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We look forward to welcoming you, and your work onto the Global Academy website!

Steve Fairman

Application of "Stubborn Optimism" will deliver the Global Goals

We all need inspiration

Christiana Figueres visited Oxford recently to deliver a lecture in the beautiful old Sheldonian Theatre. She came at the invitation of the Oxford Martin School of the University of Oxford who are running a series of events around the topic of 'Planetary Health'. Christiana is the former Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and is widely recognised as the individual who persuaded 195 countries to sign up to the 2015 'Paris Agreement'.  They all agreed to keep global temperature growth to "well below" 2 degrees centigrade above pre-industrial levels. It will be no surprise that her topic was "Next Steps on Climate Change" - and her purpose was to inspire us to optimism and action.

It's not just the message, but how it is delivered too

Interesting though the topic of Christiana's lecture was, it was the spirit of the messenger that interested me, and clearly many others in the audience.  This was present throughout, but particularly evident during the extensive period she generously spent answering questions after her talk. During the lecture she spoke of many topics that were familiar to all of us present: 

  • the need to move away from fossil fuels powering our lives,
  • the need to invest in renewable energy and
  • the need to think about the personal actions that we as individuals can usefully take to do our bit to address climate change.

Although these were familiar topics it was the way in which Christiana addressed them, and spoke to us in the audience, that meant it lives on in the memory.

Firstly, she exuded passion and knowledge of her subject, and she peppered her talk with many positive examples of change already underway, whether this be from forward-thinking businesses, or governments making pledges to speed up positive change. But many others do this too...

Second, and I felt this was crucial to the attainment of the wider Global Goals, she is always thinking about how to 'incentivise' action in the right direction.  She is not just an idealist - she is a business and political realist. She recognises that unless we can get the economic incentives aligned with our goals then change at the pace we (and the planet) need will simply not be forthcoming. On this one she had an interesting example from Costa Rica, her own country, which she proudly said was the only country in the World with more forest cover now than 30 years ago - and this was because they had got the incentives right. The poor of Costa Rica are no different to the poor in other countries - they need food and fuel as basic requirements. But in Costa Rica they have long set a high priority on forest preservation, knowing the climate, and wider ecological value it has. In Costa Rica, instead of people cutting down trees to plant food crops, or to use as fuel, they are paid to preserve the trees. Christiana says that this policy puts money in people's pockets which can be used to buy food and alternative fuels for cooking, and is having a very positive effect on a wide range of fronts.

A philosophy for 21st century living

Ultimately, I think that the key to why we in the theatre with Christiana remember that day so vividly, and came away both inspired to take action, and with a renewed sense of optimism and possibility, was because of her personal philosophy.  She described it as "the only way to live in the 21st century". Clearly this philosophy had been grounded in the extraordinarily difficult processes, over several years, that led to the signing of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement.  All of us can learn something from that. Christiana's philosophy as she described it has three interlinked elements:

1. Passionate Engagement - with whatever you do in life

2. Radical Collaboration - she described this as working across ALL boundaries, no matter how high or how seemingly difficult, this must be the way forward

3. Stubborn Optimism - She described this very specifically and it is the keystone element of her philosophy. This is not about being optimistic about outcomes, this is about optimism as the INPUT to any challenge. Everyone needs a vision and an optimistic and total commitment to get there.

To bring it all to life for us, there was a very interesting, and vivid, example of Christiana living out the philosophy in her answer to one of many questions from the audience. The questioner started by saying that they lived on a houseboat and was, as a result, still a user of coal. Before they had time to complete their question, Christiana was telling them that to just say that was unacceptable and challenged the questioner by asking how long they thought it would take them to convert to a clean energy alternative. After a brief conversation between them they had set a deadline and created a plan in front of the whole audience.  We all witnessed the sense of "stubborn optimism" being transferred to the questioner from Christiana. I have no doubt that the houseboat will be fuelled by clean energy by the agreed date in early 2019.

A lesson for us all

Reflecting back on the visit of Christiana Figueres, I think there are things all of us can learn who are working to help deliver the United Nations Global Goals by 2030. The goals set a path to a better future, but achieving them is a huge ask for all of us and can, at times, feel overwhelming. With the application of passionate engagement, radical collaboration, and particularly stubborn optimism, that better future is within our grasp.

Why your organisation (and its research) needs to be part of The Global Academy

What's this all about?

In 2015, 193 countries worldwide committed to achieve 17 essential Sustainable Develoment Goals by 2030 (the UN SDGs, or 'Global Goals') - a hugely ambitious global undertaking.

These goals have the power to end poverty, fight inequality and stop climate change so we can all survive, and thrive, on planet earth.  Guided by the goals, it is now up to all of us, governments, businesses, civil society, universities, researchers and the general public to work together to build a better future for everyone.

"At its essence, sustainability means ensuring prosperity and environmental protection without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. A sustainable world is one where people can escape poverty and enjoy decent work without harming the earth's essential ecosystems and resources; where people can stay healthy and get the food and water they need; where everyone can access clean energy that doesn't contribute to climate change; where women and girls are afforded equal rights and equal opportunity."

Ban Ki-moon,  8th UN Secretary General

What is The Global Academy?

The Global Academy is a not-for-profit social enterprise that has spun out from a busy global academic jobs board. The Global Academy is a new initiative, launching this year, linking academic research together using the UNSDG framework - 'Research for the Goals'.  We are working to support achievement of the The Global Goals by highlighting and showcasing academic work on the Goals that is making a real contribution.  To support this aim, the Global Academy website is a growing resource where academics from around the world post their researcher pages to highlight how their work is supporting achievement of specific Global Goals. From here academics, and their funders, can identify opportunities for research collaboration, or important gaps in research, as we seek to meet the UN Global Goals.

Why is The Global Academy initiative important?

The Global Academy is the first independent initiative to attempt to draw together the academic research supporting achievement of the UN Global Goals by 2030.  It provides an independent platform where researchers, those who fund research and the institutions housing and supporting research on the Global Goals can come together. The Global Academy is providing a unique opportunity to showcase research, find collaboration opportunities and support initiatives in under-researched areas.

Why is this initiative important for institutions supporting research?

From the experience we have gained running a global academic jobs board we know that researchers around the world are already working on all 17 goals, and their 169 underlying targets.  Our website will show how and where they are making progress.  

Some of these researchers are working in academic institutions where there is a genuine and coherent corporate commitment to organising, promoting and supporting research which is relevant to the achievement of The Global Goals by 2030.  This is one of the ways in which these institutions wish to be defined to the rest of the world.

Some of the researchers are working in highly collaborative teams and research groups within their institutions, which may not (yet) have developed a corporate priority around research that supports the achievement of the Global Goals.

Some of the researchers may be working alone (possibly as postgraduate student, or a supervisor of a single postgraduate student) on work that is important in the context of the UN Global Goals but is not clearly recognised or supported as part of a wider research programme within their institutions.

Further, some researchers are working outside of academic institutions and undertaking research highly relevant to the achievement of the Global Goals, in their roles within, for example, commercial organisations, or perhaps public, or third, sector 'think tanks'.

All of these researchers have a place in the Global Academy.  Importantly, so do the institutions that support their work.

Institutions too can benefit from having a place, outside of their 'corporate' structures, to showcase internationally, and promote, the work they are doing towards the achievement of the 2030 UN Global Goals.

If you would like to discuss how your institution can become part of The Global Academy initiative please get in touch with one of the team: 

What makes a good researcher page on The Global Academy website?


The Global Academy is working to support achievement by 2030 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (The Global Goals) by highlighting and showcasing academic work on the Goals that is making a real contribution.

To support this aim, the Global Academy website is a growing resource where academics from around the world post their researcher pages to highlight how their work is supporting achievement of specific Global Goals. From here academics, and their funders, can identify opportunities for research collaboration, or important gaps in research, as we seek to meet the UN Global Goals.

