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.

  • Technology & democracy: the story of Brazil’s Social Technology Network

    Published on 16 July 2014

    A new STEPS working paper tells the story of a recent experiment in grassroots innovation – the Social Technology Network (STN) in Brazil.

    The paper, by Mariano Fressoli and Rafael Dias, is linked to our project on historical and comparative perspectives on grassroots innovation.

    Formed in 2004, the STN was a ‘hybrid’, involving social movements, NGOs, national institutions and semi-public companies like Banco do Brazil’s Foundation and Petrobras. It was remarkable for its success in attracting a large number of projects – over 900.


  • Mission-Oriented Finance for Innovation: top-down missions or bottom-up causes?

    Published on 8 July 2014

    Andy Stirling, co-director of STEPS, will be a speaker at the conference Mission-Oriented Finance for Innovation on 22-24 July in London, which examines the important role of public sector agencies in tackling societal challenges through innovation. The conference is organised by Prof Mariana Mazzucato of SPRU with Prof L. Randall Wray (UMKC & Levy Institute, USA).

    Prof Stirling is part of a panel on ‘Mission-oriented finance for smart and inclusive growth’ on the third day of the conference, with a contribution entitled ‘From top-down missions to bottom-up causes’.

    A limited number of tickets are available to the general public free of charge through the conference registration page.


  • The nexus – politics, practice and disciplinary dilemmas

    Published on 20 June 2014

    STEPS researchers have written a series of blogposts for the Guardian and the Nexus Platform website addressing the challenges of the water-food-energy-environment ‘nexus’. Andy Stirling addresses the challenges of working across disciplines, Jeremy Allouche looks at nexus politics while James Wilsdon and Rose Cairns discuss joining research, policy and practice. The Guardian Nexus blogpost series launches the Nexus Network, of which STEPS is a lead partner.

    30 June 2014: Whose nexus? Whose security?

    Jeremy Allouche and Maria Cooper examine the framings of security inherent in the nexus, and who stands in a position to influence them.

    20 June 2014: Food, energy and water: the politics of the nexus

    Jeremy Allouche writes on the food-energy-water nexus and the need to recognise that global priorities may not reflect local concerns, and resource allocations are always political.

    11 June 2014: Disciplinary dilemma: working across research silos is harder than it looks

    STEPS Co-Director Andy Stirling writes about the ‘nexus’ being the latest buzzword intended to lure researchers out of their disciplinary comfort zones and get them working together on the big challenges of the day. But asks how easy is it in practice?

    9 June 2014: Navigating the nexus of food, energy, water and the environment

    STEPS members James Wilsdon and Rose Cairns on navigating the nexus of food, energy, water and the environment with the help of The UK’s Economic and Social Research Council new £1.8m network to join up research, policy and practice on environmental challenges.


  • ‘Resilience’ and the peri-urban: limitations & potential

    Published on 5 June 2014


    A new IDS Briefing looks at the potentials and pitfalls of the use of the ‘resilience agenda’ in talking about the role of the peri-urban space in urban expansion. One of the authors is STEPS Centre member Lyla Mehta.


  • ‘Negotiating Environmental Change’ now available as an e-book

    Published on

    negotThe 2003 book Negotiating Environmental Change: New Perspectives on Social Science, edited by STEPS director Ian Scoones, Melissa Leach (former director) and Frans Berkhout (Interim Director of Future Earth), has been released as an e-book, with chapters available in digital form from Edward Elgar Publishing.

    The book includes an opening chapter by the editors, as well as a contribution by STEPS co-director Andy Stirling, writing on risk, uncertainty and precaution. Other chapters cover economics, deliberative democracy, governance, trade, business, technology and consumption.

    To view the digital edition, readers will need to purchase it online, or access it via asubscription (for example via an institutional library).

    Negotiating Environmental Change is also still available in print from the same publishers and bookshops.

  • Nature Not For Sale: Ian Scoones discusses biodiversity & communities

    Published on 2 June 2014

    STEPS Centre Director Ian Scoones is on a panel at Nature Not For Sale: 2nd Forum on Natural Commons today in London. The forum brings together NGOs, academics, activists and the general public to respond to concerns about biodiversity offsetting, which the event organisers see as a flawed policy to allow wildlife to be destroyed in the promise that it will be ‘replaced’ elsewhere.

