CEO: Paul Smith
Headquarters: Melbourne, Australia



The Australian-based Future Directors Institute is on a mission to change the world, one board director at a time.

Its award-winning Board Kickstarter Program is empowering the next generation of boardroom change agents and connecting Australia’s emerging leaders with a clear roadmap into the boardroom. The results are balancing diversity in boardrooms by connecting younger leaders who bring different perspectives, different experiences and different ways of thinking.

The Institute is supporting and expanding the diversity debate, helping to shift mindsets and ultimately aim to influence the future of business via the boardroom. “In the new economy, governance is about purpose, culture, sustainability, agility, human capital and innovation, as well as traditional areas of risk and performance,” says 40-year-old Future Directors Institute CEO Paul Smith.


“Boards are increasingly looking at the next generation of directors because they look at the world through a lens of where the world is going, not where it has been,” Smith said. He elaborated that young people bring those different perspectives by having grown up in a digital economy that changes constantly.

The Institute is unique with a focus on age diversity, where in Australia the average age of directors is 60. “We believe a good mix of all ages is necessary to govern in the new economy. This is not out with the old and in with the new, but adding the new,” Smith said. “Diversity leads to better performance and we believe that generational diversity can and will drive better decision-making and improve financial, social, environmental and governance outcomes,” he added.

While boards are rightly focused on gender diversity, Smith says younger directors bring that extra dimension of cognitive diversity that can help solve big problems. “They see the world differently; are digital natives, more collaborative and purposeful,” he said.


The innovative Kickstarter Program launched in 2015 with an aim at Generation X and Generation Y (ages 20-50). In just over a year, it has helped over 160 emerging leaders start or enhance their board careers, helping them decide whether they have what it takes; identifying what their unique contribution and impact; and creating a clear roadmap to boards that best match their values and skills.

In the pipeline, the group is developing an online program for mid-tier boards designed to help them overcome some of their most significant future challenges. In 2017, the group will also launch a Board Influencer Program to support those who have newly been appointed to a board role and bring clarity to how they can be heard and positively influence their boards. The intent is to empower advocates for positive change toward the new economy with the tools, knowledge and courage to be a voice for diversity.

The long-term goal is to help purposeful leaders around the world impact outcomes via boardrooms and over a generation influence how boards embrace diversity and a quadruple bottom line, stakeholder approach.


“We have seen a significant number of our graduates secure board roles with start-ups, non-profits, private and public companies. Indeed our youngest graduate, now 21, is now a non-executive director of Australia’s Future Business Council. But, not everyone seeks a board role straight away as they learn how much work and development is required,” Smith said. Graduates of the Institute include C-Suite to junior management, entrepreneurs, accountants, consultants, digital experts, marketing professionals, investment analysts, angel investors, engineers, government managers, HR professionals, coaches, academics, journalists and sustainability professionals.

“We connect them to boards plus provide valuable research and content to aid their journey,” Smith said. As alumni, graduates have access to networking, webinars with boardroom experts in digital, influence, and governance.