Research Department, New Naratif

Position : Freedom of Expression Researcher (FoE Researcher)

Working Hours : full-time, 40hrs per week

Salary Offered : US$1,100/- (fixed)

Location : Online/Digital within any one of the eleven Southeast Asian countries

Reporting to : Research Manager (RM) – direct line supervisor, currently filled by Managing Director (MD). In the absence of MD, the position reports to Operations Manager as de-facto head of the organisation.

Peers : Editors (across departments); Researchers (within department)

Forms part of : Research Team

Qualifications : As a Southeast Asian candidate (preferred), the FoE Researcher must have native-level English ability (spoken and written) and, preferably, fluency in one or more Southeast Asian languages. The FoE Researcher should have at least 1-2 years experience with qualitative research methodology, including focus group discussions. A research-based Master’s degree in the social sciences would be preferred.

Travel Required : Domestically and Internationally as and when necessary and approved by MD

Type of Contract : Annual Contracts issued from April 1st to March 31, (renewable annually, based on performance and funding available) 

New Naratif is a movement for democracy in Southeast Asia. We publish information, build communities, and empower people to create positive change. Learn more about us newnaratif.com

While we publish news, New Naratif operates more like a hybrid of a creative storytelling studio, community organiser and mobiliser, and a think tank, rather than a pure media operation. 

At New Naratif, our research isn’t merely about the research. The act of research is also part of our praxis of democracy in Southeast Asia. In conducting our research, we emphasise listening to the people of Southeast Asia, understanding their lived experiences, and documenting this to build a corpus of how democracy is pursued, fought for, lived, and practised in Southeast Asia. The act of research also brings people together, helping to form a shared consciousness and awareness of the problems that confront us across the region, and exchanging/brainstorming solutions that help us all. Our research is about finding and delivering what people need to know about an issue in order to create change and take control of their lives.

As FoE Researcher, you will conduct research into Freedom of Expression issues across Southeast Asia. In the immediate future, your priority will be New Naratif’s Media Freedom in Southeast Asia project. You’ll reach out to media workers across Southeast Asia, interview them individually or in focus group discussions, and analyse their responses. Having already done a broad overview study, we plan to focus on breaking down media freedom by sub-themes including gender, non-state/refugee journalists, and the impact of funding sources. 

The Research Department functions as New Naratif’s internal think tank, researching important themes and offering input into all our outputs, producing articles (like our “Explainers”), contributing handouts and reading lists to our democracy classrooms, advising and supporting our campaigns (like “The Citizens’ Agenda”) with research materials, conducting original research (like our media freedom project), and generally listening to Southeast Asians. You are  a resource for the organisation as a whole. You’ll be working closely with your fellow Researchers and all departments across the organisation, giving input into all of New Naratif’s outputs.

In addition, much of New Naratif’s outputs are structured around themes: every six months (eventually every quarter), we pick a new issue, theme, topic, or event and focus our efforts on educating and empowering people to create change around that issue or event. Our researchers help lead these themes by researching and writing up an outline/Explainer for the issue that the New Naratif team as a whole works off.

Examples include Southeast Asian regional issues such as women’s rights, gender and LGBTQIA+ rights, labour migration and labour rights, forced migration, inclusion and civic participation, youths and political rights, transparency and accountability of electoral procedures, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and association, land grabbing and land rights, all of which New Naratif has published on in the recent past.   

Our team gets together and figures out what to focus on, what information people need to know to create change, who the people on the ground are that we can engage, and what events/classes help bring our community together to build capacity for change. The whole process takes six months.

This position would suit someone who loves research and collaboration. You should have considerable knowledge of both qualitative and, if possible, quantitative methodologies, and have experience in conducting–at minimum–qualitative interviews. You should also have strong ethical awareness – research should not pose harm towards you and your research participants. You should have a strong track record of writing academic research, and preferably writing for a broader audience.

What you’ll be doing

As the FoE Researcher, your main focus is to conduct research on Freedom of Expression issues in Southeast Asia, and make them accessible to a wider audience. Responsibilities include: 

