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Future Earth vacancy: Executive Director

Future Earth is a major international research programme for global sustainability. We provide international facilitation and coordination of research around the greatest challenges facing humanity – and engage policy, business and the public in exploring ways to address these challenges. 

Our work stretches from climate change and biodiversity to human health and transformation of societies. We work with many of the world’s leading experts on global grand challenges. The Future Earth Global Secretariat is distributed across five hubs located in Colorado, Montreal, Paris, Stockholm and Tokyo.

The context

Future Earth has completed its two-year start up phase with the creation of Science and Engagement Committees, five global hubs Secretariats, four regional centres and a media lab, under the leadership of the Governing Council. Over 20 global research projects are now part of Future Earth. Four regional offices, three in Africa and one in South Asia, are emerging and national committees are expanding internationally.  

We are now moving into full operational mode with the phased launch of a suite of Knowledge-Action Networks, capacity building programmes, and partnerships with key stakeholders. Central to our work is to connect research to support the implementation of international agreements such as the Paris Agreement on climate change, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development/the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Convention on Biological Diversity.

The role

We are looking for an outstanding Executive Director to provide strong leadership and guide the implementation of Future Earth’s broad and ambitious vision and scientific strategy.  The successful candidate will be effective in further raising the visibility and value of Future Earth, and attracting funding for this implementation.

Future Earth is made up of multiple networks, projects and programmes involving scientists from many disciplines working voluntarily towards the goals of Future Earth. The successful candidate will be a team player with excellent diplomacy skills who can bring these disciplines and cultures together in an environment of mutual respect and trust.

An important characteristic of the successful candidate will be his or her ability to strike a balance between accountability towards these multiple stakeholders and dedication to building a delivery-oriented environment for the hub directors and their teams by developing an agile, responsive work culture that fosters continuous learning and improvement.


  • Deliver the next stage of the Future Earth implementation plan.
  • Build trust, excitement and energy in the Future Earth networks and stakeholders in the vision of the organisation.
  • Secure a step change in funding for research and engagement for global sustainability.
  • Develop and grow key partnerships and relationships with other networks, initiatives and governments.
  • Lead a growing international team and build mechanisms to engage Future Earth’s regional and national networks.
  • Raise the profile of the organisation among key stakeholders and media.
  • Provide liaison between the secretariat and the Governing Council, Scientific Committee and Engagement Committee.


  • 10-years experience in a senior executive leadership role within a complex international organisation.
  • Leader in global sustainability research with a good academic track record. We encourage applicants from social sciences, humanities, law, engineering and physical and natural sciences.
  • Successful personal track record in fund raising.
  • Deep knowledge of the research networks and policy processes both internationally and regionally (UNFCCC, CBD, IPCC, IPBES, SDGs).
  • A strong, and user-centric vision for implementing the objectives of Future Earth.
  • A track record in and commitment to organisational development processes and practices that support innovation.
  • An excellent public speaker with media experience.
  • Experience of co-designed research with stakeholders; working across scientific disciplines, including natural and social sciences; capacity building; working with the South and youth.
  • Excellent formal and informal written and oral communication skills.
  • Full command of written and spoken English; working knowledge of other languages is considered an advantage.
  • Ability to travel extensively.
  • Cares about interactions and individuals as well as processes and tools.

Reporting and Support

  • The Future Earth Executive Director will be responsible to the Future Earth Governing Council
  • The Executive Director will work closely with the Chairs of the Science Committee and Engagement Committee as an "Executive Committee."
  • The Executive Director will support and be supported by an executive team of five Global Hub Directors and the staff at each of the global and regional hub Secretariats.


  • This recruitment is carried out on behalf of the Future Earth Governing Council.
  • This will be a 3-year appointment, with the possibility of extension subject to satisfactory performance, commencing as soon as possible.
  • The Executive Director will be based in Montreal, Canada.
  • The contracting mechanism will be discussed with the selected candidate.
  • Salary will be commensurate with the skills and experience of the successful candidate.

Future Earth’s Governing Council members are the International Council for Science (ICSU), the International Social Science Council (ISSC), the Belmont Forum of funding agencies, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the United Nations University (UNU), the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), the Science and Technology in Society (STS) Forum and the consortium of Secretariat Global Hub funders.

Application procedure

Applicants are requested to submit a curriculum vitae together with a cover letter describing their vision for Future Earth, the challenges and opportunities they foresee and how their skills and experience would help them meet the requirements of the role. Please also include the name and contact details of three referees and details of current salary. Applications (preferably in one combined PDF file) should be sent via email with “Future Earth Executive Director” in the subject line to The closing date for applications is 3 February 2017, midnight CET.

For more information on Future Earth, please see the Future Earth website.