    Prof Scoones is on the “Biodiversity offsetting and community rights” panel.


  • Against authoritarianism: Why we shouldn’t ‘put democracy on hold’ to achieve sustainability

    Published on 29 May 2014

    one wayDoes the human response to global environmental challenges need to be channelled through authoritarian, controlled ‘transitions’? Threatened by climate change, should we ‘put democracy on hold for a while’? Or could more unruly modes of change, inspired by other ongoing radical social transformations – release from colonialism, racism and patriarchy, for example – offer more hope?

    A new paper by STEPS co-director Andy Stirling challenges the tendency towards authoritarian modes of dealing with environmental threats by drawing attention to the potential of more plural, emergent and unruly ‘transformations’ to achieve progressive change. Instead of seeing democracy as an ‘enemy of nature’, we can see hope-inspired democratic struggle as an essential part of sustainability, not an add-on.

    From the abstract:

    “Scientific and policy knowledges are becoming increasingly imprinted by the preoccupations of incumbent power with rhetorics of control. Under this growing political mood, it seems there is ‘no alternative’ but compliance, or irrational denial and existential doom.

    Yet there are alternative ways to address the gravity of current ecological and social imperatives.


  • The power and politics around ‘objective’ performance monitoring

    Published on 14 May 2014

    water-ethiopPerformance monitoring, most prominently exemplified in the Millennium Development Goals, is often perceived as providing objective results. Using the case of access to rural water supplies in Ethiopia, a new journal article (£) by STEPS alumna Katharina Welle explores the power and political dynamics inherent in sector performance monitoring.

    Welle, K. (2014) Monitoring performance or performing monitoring? Exploring the power and political dynamics underlying monitoring the MDG for rural water in Ethiopia, Canadian Journal of Development Studies, 35(1)

    Photo: Water containers, Konso by rod_waddington on Flickr (cc-by-sa)

  • Mariana Mazzucato on ‘The Green Entrepreneurial State’: video, audio & slides

    Published on 13 May 2014

    Mariana Mazzucato gave a public lecture on ‘The Green Entrepreneurial State’ as part of this year’s STEPS Summer School. Audio, video and slides from her talk are now available (see below).

    Prof Mazzucato is the author of the book ‘The Entrepreneurial State: public vs private sector myths’. She holds the prestigious RM Phillips chair in the Economics of Innovation at SPRU in the University of Sussex. She was recently Scientific Coordinator of a 3 year European Commission funded FP7 project on Finance, Innovation and Growth (FINNOV), and is currently working on two new research projects on finance and innovation, one funded by the Ford Foundation, and the other by the Institute for New Economic Thinking.


    Mariana Mazzucato: The Green Entrepreneurial State by Stepscentre on Mixcloud

    Video (watch on YouTube):

    Presentation slides:

  • On the benefits of walking and talking

    Published on 12 May 2014


    Our Summer School kicked off today, with 38 students from 25 countries meeting at IDS for two weeks of intensive debate and discussion.

    On Wednesday, after a short lecture on ‘uncertainty’, they’ll take a long walk over the South Downs, talking to each other around a set of guiding questions. This builds on a strong tradition of ‘walkshops’ pioneered in Norway, as described in this 2014 paper by Wickson, Strand and Kjølberg. In theory, the walk opens up the workshop format, adding energy and breaking down the traditional patterns of interaction.

    From the abstract:

    “Through walkshops, we have spent several days walking together with our colleagues and students in open outdoor spaces, keeping a sustained intellectual discussion on ethical aspects of science, technology and innovation while moving through these landscapes. For us, this has generated useful opportunities to escape established hierarchies, roles and patterns of thought and to rethink conceptual and philosophical issues from new perspectives, under new attitudes and with renewed energy.”

    Less recently, the French writer Montaigne also had something to say on the virtues of walking for opening up creative thinking:

    “Every place of retirement requires a walk: my thoughts sleep if I sit still: my fancy does not go by itself, as when my legs move it: and all those who study without a book are in the same condition.”

    Could walking be a cure for stale thinking? Let’s hope so.