News & Views

Dr. Ken Wilson to Retire from The Christensen Fund


Dr. Ken Wilson, who has served as the Executive Director of The Christensen Fund for the past twelve years, has decided that it is time for him to retire and to make way for new leadership at the Fund.

“Completing a cycle in my life framed by roles in management, I now want to move to Borneo to be with my partner; to re-connect daily with the soil; to engage in the lively, exciting and deeply grounded work of transitioning Sabah towards a circular green economy; and to continue action-research and writing with the village community in Zimbabwe I’ve been connected with these past 34 years,” said Dr. Wilson. Accordingly, he will retire from the Fund on September 30th, 2015.

Hired in 2002 as the first non-family Director at The Christensen Fund, Dr. Wilson worked closely with the Board to develop the biocultural mission and grantmaking rooted in a partnership approach between an unusually diverse and decentralized grantmaking team and the Indigenous and other social movements backing innovation and stewardship around the relationship between culture and nature

Hired in 2002 as the first non-family Director at The Christensen Fund, Dr. Wilson worked closely with the Board to develop the biocultural mission and grantmaking rooted in a partnership approach between an unusually diverse and decentralized grantmaking team and the Indigenous and other social movements backing innovation and stewardship around the relationship between culture and nature

“Investing in people and places that have rarely received philanthropic support has enabled transformational returns beyond what I even imagined,” said Dr. Wilson. “It has exposed me to many delicious places, surprising encounters and an un-waning flood of learning. I’ve worked with the most interesting people I could find as colleagues, partners and grantees, and they have taken Christensen’s resources into inspiring cumulative and often non-linear impact. The movements we’re connected with still face overwhelming odds but are becoming unstoppable, as powerful old global systems fall away. There is no professional opportunity that could have better found me for these last 12 years, but now I myself want to follow better the seasons and grow more vegetables with the one I love.”

Dr. Wilson paid tribute to the “maniacal dedication and endless spark of our Board and colleagues past and present” and to Diane and the Christensen family for their “extraordinary generosity, unusual humility and for backing so solidly social justice, unconventional ideas and the value of local stewardship of biocultural diversity”. He added: “The maturity reached in the Fund’s own institutional development cycle means this is the right time for fresh leadership.”

Diane Christensen, President of The Christensen Fund’s Board of Trustees, said in a statement: “We are eternally grateful to Ken for leading us so brilliantly, imaginatively and with so much foresight and vision over these last 12 years. With such interesting success under our belt, there is enormous determination to continue to grow The Christensen Fund’s impact along our current path of backing the stewards of biocultural diversity. Working alongside Ken has been not only inspiring but also so much fun. We wish him joy in his next endeavors and hope to keep in touch with him as our advisor and mentor.”

Master honey gatherer Daudi Lolmongoi, an Ndorobo hunter from Ngurnit in the Ndoto Hills of Northern Kenya, explains to Dr. Wilson how the Honey Guide, a bird that collaborates with people to find, harvest, and share honey, communicates the location of a wild bee hive to a hunter

Master honey gatherer Lepitilin Leulika, an Ndorobo hunter from Ngurnit in the Ndoto Hills of Northern Kenya, explains to Dr. Wilson how the Honey Guide, a bird that collaborates with people to find, harvest, and share honey, communicates the location of a wild bee hive to a hunter

Looking ahead to the Fund’s future trajectory, Christensen’s Board Chair, Atossa Soltani said: “Under Ken’s leadership, the board and staff have developed great appreciation and deep-rooted commitment to our current approach of backing the resilience of living biocultural diversity at landscape and community levels in partnerships with Indigenous peoples and others around the world. With robust programs in place and years of learning, it is a wonderful moment for a new Executive Director to join and to lead the Fund to realize the full potential of its maturing programs.”

The Christensen Fund assures its grantees and other partners that there will be minimal turbulence during this time of transition and that our programs and partnerships will remain on current trajectories. The Board has convened a Search Committee that will work with a consulting firm on an international recruitment process for Dr. Wilson’s successor. The search will begin in early 2015 and updates will be available on The Christensen Fund’s website.

Dr. Wilson learns from farmers how their local varieties are being adapted to higher altitudes to cope with climate change in Badakhshan, Tajikistan. Circa 2006

A slightly younger Dr. Wilson harvests wheat while learning from farmers how their local varieties are being adapted to higher altitudes to cope with climate change in Badakhshan, Tajikistan. Circa 2006

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