  1. Participate in New Naratif’s meetings as may be required;
  2. Under the supervision of the Research Manager, contribute to the development of an overall research strategy and implement the areas appropriate to your area of expertise;
  3. Work with the New Naratif team to develop a plan for thematic output every quarter, and research and write at least one campaign outline per year.
  4. Work with the Civic Participation department to co-develop content of Sekolah Democracy and democracy classrooms; co-create classroom handouts and other materials; contribute your expertise as appropriate.
  5. Supporting the Civic Participation department in running and helping to improve The Citizens’ Agenda campaign every year in any area related to your area of expertise
  6. Comment on and give feedback on any New Naratif output related to your area of expertise.
  7. Design, plan, and conduct public interest research on issues related to or in furtherance of Freedom of Expression in Southeast Asia. For the duration of this contract, this research will consist of New Naratif’s ongoing research project, “Media Freedom in Southeast Asia”, on three separate themes, to be agreed between you and the RM.
  8. From the research above, you must deliver 1 report of approx. 10-12,000 words each for the “Media Freedom in Southeast Asia” project on different themes every six months.
  9. Write one thematic outline per year, as may be required.
  10. Curate and publish at least one list of readings a month for New Naratif’s audience to learn about freedom of expression in Southeast Asia, which can also be adapted for use in Sekolah Democracy and democracy classrooms.
  11. Work with Editors to adapt reports and Explainers into other formats. 
  12. Contribute to the implementation of New Naratif strategy as part of your country/region team.
  13. New Naratif is fundamentally a movement for democracy, and our content is geared towards helping build capacity for democracy amongst our members and audience. How we operate, and what we choose to publish, is in service of that goal.

What you won’t be doing

  • You will not be expected to publish academic articles in peer-reviewed journals. Our focus is on publishing accessible information that is useful to our Southeast Asian audience.
  • You will not be creating or formulating strategy. Instead, the Research Manager will set the strategy and you’ll help execute it.
  • You will not be working alone. This is a collaborative role with the rest of the research team.

What we’re looking for

Strong candidates will have the following capabilities:

1. Research Skills. You’re trying to shed light on the theory and practice of Southeast Asian democracy. You’ll be carrying out surveys, focus group discussions, and ethnographic research. You’ll need to have skills and experience in qualitative methodologies  (e.g. personal interviews and FGDs), though knowledge in quantitative methodologies would be an asset too. Training in research ethics is necessary. Familiar with the field of media freedom/freedom of expression/democracy is a plus. A background in sociology, anthropology, or statistics would be helpful. 

You’re going to have to find ways to understand how Southeast Asians think about democracy and other deeply contested political issues, in an environment where many people are fearful of voicing their true opinions. You’re going to have to be innovative about getting to the heart of our complex region.

What is your research experience? 

2. Writing Skills. New Naratif prides ourselves on producing in-depth, evidence-based insightful work that explores and explains the forces which shaped how Southeast Asians think and act – and doing so in an accessible manner. 

Can you write clearly and concisely? Can you explain complex issues to a broader public? Can you do so on a deadline? Please send us two samples of your writing.

3. Teamwork. New Naratif has no office. We all work remotely. We’re all passionate, and deeply principled. We aspire to a high level of moral values. We’re here to model best practices as a transparent, ethical, progressive organisation. We’ll demand all this from you and hold you accountable. 

Tell us about your experience collaborating online.

4. Empathy for the marginalised and voiceless of Southeast Asia. New Naratif is first and foremost a platform for the people of Southeast Asia to imagine and then create a better Southeast Asia. You need to love and understand this region and its history, in all its complexity and diversity. You need to be willing to learn, explore, and grow alongside this region. It means you need to look beyond the borders and boundaries which are currently imposed on us. We want your experience of living in a Southeast Asian country, your connectivity to the communities, knowing everyday local experiences, concerns and challenges which reflect in your work and outputs you supervise. 

What does Southeast Asia mean to you?

Application Process

If you’re ready to take on the challenge of building capacity for change in Southeast Asia, please send an email to jobs AT newnaratif.com with your CV, cover letter answering the questions above, and at least two examples of your written work. Please provide the names and contact information for two character referees.

Shortlisted candidates will have 2-3 interview rounds. We anticipate the process will last around a month. Following your appointment, you would undergo a three-month trial period.

Applications are reviewed on a rolling basis. Therefore, we encourage you to submit an application as soon as possible, as the process may close once we feel a sufficient number of applications are received or a suitable candidate has been found.

More Information

The role is a Mid-level position, meaning that you will be given clearly defined tasks and responsibilities, and will report to the Research Manager as head of your department.

  • You have to be responsible, communicate and collaborate well online and be willing to work from home or your own choice of location as long as you are digitally connected with your team and provide the necessary remote supervision and ensure the work schedule is smooth and uninterrupted. 
  • We collaborate chiefly using WordPress, Google Workspace, Wire, and Trello. 

Benefits include 

  • 28 days of personal leave per year
  • 12 days of public holiday leave per year (which can be taken on any public or religious holiday of your choice), and 
  • 1 session of company-paid mental health therapy per month. 

New Naratif contracts are governed by UK law, on a consultancy basis, and typically are for one year at a time, renewable at the end of every financial year (31 March). 

New Naratif is a not-for-profit, private company, limited by guarantee, registered in the United Kingdom and Malaysia, and headquartered in Kuala Lumpur. 

We are committed to creating an inclusive workplace for all employees regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity, ethnicity, or disability. 

We have a strong preference for Southeast Asians who have personal experience of and understand being marginalised and oppressed.

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