UCL Institute for Global Prosperity


Student Spotlight: Johnny Stormonth-Darling

Johnny Stormonth-Darling (Global Prosperity student, 2019-21) tells us about his experience at the IGP and his current role at an important non-profit foundation

Alumnus Johnny

What is your background and why did you choose to study the Global Prosperity MSc?

Having already spent a number of years at university, both as a student and a member of staff which culminated in a decade as a nanofabrication engineer, I was looking around for ways to get a better picture of how the world worked and contribute to the making of sound governance decisions. This was appealing as it seemed much more foundational to the research and industry projects I was working on which, despite being fascinating and often very helpful technologies, did not always seem to be rooted in the urgent needs of our time. I searched for a year for a sideways move into government or something like it, before stumbling across the Global Prosperity masters program. Despite my reticence to enrol in degree number 4 and seemingly take a step backwards from my PhD in biomedical engineering, the course description was so utterly up my street that I decided to hold back my doctoral pride, respect the new discipline, and commit to this new academic adventure.

What have you been doing since graduating and how did your MSc help you progress in your career?

Immediately after submitting my dissertation, I was offered a small paid role on the implementation team of the world's first global citizens' assembly, having volunteered for it over the summer. This role turned out to be a lot bigger than anyone anticipated and I ended up right in the thick of it and even co-leading the writing of the final report. Upon completion of that task the following year, one of the partners, Iswe Foundation, offered me another small job which turned out to be a lot bigger and that is where I spend most of my time now. We are now working on the successor to the 2021 Global Assembly, this time more politically attuned and aiming to be a permanent feature in the multilateral global governance system, and I am co-leading the development of a digital platform which will support community scale assemblies all over the world as part of the broader initiative. All of this can be traced back to the need to pick a case study (you can guess what I picked) for an essay about citizens' assemblies during the masters programme!

What advice would you give to new IGP students and to those thinking of applying?

This course was especially useful to me as both a mature student and as someone with expertise in other domains; I could see things through the models of what I already knew and that was an asset. If you have an interest in the great, confusing swirl of big issues facing the world and how to think about them, then this course will expose you to all of it in a methodical, digestible way which will help you find your next direction.

For those of you already here: read everything, read around everything, go down rabbit holes and read around them. Listen too, and talk everything through with your peers and teachers as often as you can. Make unexpected connections between the diverse disciplines you encounter here and have encountered before. Be outlandishly adventurous with your dissertation project and only reign it in reluctantly when your supervisor insists. But you have to do the work...and then you have to do some more, so drop what you can and get down to it!

What did you enjoy the most about studying with the IGP?

I had my mind blown every week, I connected countless unexpected dots, and have enough new ideas to last a lifetime. From the hopeless conversations after each lecture, where the world's stark reality was gradually unveiled piece by piece, to the unexpected, hopeful epiphanies which emerged in seminars, reading, group projects, and casual discussions, coming to the IGP was one of the best decisions I have ever made and has it furnished me with the tools for useful career I was longing for.

What does prosperity mean to you?

I think, for me, it's something about living in a world where everyone spends almost all their time above the thresholds of life's various precarites, being exposed to good information, and getting along through patient conversations and epistemic humility. It's a world where nature is not so far away and anyone has the opportunity to drop everything and do another masters degree when they're 35 (or older!).