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Future Earth in Transition – Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

At Future Earth, we recognize that scaling up global sustainability science is an urgent and crucial step towards transforming our relationship with the environment into one that ensures good and fair lives for all within a stable and resilient Earth system. The following FAQs, which will be updated on a rolling basis, explore the transition process that began last year in response to a mid-term external review, and aims to streamline Future Earth’s governance and secretariat structures to better meet this generational challenge.

1. Transition Process

Why is Future Earth undertaking this transition process? 

Following an extensive 5th year external review process, we are transforming our governance and management structures in the pursuit of deeper efficiency, inclusivity and impact. This shift, which will take place over the next 10 months, will also result in a broader set of strong national programs connected to the global work of Future Earth – and therefore broader reach for the work we do. For more information about this vision see this blog by Interim Executive Director Josh Tewksbury

All this work is done through a community-led structure, the Implementation Team (see below) and broad consultation with the entire Future Earth Community. It builds on the Future Earth external review report, the community discussions during and after the 2020 Future Earth Summit, and the recommendations of the Future Earth Task Force (see below). This reflective and consultative process draws on the broad experience and expertise of the Future Earth global network.

What is the Implementation Team? 

The Implementation Team engages the entire Future Earth community, through representatives, to implement the decisions of the Future Earth Governing Council on the Future Earth transition process. This work, which is based on the recommendations of the Future Earth Task Force (see below), includes providing proposals on detailed mechanisms, processes, and policies needed to move Future Earth forward. The Implementation Team includes representatives, nominated by the Future Earth Community, from the Global Research Projects, Knowledge-Action-Networks, National Committees and Structures, the Governing Council, Advisory Committee, Regions, and the early career network, in addition to non-voting coordinators and staff from the Future Earth Secretariat. 

What was the Task Force?

The Future Earth Task Force was nominated by the Future Earth Governing Council to produce recommendations based on the external mid-term review report. The Task Force, consisting of members of the Governing Council and the Secretariat, delivered its recommendations to the Governing Council in September 2020.

What was the Future Earth Summit?

The Future Earth Summit, held from 15-17 June 2020, involved representatives from across the Future Earth community and was organized around three key objectives:

  • Objective 1: Share an update of Future Earth in light of its external mid-term review (past successes and challenges, evolving vision, mandate, structure and responsibilities) and critically examine the proposed next steps, their implementation, and the role of each Future Earth entity in this process;
  • Objective 2: Develop a value proposition on how to improve the relationship between the Future Earth Secretariat, advisory, and governing structures and the Future Earth community based on an understanding of how the different community segments function;
  • Objective 3: Initiate the development of proposals of cross-cutting products, including the why, what, and the how, as well as better ways to engage with existing activities and international science-policy initiatives.

The Future Earth Summit played a key role in securing Community input to the reform process. The participants were invited to comment on the external mid-term review report and share their feedback throughout the meeting. The Summit was designed by a community-led Summit Planning Committee.

2. Future Institutional Structures

What is the Future Earth Global Coordination Hub? 

The Global Coordination Hub will be an office in charge of the key global strategy and coordination work, such as finance and governance support. This will be a rather light yet essential structure, where also the new Executive Director will be based. For more information, see the Terms of Reference for the Global Coordination Hub

What are Future Earth Global Secretariat Hubs?

Future Earth Global Secretariat Hubs willoordination Hub constitute the distributed Future Earth Secretariat. The Secretariat Hubs, led by Global Secretariat Hub Directors, and the Global Coordination Hub, led by the Future Earth Executive Director, work as a single unit to deliver the key functions of the Future Earth Secretariat.  

In addition to supporting Future Earth’s Global Secretariat functions, Global Secretariat Hubs will support the global research networks and regional and national functions of Future Earth, in addition to the global operations led by the Future Earth Global Coordination Hub. For more information, see the Terms of Reference for Global Secretariat Hubs.

What is the Future Earth Assembly?

