Nathan Oxley

Nathan Oxley

Impact, Communications and Engagement Officer

Nathan contributes to the impact, communications and engagement work of the STEPS Centre. He is also a web editor for the Future Agricultures Consortium. He has worked for a specialist communications agency on sustainable development, and as a web editor for a national charity in the UK.

  • Climate innovation systems: new STEPS working paper

    Published on 27 January 2015

    A new STEPS working paper discusses the academic evidence for a promising idea for supporting climate change technology in developing countries.

    The paper, CRIBs (Climate Relevant Innovation-system Builders): An effective way forward for international climate technology policy by David Ockwell and Rob Byrne follows a shorter policy-focused paper and summary briefing on the same subject published in December 2014.

    The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) aims to help developing countries address climate change challenges by supporting the transfer and development of climate technologies (technologies for climate change mitigation and adaptation), but the current ‘hardware financing’ model is failing to deliver. The authors of the new paper argue for more efforts in supporting ‘technological capabilities’ and ‘systems of innovation’, and suggest how this might work in practice.

    Read the paper: STEPS Working Paper 77


  • Warning tape and turning points: how we talk about planetary boundaries

    Published on 23 January 2015


    Last week, updated research on ‘planetary boundaries’ was published, with new analysis of what humanity is doing to various natural processes and the risks we face as a species.

    Reading the paper, I was struck by the prominence, alongside the various statistics and methodology, of something quite different: the authors spend some effort to define what boundaries are (and are not), their origins, why they are called boundaries, and how they might inform people’s responses to environmental threats.

    What’s striking about the word ‘boundary’ is how much work it does.


  • Soil and politics

    Published on 7 January 2015


    What do you think of when you think about soil? There are radically different ways to answer the question. For some scientists, it’s a subject of investigation – what do soils need to grow which types of plants the best? How can they be managed, improved or damaged? For archaeologists or paleontologists, digging into the soil can reveal human histories and ancient remnants of life. For farmers, it’s something to be nurtured, fed and looked after as much as any plant or animal – and spoiling or losing it can mean ruin. The UN International Year of Soils is focusing attention on it in 2015, pointing to the multiple roles of soils and looking at soil management and protection.

    Soil isn’t just stuff. In language it is connected to other fundamental things. In many European languages, soil, earth (and the planet Earth) share a common root. In a solar system populated by Jupiter, Mars and other Roman Gods, our home has an emphatically humble name.


  • STEPS America Latina launches new website

    Published on 29 November 2014

    The Centro STEPS America Latina – the new Latin American regional hub for our Global Pathways to Sustainability Consortium  – has unveiled its own dedicated website.

    The new website is now live at


    The Centro STEPS website is run by a team at the Centro de Investigaciones para la Transformación (CENIT) in Buenos Aires, Argentina, who have been working with the STEPS Centre since 2008 on issues linking science, technology and innovation with environmental sustainability and social justice.

    The new website showcases the Latin American hub’s research, policy engagement and other activities in the region, featuring publications, multimedia outputs, events and a blog. Research areas highlights include ‘innovation movements’, ‘productive transformations’, ‘power & knowledge’, and ‘knowledge networks’.

    At the moment, the website is available only in Spanish, but English-language content will be added soon. (more…)

  • Maker culture and sustainability

    Published on 24 November 2014

    What are citizen labs and ‘maker’ culture providing to sustainable development? STEPS researcher Adrian Smith was part of a panel discussing this question at an event on 18 November in Madrid. A recording from the event is now available.

    >> Listen to the discussion on the Medialab-Prado website (audio in Spanish)

    The debate explored the connections between sustainability and the growing number of participatory spaces, mainly in cities, where people experiment with new ways of producing objects and processes – Fab Labs, hackspaces, makerspaces, urban orchards and the like.

    The event was organised by Medialab Prado and itdUPM (Centro de Innovación en Tecnología para el Desarollo Humano). The other participants in the panel were Carlos Mataix (itdUPM director), a representative from Makespace Madrid, Ignacio Prieto (coordinador of the Fablab UPM), and Marcos García (director of Medialab-Prado), and the chair, Xosé Ramil (itdUPM’s communications coordinator).

    For more on this topic, see our project Grassroots innovation: historical and comparative perspectives.

  • Were ‘Technology Networks’ the Fab Labs of the 1980s?

    Published on 6 November 2014

    Technology Networks

    A new article by Adrian Smith in the Journal of Peer Production looks at the story of Technology Networks – community based workshops which arose in the UK in the early 1980s. At a time of high unemployment, they provided a space for sharing machine tools, access to technical advice, and prototyping services – anticipating the hopes invested in FabLabs today. The article is available to read and download free of charge.

