Contract researcher

Work Location: Remote
Requisition Number: 1154
# of Openings: 3


Freedom House has received a grant from the U.S. Department of State to study recent examples of civic mobilization in authoritarian contexts in order to understand the emergence of movement dynamics. Our initial three cases are Belarus, Ethiopia and Vietnam. We seek three journalists or scholars who are experts on social movements in the respective countries, one for each case. We anticipate that this part-time contract will take about four months to complete and the contract will be worth at least $6,000. We will begin training the researchers in April 2021 and the research will take place in the spring and summer of this year, if feasible.

This contract is not intended to fund the journalist/researcher’s independent work, though the contractor will retain the right to use their work under this contract for other purposes and the contractor will be credited on any publications that result from this project. This research will be undertaken within a conceptual framework and specific research questions developed by Freedom House, and the contractor will work in collaboration with the Freedom House team throughout the duration of the contract. Each case will be one of a set of comparative cases, so the contractor will be trained in and must comply with the protocol of the study.

The research aims to focus in on initial moments of civic mobilization after a long period of quiet or repression, and to understand why protests emerged and expanded when they did (in May-June 2020 in Belarus; in spring-summer 2016 in Ethiopia and Vietnam). We are NOT asking for an analysis of the underlying issues behind the protests which are well known, but rather something more subtle: an analysis of the dynamics, skills, and backgrounds of the civic actors involved and how those factors led to different civic actors making a decision to take the risk of protesting at that time.

The design for these case studies involves a social science method called process tracing: investigating the evidence for and against various causal claims about why events happened the way they did. Researchers will be trained by Freedom House in this method and will be required to meet virtually on a monthly basis to discuss the how the research is going, get advice on next steps, and to share preliminary findings with the team of researchers working on other case studies. The final deliverable will be an 8,000-10,000 word report that gives a detailed history of the events and actors relevant to this narrow focus in time, answers the main research question about why the mobilization happened, and systematically documents the evidence supporting the claims made.

The researcher/journalist will ideally be very familiar with both these events and the movement actors involved, and be fluent in relevant languages and English. The research will require original data collection (interviews, primary source review) so ideally this person will be located in the country or have excellent connections there. International and domestic travel expenses will be covered by Freedom House. If security concerns make field research difficult, the contractor’s ease of virtual access to key movement participants will be all the more important. The contractor will be asked to help shape and then to abide by security procedures used by Freedom House to protect contractors and their contacts in politically restrictive environments. Out of an abundance of caution, candidates for this contract and any of their research partners or assistants will be vetted as part of this security procedure.

Candidates should have a background in sociology, political science, investigative journalism, or a related field; a basic understanding of how to construct counterfactual arguments; some experience in the generation or testing of hypotheses using empirical evidence; and experience conducting in-depth interviews. Ideal candidates also have personal experience with pro-democracy activism in the relevant country.

If you want to apply to this position, please submit a cover letter detailing your qualifications, a resume/CV, and a 500-1000 word writing sample that addresses the question: in your opinion, why did people take the risk of participating in a civic mobilization at that time? Finalists will be asked to complete a budget request and undergo a vetting process for security purposes.

Please note: if you attach a CV and a cover letter, you do not need to duplicate that information in the online application form. Please just fill out the basic contact information and anything that is not covered by your CV and cover letter.

If you have further questions about the contract or the scope of work, please contact Zack Medow at

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