Prof Melissa Leach

Executive Director

Role: CCI Council, CCI team


Professor Leach is the Executive Director of CCI. She is a renowned academic and policy leader with extensive international experience, combining thirty years of ethnographic work in West Africa with engagements and networks across Africa, South Asia, China and beyond. She has led national and international, policy-engaged programmes and consortia across the fields of global health, environment and sustainability, food systems, and social and gender equity. With a background in social anthropology and geography, she has worked extensively with natural scientists and practitioners on forests, soils and biodiversity, with particular commitments to bringing local communities’ knowledge and perspectives into science-policy processes and practical conservation approaches.

Prior to joining CCI, Melissa spent a decade as Director of the Institute of Development Studies (IDS), helping it to become the world’s leading institute for research, teaching and policy engagement in global development. She also co-founded and co-directed the Economic and Social Research Council’s STEPS Research Centre and global consortium, is a Fellow of the British Academy and has won several awards, including a Queen’s Birthday Honours CBE in 2017 for services to social science.

She holds an impressive record of international roles including co-lead of the International Science Council’s Fellows network; co-chair of Future Earth’s Science Committee; leadership of UN reports; social science leader in the WHO Ebola and Covid-19 science and response committees; and founder member of the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems.