Our Story

“We instinctively knew that the one thing we did not need in order to succeed was a new institution. Instead, we needed to find a way to work in between the existing structures.”
– Patrick Frick, Founder, Global Commons Alliance (GCA)
View a timeline of GCA’s story below oread about its origins in Patrick’s own words.


In September 2009, one of the world’s leading academic journals, Nature, published a seminal article entitled “A Safe Operating Space for Humanity”. The article introduced the concept of Planetary Boundaries. The article, written by the co-founders of the Stockholm Resilience Centre, Johan Rockström and Carl Folke, along with an international team of scientists, concluded three boundaries had been crossed relating to climate, biodiversity and the biogeochemical cycles of nitrogen and phosphorus.

In October 2009, the Nobel Committee awarded Elinor Ostrom the Nobel Prize for economics for her work in identifying principles for effective management of common resources, research of direct importance for managing the global commons. Ostrom, who died in 2012, was a US political scientist and board member of the Stockholm Resilience Centre.


The Global Environment Facility commissioned two scientific organisations, the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis and the Stockholm Resilience Centre, to produce a report on the global commons in the Anthropocene.

In the same year scientists announced a fourth planetary boundary relating to deforestation had been transgressed.



The report, The Global Commons in the Anthropocene: World Development on a Stable and Resilient Planet, was published in November of this year at an event convened in Washington DC by the Global Environment Facility.

The report, written by Nebojsa Nakicenovic, Johan Rockström, Owen Gaffney and Caroline Zimm, concluded that a stable, resilient planet is a critical global commons, but in the Anthropocene this stability and resilience is now at risk. All interconnected systems that support this stability and resilience should be considered global commons and protected.

The event in Washington DC brought together leaders from business, science, advocacy, the media and policy. It focused minds on the urgent need to safeguard the global commons and the need to adopt new thinking and approaches to scale action.


In June 2019, the Global Commons Alliance was launched at the EcoProsperity event in Singapore.

The Earth Commission, the scientific arm of the Global Commons Alliance, was launched.

The Science Based Targets Network, which provides a platform for cities and businesses to adopt targets for all global commons, was launched.

The network identified the initial global commons upon which to focus: biodiversity, climate, land, ocean and water.


Over 50 organisations are now part of the alliance.

The first guidance for businesses to prepare for targets for all global commons is published to coincide with the UN’s General Assembly.

A new major media partnership with Now This to create Now This Earth is launched to coincide with the UN’s Biodiversity Summit.

Systems Change Lab is launched to monitor, learn from and advance transformational change.


The GCA undergoes a strategy development process and transitions to the GCA 2.0 with a new governance structure and strategic direction in place.

A fifth component of the GCA is established, the Accountability Accelerator.


GCA closes its start-up chapter (1.0). GCA 2.0 is based on strong governance and leadership, a robust integration plan between the components, and the right teams with the necessary resources in place to deliver innovative products.

Jane Madgwick is appointed GCA’s first ever Executive Director. Read about the process from origin story to GCA 2.0, in Founder Patrick Frick’s own words.