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

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

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


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

This is the latest book by Melissa Leach called Epidemics: Science, Governance and Social Justice

Epidemics: Science, Governance and Social Justice

Recent disease events such as SARS, H1N1 and avian influenza, and haemorrhagic fevers have focussed policy and public concern as never before on epidemics and so-called 'emerging infectious diseases'. More details

This is the cover of the book Rice Biofortification: Lessons for Global Science and Development

Rice Biofortification: Lessons for Global Science and Development

Biofortification - the enrichment of staple food crops with essential micronutrients - has been heralded as a uniquely sustainable solution to the problem of micronutrient deficiency or 'hidden hunger'. More details

CLTS WP 37

The Dynamics and Sustainability of Community-led Total Sanitation (CLTS): Mapping Challenges and Pathways

STEPS Working Paper 37 (2010)

Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) represents a radical alternative to conventional top-down approaches to sanitation and offers hope of achieving the Millennium Development Goals. More details

This is the cover of Avian Influenza

Avian Influenza: Science, Policy and Politics

Over the past decade, substantial resources have been spent on tackling avian influenza and building a global capacity for a pandemic response. The catastrophic costs of the 1918 influenza pandemic are well documented, and the swine flu pandemic of 2009-10 has raised the alarm yet again. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Undying Promise: Agricultural Biotechnology’s Pro-poor Narrative, Ten Years on

STEPS Working Paper 15 (2009)

Many people and organisations have sought to promote genetically modified (GM, transgenic) crops as a 'pro-poor' technology. However, developing-country farmers' experiences with GM crops have been mixed. More details

IDS publications on international development research

The International Response to Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza: Science, Policy and Politics

STEPS Working Paper 10 (2008)

Over the last decade, the avian influenza virus, H5N1, has spread across most of Asia and Europe and parts of Africa. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Made by Monsanto: the Corporate Shaping of GM Crops as a Technology for the Poor

STEPS Working Paper 11 (2008)

This working paper by Dominic Glover is about the social construction and social shaping of agricultural biotechnology in relation to international development. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Pathways to Sustainability: An Overview of the STEPS Centre Approach

This booklet gives a quick insight in to the STEPS approach as the Centre seeks to grapple with two of the most pressing challenges of our times: linking environmental sustainability with poverty reduction and social justice, and making science and technology work for the poor. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Agri-Food System Dynamics: Seeking Pathways to Sustainability in an Era of Uncertainty

This paper analyses how prevailing narratives of technological change and economic growth have come to dominate key food and agriculture policy debates. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Empowering Designs: Steps Towards More Progressive Social Appraisal of Sustainability

STEPS Working Paper 3 (2007)

The challenges of designing new frameworks for social appraisal aimed at sustainability and social justice are reviewed by this paper. Here, 'social appraisal' refers to the ways society gathers knowledges to inform policy decisions and discourse and a number of key features of potentially more empowering 'pathways' approaches are identified. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Health in a Dynamic World

STEPS Working Paper 5 (2007)

This paper argues that we are approaching a major turning point in the organisation of national and global health systems. More details