Dr Vicky Johnson

Staff details

Position Senior Research Fellow
Department Anthropology
Email V.Johnson (@gold.ac.uk)
Dr Vicky Johnson

Dr Vicky Johnson has over twenty years of experience as a researcher and consultant in social and community development, both in the UK and internationally. She is Principal Investigator for Youth Uncertainty Rights (YOUR) World Research in Ethiopia and Nepal, funded by ESRC-DFID Poverty Fund (2016-2019). Recent research she has led includes: steps for engaging children in research (Bernard van Leer Foundation); Social protection and education for street connected girls in Nairobi (UNGEI); and Youth Sexual Rights (IPPF). Vicky has designed and led academic training on ‘Creating Impact in Social Sciences’ and has advised on the ethics on carrying out research with marginalised and vulnerable children and youth. She supervises doctoral and masters students and teaches on Masters programmes in childhood, youth and international development, international education and child rights.


Vicky has a Bachelors in Geography at the University of Sussex and Masters (with Distinction) in Environmental Policy at Imperial. Her Masters dissertation was on the fuelwood and energy use in rural Swaziland. Vicky has also followed short courses on Refugees and Environment at Reading University and Refugees in a Contemporary World at Elizabeth House, Oxford University (1988-89). This led her into linking research into policy and practice in international research institutes and non-governmental organisations.

She retrained as an anthropologist whilst at ActionAid, through being PI on an ESRC-ODA Population and Development funded three-year research grant under the guidance of Judith Ennew as the key adviser. This ethnographic and participatory research carried out with Nepalese fieldworkers to examine children’s roles in households and society and led to a monograph called Listening to Smaller Voices: Children in an Environment of Change (ActionAid 1995).

Vicky completed a funded PhD (2008-2010) at the University of Central Lancashire on Child and Youth Research within the School of Social Work, Care and Community, where is an Honorary Fellow and an Associate of The Centre for Children’s Participation – a child-led research organisation based at UCLan. Her doctoral research revisited children’s participation programmes of intervention. Through case study research in the UK and Nepal, she examined The Changing Contexts of Children and Young People’s Participation and developed what she refers to as a Change-scape framework. This has since been incorporated into research and policy documents funded by, for example IPPF and UNGEI, and currently forms a theoretical underpinning for her youth-centred research on uncertainty in Ethiopia and Nepal.  

Dr Johnson was awarded a Distinction from the University of Brighton for the PG for Higher Education.


Vicky teaches in the following areas: social research methodology; childhood and youth including across disciplines of the anthropology of childhood, sociology of childhood and children's geographies; child and human rights; international development; international education and inclusion. Currently she is lecturing on the MA programmes on Childhood, Youth and International Development at Brunel and Birkbeck, University of London. She is currently supervising masters students at Birkbeck and PhDs at Goldsmiths and the University of Brighton.

Area of supervision

Childhood and Youth Research; Community Organisation; International Development; Exclusion and Processes of Marginalisation; Inequality and Social Justice; Power and Participation  


Doctoral Students at Goldsmiths

Milki Getachew, Youth Decision-Making Processes in International Migration and Intergenerational Relationships in the Drought Prone Hetosa in Ethiopia (attached to ESRC/DFID research)

Shubhendra Man Shrestha, Resilience of Marginalised Youth in Fragile and Conflict Affected Areas of Nepal (attached to ESRC/DFID research)

Doctoral Students at the University of Brighton

Jeremy Evans, Local Ecological Knowledge, the Benthos and the Epistemologies of Inshore Fishing (completing March 2018)

Anannia Admassu Sahle, Conceptualising Childhood: Perceptions and practices of childhood and children’s education among communities in Agorba Region in North East Ethiopia (Transfer June 2017), International Scholarship, funded by Comic Relief and Oak Foundation

Jennie Jones, Part-Time Students’ Learning Journeys in UK Universities in Changing Times: Exploring the influences of academic, professional and personal relationships and life events (Transfer June 2018)

Amy Scarth, The Democratisation of Charity, Gift-giving and Philanthropy through Tourism in Sub Saharan Africa (South Coast ESRC Doctoral Programme, University of Brighton)

Research Interests

Vicky’s key focus of research and publication is in the field of children and young people’s participation. Monographs and books include: Listening to Smaller Voices (ActionAid 1995); Stepping Forward (IT Publications 1998) and with A. West, Children’s Participation in Global Contexts: Beyond Voice (Routledge 2018). Vicky has led research, and managed programmes and partnerships in Africa, Asia and Latin America for international organisations and provided expert advice for a range of UN and government departments. She has also developed programmes of community research with local authorities, NHS, government regeneration programmes and non-governmental organisations in the UK.

