Derek Johnson photographed at Global Zero’s Washington DC office

Derek Johnson is the Executive Director of the Global Zero, a global initiative for nuclear disarmament powered by an eminent group of 300 world leaders and luminaries. Johnson is a creative strategist working at the intersection of catalytic advocacy, foreign policy and social change, and this is why we’ve added him to our Celebrities Who Give “Charitable Influencers” List.

Derek has spent the last 8 years positioning Global Zero as a highly credible source of policy analysis and thought leadership, a trusted intermediary among nuclear-armed states, and a provocative advocacy operation in key regions. He has a knack for identifying strategic opportunities and the right tactics that can push the message into the mainstream in order to shine a spotlight or apply pressure. In addition to developing organizational strategy, overseeing day-to-day operations, and leading fundraising efforts, Derek also spearheads special projects — from coordinating sensitive track-1.5 initiatives to producing viral and award-winning creative content.

Derek Johnson at Cornell College taking part in an internship at the non-profit that’s dedicated to eliminating nuclear weapons around the world.

Before taking the helm at Global Zero, Derek worked to advance interfaith dialogue and cooperation on humanitarian issues at the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions and helped organize its flagship convening in Melbourne, Australia. He also worked to enhance access to justice, human rights and rule of law at JUSTICE, the British section of the International Commission of Jurists in London, and worked as an attorney for several years in Boston.

Derek is a graduate of Cornell College and Boston College Law School. He is also a member of the Munich Young Leaders group of rising experts in foreign and security policy, jointly organized by Körber Foundation and the Munich Security Conference; the European Young Leaders group organized by Friends of Europe; and a Nuclear Security Innovation Fellow at N Square Collaborative.




September 2004 - May 2007

Juris Doctor, International Law at Boston College Law School

September 2000 - May 2004

Bachelor of Arts, English & Philosophy at Cornell College


May 2003 - Present

Executive Director at Global Zero

• Oversees all aspects of Global Zero’s international operations, including strategic planning, organizational development, communications, policy, fundraising, financial planning, and regulatory/legal compliance.
• Leads ongoing refinement of programmatic initiatives, ensuring alignment with organizational vision and goals, strategic plan, and broader theory of change.
• Serves as a primary representative of the Global Zero movement to external stakeholders such as NGOs, foundations, foreign ministries, the media, and the general public to drive positive partnerships and outcomes.
• Organizes and deploys high-level movement leaders around priority policy areas, ensuring diverse global network speaks with one voice.
• Leads special projects, ranging from production of viral and award-winning digital content to orchestrating sensitive backchannel diplomatic dialogues and interventions.
• Works collaboratively with senior leadership team to develop human resource policies, infrastructure, development support and coaching for staff and volunteers, and implements programs and systems within the context of rapid and long-term institutional growth and change.
• Increases staff capacity to liaison with strategic partners on messaging, tactics, and talking points, and formulates robust inside/outside strategy on both policy and organizing alignment.
• Oversees all institutional and grassroots fundraising efforts. Identifies and secures funding sources, stewards donors and prospects, and builds relationships with individual, institutional and governmental partners.
• Manages board of directors and major stakeholders, cultivating strong and transparent working relationship to ensure open communication about the measurement of financial, programmatic and impact performance against stated milestones and goals.
• Monitors program compliance with all funder guidelines, and work closely with Operations Director and various project leads around financial reporting.

January 2012 - May 2013

Chief of Staff at Global Zero

• Managed senior staff across field, digital and policy departments to develop and execute global outreach and advocacy strategies.
• Collaborated with leadership team and major stakeholders to set and implement annual and long-range organizational goals, and designed and oversaw systems to measure progress.
• Coordinated outreach activities of international group of current/former heads of state, political leaders, senior military commanders, national security experts, and business, civic and faith leaders.
• Led global communication efforts, including through press statements, digital platforms, and membership engagement.
• Spearheaded organization-wide brand refresh efforts, and oversaw design and development of new multilingual website, communication strategies, and internal style guides.
• Served as an organizational spokesperson with the public and the press, and liaised with partner organizations, high-level supporters, and funders.
• Ensured operational readiness in the areas of administration, finance, human resources, and legal/regulatory compliance.
• Spearheaded efforts to spin off all operations from host organization, the World Security Institute, and establish Global Zero as an independent 501(c)(3) charitable organization.
• Led recruitment, talent development, and retention of high-performing staff. Identified leadership development opportunities for staff and volunteers, as well as culture and structure to encourage utilization.
• Designed and administrative systems and human resource policies in collaboration with senior staff and with input and buy-in at every level of the organization, and worked to foster a positive workplace culture centered trust, support, empathy and inclusion.

