Associate Academic Officer — Transformative Urban Coalitions

Applications procedure
Related Files
    Personnel Service Agreement (PSA)
    Bonn, Germany
    UTC +1

    United Nations University

    The United Nations University (UNU) is an international community of scholars, engaged in research, postgraduate teaching and capacity development and dissemination of knowledge in furthering the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations. The mission of UNU is to contribute, through research and capacity building, to efforts to resolve the pressing global problems that are the concern of the United Nations and its Member States.

    United Nations University Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS)

    UNU-EHS, established in December 2003, is part of the UNU system, a worldwide network of research and training institutes. Its mission is to advance human security through knowledge-based approaches to reducing vulnerability and environmental risks. For more information, please visit

    Transformative Urban Coalitions Programme

    Limiting climate change requires rapid and radical transformation of development pathways, especially in cities, which are responsible for 70% of global CO2 emissions. Together with international consortium partners the Transformative Urban Coalition Programme will develop, test, and disseminate a scalable approach for achieving key shifts in urban development to put cities on a path to zero-carbon emissions by 2050. Over the course of the coming years the programme will test an approach to transformative governance by means of transformative research in five pilot cities in Argentina, Brazil and Mexico, combined with implementation of transformative initiatives including the development of new actor constellations. Governance blueprints and lessons from pilot cities will be disseminated through the global networks of UNU and programme partners and new transformation partnerships initiated to make sustainable urbanisation a feasible global priority. One goal is to shape public debate both locally and globally, by means of media engagement, educational activities and interaction with art and film.

    The programme will be newly established within UNU-EHS and is foreseen to be financed for six years.


    Under the guidance of the programme lead the successful candidate shall be responsible for the following tasks:

    • contribute to developing methodologies and tools for changing mindsets to foster socially just, zero-carbon, urban pathways
    • produce studies on different project-related topics such as transformative knowledge, transformative social innovation, governance / policy, and transformative change
    • develop baseline studies and collect progress data, including measuring change of mindsets and transformative social innovation in the urban labs
    • evaluate success factors for sustainability transformation/transition
    • conduct primary and secondary data collection and analysis including literature surveys and local data acquisition; conduct network/constellation analyses; support local teams in pilot cities with transformative research; guide and accelerate agency contributions to establishing networks for sustainability transformation(s)
    • co-develop shared guiding narratives, structures, and agendas in the urban labs and support uptake in communication for development strategies
    • contribute to the development of UNU-EHS’ strategic approach to urban transformation
    • contribute to different dialogue formats and organise programme-related events and planning processes
    • together with team members, develop and conduct online and offline training modules
    • contribute to training and teaching
    • co-author research reports, policy briefs, factsheets, and presentations
    • contribute to reporting and proposal writing
    • co-author scientific articles and present results at scientific conferences
    • further tasks as agreed to support the programme

    Required qualifications and experience

    We are looking for candidates fulfilling the following attributes:

    • completed doctoral degree or equivalent with high academic standing in transformation / transition studies, social sciences, psychology, geography, environmental science, urban studies, or other relevant fields with an emphasis on social-ecological change and a pronounced interest in initiating shifts for social innovation towards just and effective climate protection
    • relevant professional experience (for non-PhD-holder, at least five years), some of which preferably in an international setting; regional experience from Latin America would be beneficial; strong methodological skillset for qualitative empirical research and quantitative methods are an asset
    • in-depth knowledge of concepts and methods in transformation research and design, urban labs, and participatory planning approaches
    • familiarity with sustainable urban planning / management and related governance approaches, as well as current challenges and opportunities in the field would be an asset
    • familiarity with concepts and methods in climate change communication or visualisation would be an asset
    • training and moderation skills would be an asset
    • excellent communication and writing skills (academic and non-academic) with fluency in spoken and written English and Spanish; ability to communicate in Portuguese is an asset
    • demonstrated ability to synthesise complex information, regulations, and policies and to translate into impactful communications and publications / reports / presentations
    • initiative seeker; strong ability to carry out work independently; creative and curious personality preferred
    • team player with strong interpersonal skills demonstrated by the ability to work in a multicultural environment with sensitivity and respect for diversity
    • willingness for longer research stays in the pilot cities

    UNU is committed to diversity and inclusion within its workforce, and encourages all candidates, irrespective of gender, nationality, religious and ethnic backgrounds, including persons living with disabilities to apply and become part of the organisation.

    UNU has a zero-tolerance policy on conduct that is incompatible with the aims and objectives of the United Nations and UNU, including sexual exploitation and abuse, sexual harassment, abuse of authority, and discrimination.


    Remuneration will be commensurate with qualifications and experience.

    Duration of contract

    The successful candidate shall work under a Personnel Service Agreement (PSA) for a fixed period of twelve (12) months. Further continuation of contract is desired.

    This is a locally recruited post and no relocation allowances apply. The successful candidate will be employed under a local contract and will not hold international civil servant status nor is he/she a “staff member” as defined in the United Nations Staff Rules and Regulations.

    Starting date

    As soon as possible.

  • Interested applicants should submit their applications online through Impactpool, and upload the documents requested below:

    • a cover letter setting out how the qualifications and experience match the requirements of the position
    • a curriculum vitae
    • full contact information of three references

    The application must also indicate the reference number of the vacancy announcement (2020/UNU/EHS/PSA/AAO/100).