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.

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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

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IDS publications on international development research

Vaccine Anxieties: Global Science, Child Health and Society

Vaccine Anxieties explores how parents understand and engage with childhood vaccination in contrasting global contexts. This rapidly advancing and universal technology has sparked dramatic controversy, whether over MMR in the UK or oral polio vaccines in Nigeria. More details

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