Kelly Kurz graduated from the University of Richmond in 2014 with a BA in International Development and Geography. Throughout university Kelly engaged a variety of development fields from investigating women’s rights in Moshi, Tanzania, analyzing the finance and operations of an education nonprofit in Kampala, Uganda, and researching the impacts of ecotourism in Toubacouta, Senegal. His thesis research looking at transitional justice and economic development practices in Sierra Leone focused his interests on the intersectionality of food security in post conflict regions. In 2015, Kelly worked for GlobalGiving, the first and largest crowdfunding community, helping grassroots nonprofits access funding, tools, training, and support needed to be more effective across Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, and Tanzania. Prior to becoming a Leland Fellow, Kelly served as an Agroforestry Peace Corps Volunteer in Senegal implementing better practices and techniques for increasing farmers yields, accessing markets, and improving health and nutrition. Kelly is from Wenatchee, Washington.
As a Food Security and Resilience Adviser for the West, Central, and North African region, Kelly added to the evidence base for Mercy Corps’ resilience work by exploring the impact of climate and conflict-related shocks and stresses on household food security in the Sahel. Based in Bamako, Mali, Kelly supported field programs and research initiatives in Mali, Niger, and Nigeria that test innovative approaches to reducing vulnerability to climate and natural resource shocks and stresses, including through geospatial analysis, groundwater modeling technology, and climate information services. He also analyzed resilience dynamics in crisis environments. Kelly distilled current learning about resilience capacities, assessed what kinds of innovative approaches can support resilience building, experimented with right-sized resilience measurement, and provided support to help existing programs to articulate their resilience goals.
Policy placement: Mercy Corps
Metro Washington, DC (global)
As a Resilience and Food Security Advisor for Mercy Corps’ Policy and Research team, Kelly worked to assist and promote the organization’s global "Towards Resilience" agenda. This project involved conducting internal interviews with Mercy Corps global staff as well as external interviews with other NGOs, multilateral (World Bank, United Nations) and bilateral (DFID, SIDA, AFD) donor agencies. Kelly pulled insights from these interviews into a cohesive global advocacy and policy strategy. Additionally, through interviews with field teams, Kelly collected stories on Mercy Corps’ Resilience approach in protracted and complex crisis such as Nigeria, Niger, D.R.C., Mali, and Somalia. Kelly analyzed his study’s findings with Mercy Corps to help shape resilience programming and influence donor and government policies. Kelly also continued to support the monitoring and evaluation process of a USAID Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance program in Northern Mali and climate work in Niger. Finally, Kelly represented Mercy Corps at various agency forums, workshops, policy meetings, and working groups while based in Washington D.C.