But which researcher pages are going to have the biggest impact? - how do we know when a researcher’s page is a good one? This blog is designed to help with those questions and provide some ‘top tips’ - so here we go:

Provide a good photograph

Your photo is the first thing others are going to see when they open your page. It needs to be in focus(!) and project the image you are seeking to put across in the rest of your page.

Try to answer all the questions in the researcher page builder

This might seem pretty obvious but what might just feel like an easy skip when you are answering the questions to populate your page may look like a big gap when it is formatted and shown on the published page. We have tried to make this as easy as possible for you, and not all questions will be relevant to everyone, but more definitely is more in this case.

Think about the language

The Global Academy website is a resource for academics - both to highlight their own work and to find out about the work of others associated to the achievement of the UN Global Goals. The vast majority of visitors to the site will be academics, but some will not. The website is intended as a truly global resource. With that in mind it is important when describing your research focus and projects on your page to think carefully about the language you use. Could someone not directly working within your field understand it? Could someone with something other than English as their first language understand it?

It’s all about the Goals

By including your researcher page on the Global Academy website you are showing the world that your research is contributing to the achievement of the UN Global Goals by 2030. This is why other academics are visiting the site - they may be seeking potential collaborators. It is why research funders are visiting the site - they are seeking to identify gaps in research or work worthy of enhanced support.

However, others are only going to know which Goals you are working on if you tell them by making it clear on your researcher page. We know that in many cases this may take a bit of thought and a little time and effort - particularly when you narrow your work down to specific targets (which are ‘nested’) beneath each of the Global Goals. However, the benefits in terms of how easy it is for others to ‘read’ your page will be more than worth it!

Finally - promote yourself!

The Global Academy website is an opportunity for you to showcase to your peers and research funders around the world, the value of your work on the UN Global Goals. Tell everyone about your awards and successes. Make sure people know how to get hold of you easily. Perhaps even consider uploading a short video about your work and its linkage to the achievement of the UN Global Goals by 2030.

If in doubt about anything drop us a line at The Global Academy and we will be happy to help.

How do I know which Global Goals I'm working on?

Global goals with flag waver to the right

Research to support the achievement of the UN Global Goals

Here at The Global Academy we've found that some of the first researchers who are signing up are finding a bit of a problem. How do you know where your research fits within the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (Global Goals) framework? To make it easier to see where your work fits and therefore which Global Goals you should select when signing up to the site, we've developed a new page on our website to help out. The page lists all the goals, and the individual targets behind each one, on a single page.

You know your research - let us support you in deciding where it fits

When you sign up to The Global Academy the targets for each goal listed on this page should help you to choose the goals that are relevant to your research. The page may be useful even if you already know what goals you're working towards; you can use the page to decide which targets within those goals your research is supporting the world to achieve.

You know your research better than anyone else which is why you're best placed to decide where it fits within the Global Goals framework. We're hoping that this new resource will help you to make this decision easier as part of your sign up to The Global Academy.

Sign up now!

If you'd like to start creating a researcher page, please visit our page builder tool. We will start your page, based on the content you provide, send you the link and ask where you would like to make changes and additions. Because we are still developing the site we are beginning with this simple web form and hand-built pages. Later on we will move to a fully functioning data-base fed by an automated online system. The first 100 researchers to sign up will get a "Research Trailblazer" badge on their (free!) page, so why not sign up now to take advantage of this starter offer and get yourself a badge before they run out!

Check out some researcher pages

Dr Matt Smith Aerobiologist and Lecturer - working on Global Goals 3, 13 and 15

Mr Ignatius Duhu (page under construction) Doctoral candidate - working on Global Goal 8

Dr Wesley Loftie-Eaton Microbiologist and Research scientist - working on Global Goals 3 and 9

Prof Michael Petraglia Archeologist and PI for the Paleodeserts project - working on Global Goals 13 and 15

See our researchers talking about their work

Researcher videos on our website

Videos on our YouTube Channel


The Global Academy is a social enterprise, run by the team at Global Academy jobs with support from Perrett Laver, a Research Funding Sponsor and a Data Partner

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