    Technology Network participants developed various prototypes and initiatives; including electric bicycles, small-scale wind turbines, energy conservation services, disability devices, re-manufactured products, children’s play equipment, community computer networks, and a women’s IT co-operative. Ideas and enthusiasm for these workshops drew upon a wider movement for socially useful production, which in turn drew together strands of thought and activism from broader social movements, old and new. Reflecting that wider movement, Technology Networks contained tensions in terms of social purpose, cultures of knowledge production, and political economy.

    A 1984 promotional booklet for Technology Networks (pdf) provides some insights into how they were advertised to the public.

    This article links to a STEPS Centre project on grassroots innovations and includes references to the Lucas Plan (see our feature on the Lucas Plan and socially useful production).

    Read the article online

    Smith A. (2014) Technology Networks for Socially Useful Production, Journal of Peer Production Issue 5

    Image: GLEB Technology Networks book advertisement, New Scientist, 9 Feb 1984

  • Call for abstracts: Critical Perspectives on the Financialisation of Nature

    Published on 28 October 2014

    Money butterfly

    A Call for Abstracts has been issued for a workshop in March 2015 on the financialisation of nature.

    Update (12 December 2014): The call for abstracts has now closed. Successful applicants will be informed by 31 December 2014.

    Update (28 November 2014): Added a list of speakers (confirmed and tbc) – scroll down for details.

    The workshop, aimed at doctoral and early-career researchers, is entitled Critical Perspectives on the Financialisation of Nature – Theory, Politics and Practice. It will be hosted by the the Sussex-based Centre for Global Political Economy and the STEPS Centre.

    It will be a 1.5 day intensive workshop bringing together doctoral and early career researchers to discuss, theorise and critically reflect on the practical and political implications of the commodification, marketisation and financialisation of nature.

    The workshop will take place at Sussex University on 19th-20th March 2015, and the deadline for abstracts is 5 December 2014.


  • Journal of Peasant Studies new special issue: critical perspectives on Food Sovereignty

    Published on 22 October 2014

    A new special issue on ‘Critical perspectives on food sovereignty’ from the Journal of Peasant Studies has been released, with free articles available for a limited period. The guest editors are Marc Edelman, James C. Scott, Amita Baviskar, Saturnino M. Borras Jr., Deniz Kandiyoti, Eric Holt-Gimenez, Tony Weis and Wendy Wolford.

    The issue is volume 2 in a series on Global Agrarian Transformations (Volume 1 is also still accessible for free from the Taylor and Francis website).

    As JPS’s contribution to the ongoing food sovereignty debate, the journal is also making available for free for a limited time three commentary articles:

    Related articles

  • Melissa Leach on Ebola & inequality – lecture text & audio

    Published on 21 October 2014

    Some materials are now available from the recent Sussex Development Lecture on Equality, Sustainability, Security: Interlaced challenges in a global development era by former STEPS Director Melissa Leach. The text is available to download below as a PDF, and you can listen to Melissa’s lecture online, courtesy of the Institute of Development Studies.

    In the lecture, Melissa uses Ebola as a lens to look at how inequalities, unsustainability and insecurity can interact, enhanced by misguided interventions, to render people and places deeply vulnerable. Addressing these interactions must become central to a renewed vision of development for all.

    Melissa Leach Sussex Development Lecture Autumn 2014 by Ids (Uk) on Mixcloud


  • Gender equality and Sustainability: STEPS members contribute to new UN Women report

    Published on 19 October 2014

    STEPS Centre members have contributed to a major United Nations report that highlights the deep connections between gender equality and sustainable development, as the world moves towards a post-2015 framework.

    Edit (21 Oct 2014): The video from the launch event in New York is now available to watch on the UN website.

    The World Survey on the role of women in development 2014: Gender equality and sustainable development is the latest in UN Women’s flagship series, published every five years. Its conceptualisation was led by Melissa Leach, former STEPS director and now Institute of Development Studies Director; Lyla Mehta, STEPS Centre Water & Sanitation theme convenor; with assistance from Preetha Prabhakaran.

    World-Survey-2014-coverThis year’s report highlights the fundamental links between gender equality and pathways to sustainability, and recommends concrete policy actions to move towards an economically, socially and environmentally sustainable future, in which all women and girls, men and boys enjoy their human rights.

    Pathways and gender

    The framing of the report draws centrally on the STEPS Centre’s Pathways Approach, outlining a ‘gendered pathways approach’ which unites the challenges of working for environmental sustainability and gender equality. Melissa Leach has written a STEPS blog explaining the background to this thinking. (more…)