July 2010 - January 2012

Program Director at Global Zero

• Managed Global Zero’s track-2 diplomatic initiatives and personally managed relationships with over 300 current and former heads of state, national security advisers, military commanders, and business, civic and faith leaders.
• Directed all aspects of Global Zero’s high-profile international events, including event planning, budgeting, logistics, vendor management, participant coordination, and related public/media outreach.
• Worked closely with Campaign Director to design and execute high-impact national and international campaigns to build public pressure and political support for the elimination of nuclear weapons.
• Assisted in the development and implementation of fundraising efforts through prospect identification, profiling and lead generation, and drafted successful grant proposals to major foundations.
• Managed Deputy Program Director and team of assistants and interns, as well as external consultants.

September 2009 - July 2010

Program Consultant at Council for a Parliament of the World's Religions

• Researched interreligious perspectives and initiatives (Bahá’í, Buddhist, Christian, Confucian, Hindu, Indigenous, Islamic, Jain, Jewish, Sikh and Zoroastrian, among others) addressing diverse issues, including: social justice and social cohesion, conflict resolution, nuclear nonproliferation, food security, climate change and overcoming poverty.
• Liaised with high-level stakeholders in religious communities, nonprofits and international organizations, facilitated research and connected parties on human rights issues.
• Managed production of 400+ page 2009 Parliament Program Book, reassigned staff workflow and renegotiated and managed contracts, project deliverables and deadlines.
• Managed “Sacred Sites, Sacred Solidarity” symposium; organized public programs and private workshops; and arranged participation of organizations, leaders and scholars.
• Developed educational and advocacy exhibitions and other materials for print and online media using Adobe InDesign.
• Analyzed nongovernmental programs and international agreements, drafted analyses and advised on advocacy for international law.
• Consulted on communication strategies and managed development of 2009 Parliament Report for public relations and fundraising initiatives.

March 2008 - April 2009

Associate Attorney at Casner & Edwards, LLP

• Responsible for diverse federal and state litigation caseload involving: civil rights, consumer protection, product liability, professional liability, contract law and torts.
• Contacted government officials, analyzed state and federal legislation and drafted policy guidance for municipal and nonprofit clients.
• Drafted legal motions, memoranda and briefs, discovery requests and responses, and case assessments and strategies.
• Researched complex legal issues, interviewed and counseled clients, verified facts, reviewed documents, examined witnesses and negotiated with opposing counsel.
• Presented oral arguments and represented clients in state and federal court.

January 2007 - March 2008

City of Boston Law Department at Contract Attorney

• Assisted Litigation Division in all stages of civil cases in state and federal courts on behalf of City of Boston, including: civil rights, municipal law, environmental law, contract law and torts.
• Analyzed legislation and drafted public policy proposals for Government Services Division.
• Researched substantive and procedural issues, interviewed parties, prepared for and attended depositions, and conducted extensive factual investigation.
• Drafted legal motions, memoranda, and negotiation and settlement strategies.
• Assisted with preparation for jury and bench trials in state and federal court.
• Trained 4 new legal interns on legal research and writing best practices.

May 2006 - December 2006

Law Clerk at Fragomen, Del Rey, Bernsen & Loewy

• Assisted with large caseload for corporate accounts encompassing several non-immigrant (B, F, H, J, L, O) and immigrant visa categories (all EB-1 categories, labor certification).
• Researched immigration and national security laws and authored extensive visa petitions for filing with federal government.
• Drafted responses to government inquiries and maintained contact with corporate clients and foreign nationals.
• Analyzed global work authorization procedures and prepared applications for work permits and entry clearances.

January 2006 - May 2006

Law Clerk at JUSTICE

• Identified and analyzed rule of law and human rights issues under British constitutional reforms.
• Evaluated European Union legislative directives and assessed policy implementation and human rights impact in the UK.
• Reviewed bilateral extradition treaties and practices; drafted reports ranging from US/UK judicial parallels to South African equality law; and contributed to advisory papers for House of Lords sub-committee hearings.
• Co-authored report on extraordinary rendition and torture of terror suspects for 2006 International Rule of Law Conference in London.

  • International
  • Updated 2 years ago

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