Social, Technological and Environmental Pathways to Sustainability (STEPS) Centre

The ESRC STEPS (Social, Technological and Environmental Pathways to Sustainability) Centre carries out interdisciplinary global research uniting development studies with science and technology studies to reduce poverty and bring about social justice.

Social, Technological and Environmental Pathways to Sustainability Centre logo

The STEPS Centre is hosted in the UK by the Institute of Development Studies and the Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU) at the University of Sussex. Its main funding is from the UK’s Economic and Social Research Council.

STEPS works as part of a Global Consortium with hubs in Africa, China, Europe, Latin America, North America and South Asia. 

The centre aims to:

  • Address global challenges through interdisciplinary research projects which bring together development studies and science and technology studies
  • Develop a theoretical pathways approach to understanding interactions between social, technological and environmental dynamics in diverse local conditions
  • Link new theories with practical solutions by devising a suite of tools and methods to create more sustainable, socially just and favourable conditions for the poor
  • Influence policy and generate new debate by engaging with diverse local and global audiences to help make change happen
  • Train a new generation of junior researchers, Masters’ students, PhD students and postdoctoral fellows in the STEPS Centre’s concepts, methods and approaches.
Photo of Dominic Glover More details

Georgina Powell-Stevens, Programme Coordinator, Directorate and Development Office More details

Photo of Gerry Bloom, Research Fellow of the Knowledge Technology and Society team More details

Photo of Hayley MacGregor More details

Photo of Ian Scoones, Research Fellow More details

Photo of Jeremy Allouche, IDS research fellow More details

Photo of John Thompson, a Research Fellow in the IDS Rural Futures research cluster More details

Photo of Linda Waldman, KNOTS Research Fellow More details

Photo of Lyla Mehta More details

Marina Apgar photo More details

Photo of Melissa Leach, IDS Director More details

Photo of Nathan Oxley, Communications Assistant, STEPS Centre More details

Parveen Mungroo photo More details

Photo of Vivienne Benson, Administrator, Globalisation Team More details

‘Seeing’ Conflicts at the Margins: Understanding Community Experiences Through Social Research and Digital Narrative in Kenya and Madagascar

In a context of unprecedented investment in natural resource developments, this project bridges the social sciences, the humanities and community-based participatory research to ask how different ‘communities’ of actors ‘see’ and experience resource conflicts in Kenya and Madagascar. We use social science alongside a variety of participatory multimedia methods to open up conflict research to more diverse framings and voices, which can offer new insights on the drivers of resource conflict and pathways to peace. More details

Groundwater Futures in Sub-Saharan Africa (GroFutures)

GroFutures is a 4-year interdisciplinary research project aiming to develop the scientific basis and participatory management processes by which groundwater resources can be used sustainably for poverty alleviation in Sub-Saharan Africa. More details

Changing health and welfare in China and the UK

The project looks at the changing role of state and non-government actors in providing social services in China’s rapidly evolving welfare regime, and aims to promote mutual learning between officials and researchers in China and the UK. Despite historical, social and institutional differences, there is a degree of similarity in strategies emerging. More details

Transitions to Agroecological Food Systems

This project will examine potential pathways for transitioning to more sustainable food systems in order to contribute to improved ecological, economic, social and nutritional outcomes. More details

Social, Technological and Environmental Pathways to Sustainability (STEPS) Centre

The STEPS Centre is an interdisciplinary global research and policy engagement hub, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council. It aims to develop a new approach to understanding, action and communication on sustainability and development. More details

Dynamic Drivers of Disease in Africa Consortium

A STEPS-led consortium of researchers aiming to advance understanding of the connections between disease and environment in Africa, focusing on animal-to-human disease transmission.. More details

Market-Based Mangrove Afforestation and Reforestation in Kenya and India

This study aims to understand and compare processes and relationships associated with the ‘marketization of nature’ – how nature-based commodities and markets for trading them are brought into being – in the context of mangrove afforestation, reforestation and restoration projects in Kenya and India. More details


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Social, Technological and Environmental Pathways to Sustainability Centre logo

Living on the Edge: Climate Change and Uncertainty in the Indian Sundarbans

The Sundarbans is a coastal delta and major climate hotspot located at the southern end of Bangladesh and in the state of West Bengal in India. The delta faces significant climatic and other ecological challenges (e.g. disappearing mangrove forest, islands affected by rising sea levels, erratic rainfall and cyclones). More details

Non-IDS publication

Addressing Climate Change Uncertainty in Dryland Kachchh, India

IDS Policy Briefing (2018)

The semi-arid district of Kachchh in Gujarat, India is known for its erratic rainfall, water scarcity, and droughts. Climate change has intensified extreme temperature and rainfall patterns and also led to changes to the long coastline. These are affecting not only the lives and livelihoods of local people, but also threatening the vibrant ecosystem of Kachchh. More details

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The Many Circuits of a Circular Economy

STEPS Working Papers 94 (2017)

Rapid urbanisation in India has led to the development of large urban agglomerations. These urban agglomerations, with dense concentration of population and economic activity, cause significant environmental stresses. More details

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The Social Life of Mangroves: Resource Complexes and Contestations on the Industrial Coastline of Kutch, India

STEPS Working Papers 99 (2017)

In the last few decades, mangroves have attained significant environmental, climatic and therefore economic importance. As environmental assets, they have given rise to different regimes of conservation, valuation and marketisation in various parts of the world. These processes are associated with new relations of power, dispossession and contestation. More details