The Assembly will be an inclusive of the representatives of the Future Earth Community, providing a platform for broad consultation and communication, enabling all community entities to participate in the development planning and implementation of Future Earth strategies and priority activities.

What is the Future Earth Governing Council?

The Governing Council is the elected, operational decision-making structure on behalf of the Assembly. The Governing Council oversees the strategic directions of Future Earth and supports timely decision processes, to advance the overall Future Earth agenda considering the advice by the Assembly.

Who is the Future Earth community?

The Future Earth community includes the Global Research Networks – the Global Research Projects (GRPs) and the Knowledge-Action-Networks (KANs) – and the people they convene, including Early-Career Researchers engaged in the Early Career Researchers Network of Networks (ECR NoN) and other related early-career researchers networks such as the Global Young Academy (GYA). Other ECR networks are encouraged to contact ECR NoN if they wish to be represented in the Assembly. The community also includes the National and Regional Networks, such as national or regional committees or similar structures, which are independently organized groups of professionals in sustainability science, representing Future Earth communities in their countries or regions in the Future Earth global structure. The Future Earth community also includes Partner Organizations. These are national and international organisations from the worlds of science, science funding, policy, platforms, the private sector, local communities, civil society and indigenous communities, who provide direct financial and in-kind support to Future Earth (either and both Secretariat and Community) activities, facilitate Future Earth’s access to global science and policy fora, assist in the development and promotion of the network, collaborate with Future Earth in the development and delivery of its own activities or involve Future Earth in other major international initiatives relevant to sustainability science. 

What is the Future Earth Core Fund? 

The Core Fund is managed by the Global CoordinationHub with the aim to support key global operations and transversal functions of the Secretariat, provide core funding to the Global Research Networks (GRN, the current GRPs and KANs) in the form of a fixed annual contribution (“block grant”) in non-earmarked funding per GRN as well as funds to incentivize collaboration among existing global programs (GRPs and KANs) and new partners and strengthen Future Earth’s participation in global science-policy-practice interface processes. 

What is the Future Earth Directors Council? 

The Directors Council oversees the use of the shared core funds, administered by the Global Coordination Hub. It also oversees the activities, platforms, programs and initiatives that are supported by multiple parts of the Secretariat and other parts of the community. The role of the Directors Council is to ensure that key strategic initiatives are properly resourced and coordinated across the network. The Directors Council is chaired by the Executive Director of Future Earth. Together with the Global Secretariat Hub Directors, the Global Coordination Hub prepares regular updates to the Governing Council. It is also responsible for financial reporting on core funds as well as for financial forecasting of core funds based on regularly updated funding pipelines. All funders of the Global Secretariat Hub and the Global Coordination Hub are invited to a regular meeting to discuss funding needs and program priorities, respecting the leading role of the Assembly in approving the global strategy of Future Earth. 

What is the establishment process and timeline for the new Future Earth Global Secretariat? 

The Global Coordination Hub and the first set of Global Secretariat Hubs will be established by mid-2021. They are expected to be joined by further Global Secretariat Hubs the following years. The Global Coordination Hub and the Global Secretariat Hubs will be selected through an open bidding and review process. Institutions or consortia of institutions from any country or region are welcomed to develop and propose a Global Secretariat Hub or a Global Coordination Hub; applications from the Global South are particularly encouraged and welcome. Applications are reviewed by an external review committee. The application and review process will be iterative, and include an interview / Q+A meeting of the applicants with the review committee. The review committee will select the Global Coordination Hub, which will then be approved by the Governing Council and/or ratified by the Future Earth Assembly.

Can an institution host both the Future Earth Global Coordination Hub and a Global Secretariat Hub? 

Yes. The institution that hosts the Global Coordination Hub can also host a Global Secretariat Hub, or engage in national and regional Future Earth activities and initiatives, but the finances and operations of these hubs are to be kept separate. 

Who can apply to become a Global Secretariat Hub? 

