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

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

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


Non-IDS publication

Grassroots Innovation And Innovation Democracy

STEPS Working Paper (2016)

In this thinkpiece we introduce an area of activity that has flourished for decades in all corners of the globe, namely grassroots innovation for sustainable development. More details

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Framing and Reframing Sustainable Bioenergy Pathways: The Case of Emilia Romagna

STEPS working paper 88 (2016)

This paper addresses the case of bioenergy development in Emilia Romagna, using and building on a ‘pathways to sustainability’ approach (Leach et al. 2010). More details

Non-IDS publication

Advancing Metrics: Models For Understanding Adaptive Capacity And Water Security

We explore the relationship between water security (WS) and adaptive capacity (AC); the two concepts are connected because achieving the first may be dependent on building the second. More details

Non-IDS publication

Karhera: A Photo Book

This book tells the story of Karhera, a village between Delhi and Ghaziabad in India, through photographs, maps and words. More details

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Grassroots Innovation Movements

Innovation is increasingly invoked by policy elites and business leaders as vital for tackling global challenges like sustainable development. More details

Non-IDS publication

Making The SDGs A Reality In LDCs: Action For Transformation

In June 2016, the Least Developed Countries Independent Expert Group, IIED, and the ESRC STEPS Centre hosted a dialogue for Least Developed Country (LDC) experts to discuss how the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) could help to define a new agenda for development. More details

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One Health: Science, Politics And Zoonotic Disease In Africa

Zoonotic diseases – pathogens transmitted from animals to people – offer particularly challenging problems for global health institutions and actors given the complex socio-ecological dynamics at play. 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

Non-IDS publication

Governing Agricultural Sustainability: Global Lessons From Gm Crops

Although GM crops are seen by their advocates as a key component of the future of world agriculture and as part of the solution for world poverty and hunger, their uptake has not been smooth nor universal: they have been marred by controversy and all too commonly their regulation has been challenged as inadequate, even biased. More details

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Regulating Genetic Engineering: The Limits and Politics Of Knowledge

Charges against critics of genetic engineering (GE) often take four general forms. But all of them, we argue, are unsupported by facts. More details

Non-IDS publication

Logics Of Government Innovation And Reform Management In China

STEPS Working Paper 85 (2015)

Since the beginning of reforms in the late 1970s, China has developed rapidly, transforming itself into a middle-income country, raising hundreds of millions out of poverty and, latterly, developing broad-based social protection systems. More details

Non-IDS publication

Carbon Conflicts and Forest Landscapes in Africa

Amidst the pressing challenges of global climate change, the last decade has seen a wave of forest carbon projects across the world, designed to conserve and enhance forest carbon stocks in order to reduce carbon emissions from deforestation and offset emissions elsewhere. 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

Non-IDS publication

Understanding The Diffusion Modes Of Grassroots Innovations In India: A Study Of Honey Bee Network Supported Innovators

In this paper we examine the outcomes and connections of preferences of the non-formal innovators identified by the Honey Bee Network (HBN) in India. 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