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

The ESRC STEPS Centre (Social, Technological and Environmental Pathways to Sustainability) is an interdisciplinary global research and policy engagement centre.

Social, Technological and Environmental Pathways to Sustainability Centre logo

Uniting development studies with science and technology studies, our researchers work on sustainability challenges about agriculture and food; energy and climate change; health and disease and water and sanitation.

Our research addresses two vital global challenges: linking environmental sustainability with better livelihoods and health for poor people; and helping science and technology work for poverty reduction and social justice.

Rapid environmental and social changes – such as climate change, population explosion, urbanisation and globalised economics – are making the core development challenges of alleviating poverty and inequity increasingly complex.

The ESRC STEPS Centre has developed a ‘pathways approach’ to understanding and action on sustainability and development, providing both new thinking and practical solutions. Our work looks at how pathways to sustainability – linking environmental integrity with social justice – can be built in today's complex, dynamic world.

For instance, how might African farmers meet their needs in the context of climate change? How can we understand and address emergent epidemic diseases? And how might poor people access water in the expanding fringes of Asia's megacities?

The STEPS Centre launched in 2006 and is based at the Institute of Development Studies and the Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU) at the University of Sussex, UK.

We work with a network of partners around the world and are funded by the Economic and Social Research Council. In 2015 and 2016 we set up a Global Consortium with hubs in Europe, Africa, Latin America, South Asia and China

The Centre’s director is Professor Ian Scoones (IDS) and the co-director is Professor Andy Stirling (SPRU). We are overseen by an International Advisory Committee of globally renowned academics, policymakers, business and media professionals.

Find out more

Media Inquiries

Nathan Oxley, Communications Manager, STEPS Centre
T: +44 (0)1273 915826 / M: +44(0)7702 884039

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

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‘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

View all Research Programme's publications

Use this search to display this programme's publications and filter by journal, author, country and much more.

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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

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

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

IDS publications on international development research

To Pandemic or Not? Reconfiguring Global Responses to Influenza

Examining the political economy of knowledge in responses to the 2009-10 influenza pandemic, this paper argues that globally, and in many individual nations, techno-scientific narratives constructed by bio-medical actor networks failed to correspond with the more variegated narratives of multifarious global publics, and so struggled to recruit support and maintain credibility and authority. More details

This is the image for the book, 'Pastoralism and Development in Africa: Dynamic Change at the Margins'.

Pastoralism and Development in Africa: Dynamic Change at the Margins

This book argues that, while we should not ignore the profound difficulties of creating secure livelihoods in the Greater Horn of Africa, there is much to be learned from development successes, large and small. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Contested Agronomy: Agricultural Research in a Changing World

Over the last 40 years, suggest the editors of Contested Agronomy, agricultural research in the developing world has been profoundly influenced by three powerful trends. More details

Non-IDS publication

Public Agronomy: Norman Borlaug as 'brand hero' for the Green Revolution

Journal of Development Studies 48.11 (2012)

This article examines the role played by Norman Borlaug in promoting the notion of Green Revolution as a way to rapidly transform agriculture in the developing world. More details

Politics of Asbestos

The Politics of Asbestos: Understandings of Risk, Disease and Protest

This book, based on anthropological fieldwork in the UK, India and South Africa, explores people's understandings of their illness, risk, compensation and regulation, contrasting these personal and community narratives with formal medical and legal understandings. More details

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