Bids are welcomed from existing Future Earth structures (Global Hubs, Regional Offices and Centers, and National Committees), in addition to new consortia of researchers, organizations and funders from new countries and regions that are interested in engaging with the global work and network of Future Earth, and whose mission, strategic objectives and values align with the work of Future Earth. 

Do we need our funding secured by the time of application to become a Global Secretariat Hub?

We understand that funding for the Hub by the time of the application might not be secured, but a letter of a funder, confirming intent and commitment, will be required as a part of the application. 

For more information, see the full call for Global Secretariat Hubs (including Terms of Reference and review criteria).

Who can apply to become a Global Coordination Hub? 

Bids are welcomed from existing Future Earth structures (Global Hubs, Regional Offices and Centers, and National Committees and Structures), in addition to new consortia of researchers, organizations and funders from other countries and regions that are interested in engaging with the global work and network of Future Earth, and whose mission and objectives align with the work of Future Earth. 

For more information see the full Call for Expressions of Interest to Host the Future Earth Global Coordination Hub (including Terms of Reference and Review Criteria). 

3. Information, Documentation and Resources 

Where can I find general information about the Future Earth Transition Process? 

There are two primary sources of information on the Future Earth Transition Process: 

  1. The Future Earth in Transition Website: This site contains official information, updates, and finalized documents from the Implementation Team, including ToRs for Future Earth’s new structures and information on open calls for new structures. 
  2. The Future Earth Member Portal Transition Process Page: This page is publicly available, but intended for use by communities represented in the Implementation Team and parties interested in becoming part of Future Earth’s new structure. It lists final documents produced by the Future Earth Implementation Team, in addition to documents which are currently open for input from the Future Earth community beyond the Implementation Team.

If you are part of the Future Earth community represented in the Implementation Team, you may also contact your representative in the Implementation Team. 

Who is my representative on the Implementation Team? 

Representatives are listed in the table below: 

I’m part of the Future Earth community. How can I provide input into the Future Earth Transition Process? 

During periods for community consultation, representatives from the Implementation Team reached out to their networks with further information and an invitation to provide feedback. 

Documents that are open for community consultation are also listed for reference in the Transition Process page on the Membership Portal site, listed under “Resources.” Access is public. For more information on how to become a member of Future Earth and use the Member Portal, see the user guide HERE

What is the timeline for the Future Earth Transition Process? 

February 2021

March 2021

Virtual Q&A Sessions for Global Secretariat Hub and Global Coordination Hub Call for Expressions of Interest: 

  • Asia and Pacific Virtual Q&A: March 4th at 03:30 – 05:00 UTC (20:30 MT, 22:30 EST, 4:30 CET, 11:30 CST, 12:30 JST, 14:30 AEDT)
  • Europe and Africa Virtual Q&A: March 5th at 13:00 – 14:30 UTC (6:00 MT, 08:00 EST, 14:00 CET, 15:00 SAST)
  • Americas Virtual Q&A: March 9th at 16:00 – 17:30 UTC. (9:00 am MT, 11:00 am EST, 1:00 pm UYT, 5:00 pm CET)

Please email Hannah Moench  at for a calendar invitation. 

April 2021

  • Target date for final approval of Future Earth institutional structure documents 
    • Governance and Assembly Terms of Reference
    • Global Research Networks Terms of Reference
    • Guiding principles for use of the Core Fund
    • National Committees Terms of Reference

May 2021

  • May 1st: Call for Expressions of Interest to become a Global Secretariat Hub Closes

June-August 2021

  • First Meeting of the new Future Earth Assembly 
  • First Meeting of the new Future Earth Governing Council
  • Future Earth Assembly and Governing Council approve and/or ratify the first Global Secretariat Hubs and the Global Coordination Hub
  • Future Earth in Transition Synthesis Report released
    • This publication will provide a detailed overview of the reform process to date, from the commissioning of the formal review through the 2020 Future Earth Summit and up to approved decisions to date.
  • Consideration of additional submissions for Gloabl Sec. Hubs will begin in October, 21/22

If you have general questions about the transition process and implementation team access, engagement, or community consultation, please email Hannah Moench at