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Transition Update #2 – Shaping a More Impactful Secretariat and Governing Council

By Maria Uhle and Dirk Messner, Co-Chairs of Future Earth’s Governing Council

Future Earth, the world’s largest community of sustainability scientists, has been operational for a little over five years. In that time, the urgency of our work has only increased, and it is now time to position this global organization to achieve the next level of impact. The current Governing Council of Future Earth, working closely with the Future Earth community, is proud to announce the first step in the evolution of the new Future Earth governance and leadership. The process that is now unfolding follows an extensive external review, and represents the most significant change in the governance and management of Future Earth since its inception.  

With the changes that are coming over the next several months, Future Earth is making a bold shift to become a more inclusive, accessible, transparent, and transformative organization, promoting sustainability science globally, nationally, and locally.  

The first step in this transition will be to create opportunities for more countries and regions around the world to play an integral part in Future Earth operations by joining and leading the Future Earth Global Secretariat. This opportunity will begin in the new year, and countries and regions will have several months to develop expressions of interest to host one of the Future Earth Global Secretariat Hubs or to host the Future Earth Global Coordination Hub. 

Inviting new countries and regions to join and lead the Future Earth Global Secretariat means more than extending our reach and broadening our impact. It means a profound change in the way we operate. There will now be a clear, transparent process that will allow any country or region to access the decision-making of Future Earth, shape our priorities, and more directly benefit from the global resources and networks of the Future Earth Secretariat and global network. To underline the importance of this shift, the current Global Secretariat Hubs will also respond to the expression of interest, and we are openly inviting expressions of interest from around the world to join this global community as Global Secretariat Hubs – supporting global and regional work, and to lead the global network by supporting the Global Coordination Hub, where the next Future Earth Executive Director will sit. The Global Secretariat that emerges from this initial process in mid-2021 will thus be entirely new, and ready to both serve the Future Earth community and mobilize and support sustainability science around the world.

At the same time, we are re-working our governance structures to increase transparency and to better represent the global community of sustainability scientists we serve in the bodies that shape direction for our organization. Starting in mid-2021, Future Earth will be governed by a new Governing Council, selected from a new structure, the Future Earth Assembly, which will have representatives from all entities in the Future Earth Community (the Global Research Projects, the Knowledge-Action-Networks, the National and Regional Structures, and the Partner, Patron and Funder Organizations). This new Future Earth, which is being crafted through an open and consultative process, will be community-forward, responsive, accessible and boldly transparent. It will be a different organization. 

As we prepare to launch the process to create the new the Global Secretariat Hubs and Global Coordination Hub in February 2021, we will be sharing information about the new structure of Future Earth, and preparing workshops and webinars to support global engagement, and we are ready now to start a dialogue with any country, regional or institution interested in joining us, and shaping the next phase of Future Earth. 

It is time for Future Earth to become the truly global organization it was established to become, supporting and championing the integration of science across discipline, sector, and geography. This transition process will enable us to do that work, using science to inclusively and effectively accelerate the many urgent transformations to global sustainability.