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Centre

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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 that unites development studies with science and technology studies.

Social, Technological and Environmental Pathways to Sustainability Centre logo

The Centre’s mission is to highlight, reveal and contribute to just and democratic pathways to sustainability that include the needs, knowledge and perspectives of poor and marginalised people. The STEPS Pathways Approach links theory, research methods and practice to highlight and open up the politics of sustainability.

The STEPS Centre’s work highlights different responses to complex challenges like climate change, food systems, urbanisation and technology in which society and ecologies are entangled. STEPS research explores how poor and marginalised people can be involved in identifying and diagnosing problems, as well as deciding what to do. This often involves challenging power and assumptions, and exploring many different values, perspectives and possible futures through diverse methodologies.

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 (ESRC).

STEPS works as part of a Global Consortium with hubs in Africa, China, Europe, Latin America, North America and South Asia. Our research projects, in many countries, engage with local problems and link them to wider concerns.

The STEPS Centre’s Co-Directors are Prof Ian Scoones (IDS) and Prof Andy Stirling (SPRU). It is a partner in the Green Economy Coalition and Future Earth.

Current focus

From 2018-2021 the STEPS Centre and Global Consortium are focusing on four annual themes.

2018: Transformations

Faced with a series of social and environmental stresses and shocks, there are urgent calls for radical, systemic change. But, as past and present experience show, this can take many forms. What does it take to make sustainability transformations emancipatory (caring), rather than repressive (controlling)?

2019: Uncertainty

Uncertainties can make it hard to plan ahead. But recognising them can help to reveal new questions and choices. What kinds of uncertainty are there, why do they matter for sustainability, and what ideas, approaches and methods can help us to respond to them?

2020: Natures

2021: Methods

Find out more

Media enquiries

Nathan Oxley, Communications & Impact Manager, STEPS Centre E: n.oxley@ids.ac.uk T: +44 (0)1273 915826 M: +44 (0)7702 884039

People

Image of Amber Huff
Amber Huff

Research Fellow

Image of Dominic Glover
Dominic Glover

Research Fellow

Image of Hayley MacGregor
Hayley MacGregor

Research Fellow

Image of Ian Scoones
Ian Scoones

Professorial Fellow

Image of Jeremy Allouche
Jeremy Allouche

Research Fellow

Image of John Thompson
John Thompson

Research Fellow

Image of Lyla Mehta
Lyla Mehta

Professorial Fellow

Andrew Stirling
Adrian Ely
Rose Cairns

Projects

Project

System Change Hive

The System Change HIVE will explore and communicate visions of better lives to inform public thinking and work towards fairer systems that safeguard life-support systems and prioritise well-being and justice.

Project

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...

Project

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.

Recent work

Opinion

What is revolutionary about the Green Revolution?

The dramatic increase in yields of wheat and rice in the 1960s and 1970s in India, along with many other countries in the post-colonial world, was framed as a technological breakthrough made possible by miracle hybrid seed varieties. This breakthrough ostensibly averted mass scale hunger and was...

13 June 2019

Opinion

Turning the populist tide: what are the alternatives?

The last week has seen major gains for nationalist, populist parties in elections, both in Europe and India. Is this the end of the centre-ground consensus? What are the alternatives? In India, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) swept to victory on the back of anti-Muslim rhetoric and Hindu...

28 May 2019

Past Event

STEPS Uncertainty Series: Ilene Grabel – When Things Don’t Fall Apart

In When Things Don’t Fall Apart, Ilene Grabel makes a simple but controversial claim, based on the work of the eminent social scientist Albert O. Hirschman. Grabel argues that as concerns global financial governance and development finance we are now in a period that she calls productive...

7 May 2019

News

Ian Scoones wins Ester Boserup prize

The 2019 Ester Boserup prize for research on development has been awarded to Ian Scoones, Professorial Fellow at IDS and co-director of the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) STEPS Centre. The Ester Boserup prize is ‘awarded to a scholar whose research has improved and deepened...

25 April 2019