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Transition Update #3 – Change For and From Our Community

By Lisa Miller, ex officio Chair of the Scientific Steering Committee for SOLAS, and Sebastian Sonntag, Executive Director for DKN Future Earth

Throughout this past winter, a transitional Implementation Team has been intensively refining and strengthening Future Earth’s governance and Secretariat structures, based on the recommendations from last year’s program review and input from across the entire Future Earth community. Context and details of the transition process are presented on the transition webpage, in a set of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Composed of volunteer members from the Future Earth core community and closely supported by the Future Earth Secretariat, the Implementation Team has designed proposals for a remarkable community-led transition to the next chapter of Future Earth. This process has been characterized by transparency, deep consultation, and strong desire to co-create a powerful global organization well-equipped to serve its fundamental vision: a sustainable and equitable world for all, in which societal decisions are informed by openly accessible and shared knowledge.

The Implementation Team is composed of four working groups, which have focused on outlining and proposing mechanisms for the creation of Future Earth’s new structure:

  • Working Group 1: Global Coordination Hub and Global Secretariat Hubs 
  • Working Group 2: Mission, Strategic Objectives and Values
  • Working Group 3: Governance and Assembly structure 
  • Working Group 4: Research Networks and the Future Earth Core Fund

Each working group includes an elected representative from each of Future Earth’s communities (Global Research Projects, Knowledge-Action Networks, the Early Career Network, National Committees and Structures, and Regional Offices and Centers). There are, additionally, two members from both the Future Earth Governing Council and Future Earth Advisory Committee, who are distributed across the working groups. These groups have been supported throughout by the Secretariat staff, as well as the Executive Team, who act as coordinators and advisors. The community-led nature of the Implementation Team is exceptional – it is uncommon for an organization to allow itself to be rebuilt to this degree by volunteers from the expert communities it serves. This unusual transition mechanism marks the depth of Future Earth’s willingness to empower its research communities and global networks not only to create a structure that best serves them, but to also empower the emergence of radically new solutions to the monumental sustainability challenges humanity faces, from the ground up to the global. 

Over the past 5 months, the Implementation Team has: rearticulated the Future Earth Mission, Vision and Objectives, emphasizing our core values of diversity and inclusion; developed a more representative governance structure; developed and launched an expanded secretariat; and developed new terms of reference for the national, regional, and global networks that comprise the Future Earth community. Thanks to the efforts of the Implementation Team, the next iteration of Future Earth will be simplified, flattened, and more accessible. Through the extended Secretariat structure and commitment to greater inclusion of the Global South, it will also have a wider reach and therefore greater impact. There is room in this new structure for every nation, region and research network to have a voice and contribute their unique strengths to the cohesive whole of Future Earth.

Future Earth is a truly unique organization, with a mission that is commensurate with the unprecedented challenges and opportunities humanity faces on our hyper-connected, changing planet. Achieving its mission of advancing research in support of transformations to global sustainability is a journey without an endpoint. The scale and severity of our ongoing environmental crises require that all hands work together to solve problems as and before they arise, and by working together in defining our mission and priorities, the Future Earth community has an important role to play in that effort. To our colleagues, both present and future, we can only say: onward.