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: [email protected] T: +44 (0)1273 915826 M: +44 (0)7702 884039


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

Professorial Fellow

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John Thompson

Research Fellow

Image of Lyla Mehta
Lyla Mehta

Professorial Fellow

Andrew Stirling
Adrian Ely
Rose Cairns



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.


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...


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


Five books on sustainability now fully open access

Five titles from the STEPS Centre’s Pathways to Sustainability book series have been made open access for the first time, making them freely available to download, read and share. The new open access titles include the first comprehensive discussion of the pathways approach, Dynamic...

30 March 2022

Past Event

Sundarbans without boundaries: Co-creating transformative knowledge and action

This roundtable will discuss the possibilities and results of transboundary research in the Indian and Bangladesh Sundarbans. Speakers will share views from their work on the nature and extent of boundaries; and how transboundary research can lead to transformative knowledge and action around...

26 July 2021

Working Paper

Résilience vernaculaire: Une approche analytique des pratiques sociales et des répertoires culturels de résilience à long terme en Côte d’Ivoire et en République Démocratique du Congo

Ce document de travail vise à situer notre projet de recherche dans les débats sur la résilience. Le projet adopte une approche sociohistorique et culturelle pour comprendre comment les communautés développent et partagent des pratiques de résilience dans des contextes de crises. La mise...

27 May 2021