I am a civil society expert with a successful track record of producing research that delivers beneficial impact for international NGOs seeking to enhance their accountability.


I gained my PhD (International Relations) at the University of Southampton in 2004. My thesis examined the emergence of transnational public spheres among online networks of civil society activists. After some sessional lecturing at the University of Southampton, I was appointed Senior Lecturer in International Relations at Liverpool John Moores University (2005-08). I joined the University of Portsmouth in 2008 in the role of Senior Lecturer in International Relations. I was promoted to Reader in Civil Society in 2020.

Research interests

My research interests include NGO accountability, NGO-community relationships, the role of language and translation in NGO development work, civil society space, and transnational advocacy networks. I have published widely in a variety of formats on these issues, including monographs, journal articles and commissioned policy papers.

I am currently leading an AHRC-funded project that aims to solve common communication problems between development NGOs and local communities, using innovative participatory methods (Community-Sourced Translation Glossary for International Development Work). In partnership with Dr Michael Chasukwa of Chancellor College Malawi, I have facilitated workshops of community members and practitioners to create an online two-way Chichewa-English translation glossary of words relevant to development work. We have produced a training manual on the methods used to create the glossary for development practitioners who are interested in replicating the process in their own languages. In this way, we aim to create far-reaching and long-term impact by building the language capacity of development stakeholders within and beyond Malawi. Check out our website:

The glossary initiative addresses a need for more language support in the NGO sector that I identified in a major research project that I recently conducted with the University of Reading and the civil society organisation, INTRAC. The project, titled The Listening Zones of NGOs: languages and cultural knowledge in development programmes, explored the role that languages and cultural knowledge play in the policies and practices of development NGOs, and drew upon fieldwork that I conducted in Malawi. The project provided innovative policy recommendations that were adopted by several NGOs in the UK, Malawi and Peru. The project’s findings are contained in my recent book, co-authored with Professor Hilary Footitt and Dr Wine Tesseur: 'Development NGOs and Languages: Listening, Power and Inclusion' (Palgrave 2020).

I am currently engaged in a major AHRC-funded project led by Professor Tamsin Bradley (Portsmouth) in partnership with University College London, and the NGOs Plan International and Likikiri Collective. The project, titled Tackling violence against women and girls in times of conflict: responding to youth voices from South Sudan, aims to deliver evidence-based programme recommendations for NGOs serving displaced young women and girls in South Sudan and the border areas of Uganda.  

I support the civil society research community through my coordination of the British International Studies Working Group on NGOs and Civil Society, a global network of practitioners and leading/emerging scholars.

I am committed to research that delivers beneficial impact for the organisations that I work with. I am a member of the Independent Review Panel for Accountable Now, the global membership network that works with civil society organisations on improving their accountability practices. I have been consulted by various NGOs for my expert advice, including Tearfund, World Vision and Transparency International. In addition, I have served for several years as a Trustee of Amnesty International UK, and as a member of the International Issues Sub-Committee.

I am an experienced PhD supervisor, and have steered several students to successful completion of their doctoral research. I welcome proposals from PhD candidates on civil society topics, particularly those that investigate NGO relationships with local partners and communities.

Teaching responsibilities

NGOs and Social Movements (Undergraduate and postgraduate, campus-taught and distance learning)

Exploring International Relations (Postgraduate, campus-taught and distance learning)

Global Development (Undergraduate)