sanitation, health), and 2) provide direct support to the ventures within it as they work to bring about game-changing systemic innovations. The Portfolio Manager reports to the VP Strategy & Investment.

Responsibilities include, but are not limited to:

1. Build a portfolio strategy that both leverages and strengthens EWB's network and assets.

a. Invest heavily in setting an ambitious overarching strategy and orientation for the portfolio, building off EWB’s experience.

b. Specifically, develop a strategy that allows EWB to:

i. Address fundamental public service challenges, particularly for the underserved, in Africa

ii. Enable scalable, replicable innovations and ventures

iii. Identify potential funders for the portfolio

2. Find and support excellent ventures:

a. Pipeline: Develop the necessary network of relationships to create a dynamic, growing pipeline of ventures aimed at systemic change for EWB to consider working with.

b. Due diligence and systemic impact assessment: based on the pipeline of potential investees, create rigorous screening and due diligence procedures, in addition to thorough structuring and execution of investments.

c. Knowledge capture: Consistently maintain detailed documentation – including knowledge capture and investment briefs – for EWB’s Strategy & Investment Team, Advisory Council and Board of Directors.

3. Develop and implement a venture management and acceleration strategy.

a. Support the development of venture leaders as agents of systemic change, providing excellent strategic and personal support to them.

b. Design and implement tailored venture support – including assisting ventures in diagnosing and solving challenges.

c. Design and evaluate key metrics to measure the overall impact – both social and financial of the ventures’ business models.

d. Enable growth of our impact by developing long-term relationships and partnerships with external stakeholders including funders, advisors, thought leaders, sector and functional experts to provide further support on both portfolio strategy and venture growth. EWB is not about going it alone. You will have a strong mandate to build a shared vision with sector partners, participate in existing strategic discussions, and position EWB as an influential actor in the ecosystem.

4. Build a movement.

a. EWB's vision for the Adaptable Public Services portfolio is not merely to have great ventures in it, but to have those ventures contribute to something bigger: a movement away from highly centralized, planned, technocratic public service design and towards a more systemic, complexity-aware, and community co-produced public services paradigm in Africa, particularly in aid-dependent countries. It will be your role to represent EWB in this movement and leverage EWB's unique value add to accelerate it.

5. Support the financial security and sustainability of the portfolio.

a. Build partnerships with funding organizations that can help EWB finance the growth of the portfolio, ensuring ventures have the time and flexibility required to innovate.

You will have a critical role in shaping how to strategically channel EWB’s untied funding and extraordinary people resources. Day-to-day you will make decisions about shaping the portfolio strategy, how to increase the portfolio size, depth, and influence, and provide strategic support and mentorship to a set of ventures that seek to transform the systems in which they work.

The Portfolio

For 10 years, EWB ventures have been working at the vanguard of innovation to make systemic change in public services practical. We have created high-performing ventures that have found ways to bring practical, systems-changing innovations to life. For example, our ventures have made large-scale, direct-from-user data available and transparent more quickly and cheaply in Ghana through the Voto Mobile platform, and have found ways to practically and efficiently convene sector-wide, multi-stakeholder initiatives in Malawi that allow the entire country's water and sanitation sector to collectively support greater innovation within local government. We are big believers in the “Doing Development Differently” principles, which focus on “being problem driven, iterative with lots of learning, and engaging teams and coalitions, often producing hybrid solutions that are ‘fit to context’ and politically smart.”

EWB aims to contribute to the public services innovation ecosystem by investing in:

1) Scalable, Systems-Changing Products and Services: Support ventures that can provide replicable, scalable products and services that can respond to the widespread and systemic constraints on public service capacity – e.g. access to data and data systems, technical capacity constraints, and the ability to forge and manage partnerships between government, NGOs, and the private sector. Currently, there's not enough support for innovative initiatives that are developing replicable and scalable products and services that enable systemic improvements in public services.