Valuing Agroecological Farmers: findings from participatory research on alternative economic approaches to support agroecology in the UK

This paper looks at the potential usefulness of triple bottom line accounting, and also explores other approaches, in financial accounting, for ecological and social outcomes and the effects of different farming methods. It then provides details of the presentations given by three witnesses and a summary of the outcomes of the farmer panel deliberation. More details

Valuing Agroecological Farmers: What Can We Learn From Alternative Economic Approaches to Ensure the Contribution of Agroecological Farmers is Valued Appropriately? Findings From Participatory Research

This paper looks at the potential usefulness of triple bottom line accounting, and also explores other approaches, in financial accounting, for ecological and social outcomes and the effects of different farming methods. It then provides details of the presentations given by three witnesses and a summary of the outcomes of the farmer panel deliberation. More details

Why Access to Land is Vital for Sustainable, Healthy and Fair Food Systems: Strategies for Increasing Access to Land for Agroecological Farming

In partnership between the Institute of Development Studies and the Land Workers’ Alliance, research has been undertaken to identify strategies for increasing access to land for agroecological production, in order to contribute to a transition towards sustainable – or even regenerative – food systems in the UK. This briefing summarises these strategies. More details

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Open and Collaborative Developments

STEPS Working Paper 98 (2017)

Experimentation with radically open and collaborative ways of producing knowledge and material artefacts can be found everywhere, from the free/libre and open-source software movement to citizen science initiatives, and from community-based fabrication laboratories and makerspaces to the production of open-source scientific hardware. More details

STEPS Working Paper cover

Configurations of Agency and Power in the Academic Discourse on the Green Revolution in East Africa

Working Paper by Saurabh Arora on the representations of 'agency' in human and non-human actors (for example, governments, scientists and technologies) in literature on the Green Revolution in East Africa. The author also explores what is masked or hidden by the way these agents are represented. More details

Agronomy for Development book cover

Agronomy for Development: The Politics of Knowledge in Agricultural Research

Over the last decade there has been renewed interest in food security and the state of the global food system. Population growth, climate change and food price spikes have combined to focus new attention on the technologies and institutions that underpin the production and consumption of food that is varied, nutritious and safe. More details

Illustration of rural scene with protestors

Emancipatory Rural Politics: Confronting Authoritarian Populism

Journal of Peasant Studies Forum on: Authoritarian Populism and the Rural World (2017)

Academic paper exploring the rise of authoritarian politics around the world, and how it relates to rural areas. More details

This is the cover to the book, 'Pathways to Sustainable Agriculture'

Pathways to Sustainable Agriculture

This free book highlights some of the major findings that have emerged over the last decade of the STEPS Centre’s research on sustainable agriculture. More details

What Can Promote Access to Land for Agroecological Farming in the UK? Findings from Participatory Research and Deliberation as part of the Transitions to Agroecological Food Systems Project

Access to land has long been a key barrier to new entrants to farming and has become more difficult in the last decade or so. In order to address these land access challenges, the panel discussed the potentials of both (a) working within the existing system (i.e. navigating existing policies, regulations and institutions), and (b) working to change the system (i.e. revising or introducing new policies, regulations and institutions). More details

What Can Promote Access to Land for Agroecological Farming in the UK? Findings from Participatory Research and Deliberation as part of the Transitions to Agroecological Food Systems Project

Access to land has long been a key barrier to new entrants to farming and has become more difficult in the last decade or so. In order to address these land access challenges, the panel discussed the potentials of both (a) working within the existing system (i.e. navigating existing policies, regulations and institutions), and (b) working to change the system (i.e. revising or introducing new policies, regulations and institutions). More details

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The Political Economy for Low-carbon Energy Transition in China: Towards a New Policy Paradigm?

New Political Economy (2017)

China has become the leading country to develop wind and solar energy industries. By presenting the institutional arrangement and interest constellations of China’s regulatory system of renewable energy sectors, this paper argues that the reasons for China’s swift expansion of wind and solar energy investment go beyond the notion of a state-led model. More details

This is the front cover to the book, 'Gender Equality and Sustainable Development'.

Gender Equality and Sustainable Development

For pathways to be truly sustainable and advance gender equality and the rights and capabilities of women and girls, those whose lives and well-being are at stake must be involved in leading the way. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Addressing Resistance to Antibiotics in Pluralist Health Systems

There is growing international concern about the threat to public health of the emergence and spread of bacteria resistant to existing antibiotics. An effective response must invest in both the development of new drugs and measures to slow the emergence of resistance. This paper addresses the former. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Lassa Fever: The politics of an emerging disease and the scope for One Health

This paper explores the politics of knowledge and disease control for Lassa fever, a zoonotic viral haemorrhagic fever which is endemic in parts of West Africa. The Lassa virus has been classified as a Category A pathogen, meaning it is considered to be one of the world’s most dangerous organisms and a potential bioweapon. Unusually for a Category A pathogen it also causes endemic human disease with public health implications. More details

This is the image for IDS Policy Briefing 42, 'Engaging Science and Politics
in a Post-2015 Framework'.

Engaging Science and Politics in a Post-2015 Framework

IDS Policy Briefing 42 (2013)

This policy briefing, part of the special MDG series, examines how science and politics must be engaged in a post-2015 framework in order to tackle the interlinked environmental and social justice challenges which the world currently faces. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Pandemic Flu Controversies: What have we learned?

STEPS Centre Pandemics Controversies Workshop Report More details

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