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Johanna Koehler is Assistant Professor of Environmental Policy and Governance in the Department of Environmental Policy Analysis at the Institute for Environmental Studies (IVM), Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. Her research interests include sustainable water and energy service transitions. She investigates how risks and responsibilities can be re-conceptualised and re-allocated in pluralist governance arrangements between the state, market, and communities. Theoretically, her work advances institutional theory of risk; methodologically, she uses qualitative and quantitative methods, including experiments, to understand social and institutional behaviours with regard to environmental governance, working with governments, the private sector, and end users. As a Veni Laureate from the Dutch Research Council's Talent Scheme (NWO), she works on her RiskPool project, which examines risk-pooling and instiutitonal innovation in sustainable water service transitions across the Global South and North.

Johanna teaches and coordinates courses on environmental policy, food governance and sustainability, as well as research design and methods in the 'Environment and Resource Management' and 'Global Environmental Change and Policy' MSc programmes. She also teaches Water Policy at the University of Oxford.

Johanna is also Honorary Research Associate at the School of Geography and the Environment and the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment, University of Oxford, and continues to work on the REACH programme on improving water security for the poor in Kenya, Ethiopia, and Bangladesh. She is an Academic Editor of PLOS Water and also a member of the Amsterdam Young Academy.

She is co-founder of rural water service provider in Kenya, FundiFix, which serves over 80,000 people with reliable water services. Her research on sharing water-related risks between the public and private sectors and communities was taken up in Kenya’s Water Act 2016. The model has since been scaled up by UNICEF in Bangladesh and is part of the wider Uptime consortium of service providers maintaining rural water infrastructure across Africa.

Johanna holds a DPhil (PhD) in Geography and the Environment, an MSc in Water Science, Policy and Management, both from the University of Oxford, and a BA in History and International Relations from Royal Holloway, University of London. Before joining IVM, she was based at the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment, University of Oxford, and at Christ Church College, Oxford. Previously she worked at the United Nations Office in Geneva.

In 2018 she was joint winner of the inaugural University of Oxford's Vice Chancellor's Innovation Award, and in 2019 she was appointed water and sustainable development expert on the World Economic Forum Expert Network. She is part of the Bosch Academy for Transformational Leadership (2020-22) focused on sustainability and transformation research, especially with regard to land use practices in a globalised world.


Environmental policy, institutions, water services, cultural theory of risk, development, Africa.


2018: DPhil (PhD) in Geography and the Environment, University of Oxford

2013: MSc in Water Science, Policy and Management, School of Geography and the Environment, University of Oxford

2011: BA in History and International Relations, Royal Holloway, University of London

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Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 6 - Clean Water and Sanitation
  • SDG 17 - Partnerships for the Goals


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