2) Models that Make Deep, Systemic Change Achievable: Supporting ventures that can make or promote systemic change in aid-dependent Africa, where stakeholders are many, aid is political, complexity is high, and resources are low. These types of systems-change approaches have been labeled Collective Impact, Problem-Driven Adaptive Approaches, and Social Labs, among other things. They are targeted at creating spaces, processes, and capacities for public service systems to enact new paradigms and ways of working, in situations where patterns of behaviour and structural issues preclude problems from being solved at scale through new products and services alone. Such approaches are needed in order to figure out how to more meaningfully build public services systems that do not depend indefinitely on one-off projects funded by international donors. While these approaches have taken off in the West, few have figured out how to practically pursue them in Africa, especially in relation to public services.

The Candidate

Our work is geared towards trying to change the world in sustainable and systemic ways – we are looking for someone with the drive and ambition to attempt great and difficult things. You should be someone who likes to get into the weeds – literally getting mud on your boots – while also being able to see in systems and represent EWB at sector level discussions.

If you’ve made it this far, you should know that core to this opportunity is a belief in the value of challenging the status quo and finding and proving better ways to address urgent human needs. EWB has 6 core values that we come back to time and again – they should resonate deeply:

1. Address root causes for impact: We start by clearly defining the impact that we want to help bring about, and then think through the complexity of social change so that our actions target root causes.

2. Dream big and work hard: We strive to make the impossible possible, through a combination imagination, hard work, innovation, passion and a willingness to take risks.

3. Ask tough questions: We only improve when we ask tough questions about our past, present, and future work to determine if we are having the maximum impact.

4. Invest in people: We know that true change will require a movement of socially minded leaders. We support and invest in each other to help build this movement together.

5. Courageously commit: All change begins within ourselves. We commit to personal growth through regular self-assessment and have the courage to ask for feedback.

6. Strive for humility: We learn by being open – open to new ideas from anywhere and anyone, and open about our mistakes.

Our ideal candidate will have the following qualifications:

1. Demonstrate the savvy and networks required to lead a complex and ambitious portfolio:

a. 7-10 years' experience managing innovative, high-performing teams of people aiming to change the world profoundly;

b. A strong, influential network with social innovators in Africa, ideally in at least one public service sector, e.g. governance, water and sanitation.

c. A proven track record of delivering operational and management support to companies, social businesses, or NGOs.

d. Strong financial modeling and business analysis skills as demonstrated by prior experience is required.

2. Deep practical experience of systemic innovation, ideally in Africa: the many forms it can take, the critical success factors and especially management and leadership approaches to driving towards it.

3. Solid operational skills, problem solving and project management skills, including ability to work and deliver projects independently, proactively and under pressure.

4. Leadership and management style that allows for collaborative setting of challenging performance goals for ventures, while providing valuable coaching and support along the pathway to achieving those goals.

5. Outstanding relationship building and communication skills – quickly able to build trust and credibility with a range of stakeholders, including finding solutions when conflict arises and easy answers aren’t possible.

6. Experience in fundraising efforts an asset.


The position will be based in Ghana, Uganda or Kenya, and will require regular travel throughout Africa and occasional travel to North America.


There will be a need for extensive travel throughout Africa to visit ventures, attend various strategic planning meetings, board meetings and retreats. Occasional travel to North America will also be expected.


This will be a senior level position. In addition to a competitive salary, you can expect us to invest considerably in your professional growth by offering a professional development fund. All employees are provided with a health/dental benefit package and 3 weeks of vacation each year.

Timing and Process:

Ideally the candidate will start by the end of October 2015.

Applications will close October 11th, though if we find the right candidate before then we will hire that person. To apply, please submit a CV and cover letter, in PDF form, by e-mail to recruitment@ewb.ca and put “Application: Portfolio Manager Adaptable Public Services” in the subject line. If you have any questions, please direct them to James Haga (jameshaga@ewb.ca).