Recent grants:

Principal Investigator (PI) on the following research projects (see references for outputs):

  • 2016-2019, ESRC/ DFID Poverty Fund, £ 437,000

Insecurity and Uncertainty: Marginalised Youth Living Rights in Fragile and Conflict Affected Situations in Ethiopia and Nepal

  • Jan-April 2017, Newton Fund Allocation, University of Brighton, £5,000

The Role of Universities in Poverty, Conflict and Peace-building in Ethiopia and Eritrea (with Millican)

  • 2014-2015 UN Girls Education Initiative $34,978, plus Comic Relief £4,680

The Role of Girl’s Education in Pendekezo Letu’s Interventions in Nairobi, case study for UNGEI, with broader Comic Relief funded research into the complex lives of street connected girls

  • 2013-2014 The Bernard van Leer Foundation £82,000

Engaging Young Children in Research, multi partner global collaboration to produce guide and toolkit

  • 2013-2014, Community University Partnership Programme, University of Brighton, £5,000

Participatory Action Research with older people on lifelong learning in Coldean, Brighton and Hove

  • 2014 International Planned Parenthood Federation £7,000 following larger grant (see below)

Commissioned to write an implementation guide for Youth Centeredness in Sexual Rights and Reproductive and Sexual Health across the Federation in 152 countries 

  • 2012-2013 International Planned Parenthood Federation (final phase of longer £120,000 programme of research - £15,000 for time as PI when at UoB)

Youth Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights – Youth-led research Benin, Kenya, Nepal, Nicaragua


Selected Recent Publications:

Johnson, V. and West, A. (2018), Children’s Participation in Global Contexts: Beyond Voice, Abingdon: Routledge

Johnson, V. (forthcoming), ‘Hesitating at the Door: Youth-led research on realizing sexual rights informing organizational approaches’ in (Ed.) Morris, C. Cornwall, A., Boyce, P., Harvey, L. and Huang, Y., Researching Sex and Sexualities: methodological reflections, Abingdon: Routledge

Johnson, V. (2017), ‘Moving Beyond Voice in Children and Young People’s Participation’ Action Research, Special Issue: Development, Aid and Social Transformation, Vol. 15, Issue 1 pp 104-124

Johnson, V., Johnson, L., Magati, B. O., Walker, D. (2016), 'Breaking Intergenerational Transmissions of Poverty: Perspectives of Street Connected Girls in Nairobi' in Murray, L. and Robertson, S., Intergenerational Mobilities: Relationality, age and lifecourse, Ashgate: Farnham

Johnson V., Hart R., Colwell J. (2016), ‘International Innovative Methods for Engaging Young Children in Research’, in Evans, R. and Holt, L. (Eds.) Methodological Approaches, Vol. 2 of Skelton, T. (ed.) Geographies of Children and Young People, Singapore: Springer

Johnson, V. (2015), ‘Valuing Children’s Knowledge: The politics of listening?’ The Politics of Evidence in International Development: Playing the Game to Change the Rules? Warwickshire: Practical Action Publishing

Johnson, V., Johnson, L., Magati, B. O., Kiwanuka, A., Walker, D. (2015) UNGEI Case Study Summary: The Role of Girls’ Education in Pendekezo Letu’s Interventions in Nairobi, New York: UNGEI

Johnson, V. and Braeken, D. (2015), Young at Heart: How to be Youth-Centred in the 21st Century - an introduction, London: International Planned Parenthood Federation

Johnson, V. (2014), Change-scape theory:  applications in participatory practice. In Westwood, J., Larkins, C., Moxon, D., Perry, Y, and Thomas, N., (Eds.), Citizenship and Intergenerational Relations in Children and Young People's Lives: Children and Adults in Conversation, Baskingstoke: Palgrave Pivot


Research advisory forums: Honorary Research Fellow, Institute of Development Studies; Strategy and Planning Group, ESRC-DFID Impact Initiative; Research Reference Group, IFAD funded, IDS led research – Opportunities and Challenges for Youth Employment in Sub-Saharan Africa; Research Expert Forum for Consortium for Street Children; Steering Group Child-to-Child Participation Forum; Steering Group for Research Leadership Programme and Lead for Impact in School of Education, University of Brighton (until 2018); Visiting Fellow, School of Social Work; Research Associate, The Centre, UCLan; Board member of the  and European Sociological Association (ESA);  International Editorial Board of Participatory Learning and Action, International Institute of Environment and Development/ IDS (1998-2013).