Briefings

Published: 13th March 2017

This policy briefing draws on insights from the Risks and Responses to Urban Futures project. This briefing draws on recent research to show how people benefit from ecoystems in and around cities, and how these benefits can be integrated into urban planning and policy. There is a growing international consensus that cities must form the…

Read more
Published: 15th November 2016

A briefing for the Friends of the Earth project Big Ideas Change The World Download this briefing (PDF) In this thinkpiece we introduce an area of activity that has flourished for decades in all corners of the globe, namely grassroots innovation for sustainable development. We also argue why innovation in general is a matter for…

Read more
Published: 10th November 2016

Climate Resilient Economies Programme Policy Brief 006/2016 African Centre for Technology Studies / STEPS Global Consortium Innovation systems are critical to technology transfer and implementation of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). Innovation systems provide an important platform for conceiving and incubating climate technologies. In East Africa, various stakeholders have different views of what constitute a good…

Read more

There are significant overlooked opportunities regarding low-carbon transition in China, with potential global impact. This leaflet summarises research which has looked at three areas of low carbon innovation in the country – agriculture, energy and transport. It explains how they depend not just on high-tech solutions, but also on changing social and political conditions. This…

Read more
Published: 5th May 2015

Download the briefing (PDF 533kb) New thinking, practice and policy recommendations for sustainable urban waste management informed by robust research, addressing both environmental and social justice concerns. Patterns of urban consumption, and the waste generated, have changed rapidly. We now require sustainable urban waste management solutions which will simultaneously address environmental and social challenges, embrace…

Read more

Download this briefing (PDF) The costs of responding to outbreaks of transmissible and infectious diseases, especially zoonotic infections that can infect both animals and people, can be far greater than the cost of implementing measures to control or prevent problems in the first place. This briefing summarises findings from a project aiming to enrich our…

Read more
Published: 17th February 2015

by Ishmael Hashmiu Researcher, Political Ecologies of Carbon project Download this briefing (PDF) Carbon offset projects are an increasingly important approach to carbon mitigation under the REDD+ (Reducing Emissions by Forest Degradation and Deforestation) framework. But how does ‘farming carbon’ compete with other land uses? This briefing investigates this question through the experience of the…

Read more
Published: 9th December 2014

STEPS Briefing (to accompany Working Paper 76) by David Ockwell and Rob Byrne Download this briefing One of the most powerful boosts to addressing climate technology transfer and development under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) came in October 2014 at a meeting convened by the Technology Executive Committee (TEC) on strengthening National…

Read more
Published: 3rd November 2014

Diseases that affect people and have their origins in animals (zoonoses) have the potential to cause social, political and economic upheaval, often with little warning. Witness 2014’s Ebola outbreak in West Africa, as well as recent avian (H5N1) and swine (H1N1) flu pandemics. Other zoonoses less dramatically, but with wider impact, quietly devastate lives and…

Read more
Published: 3rd March 2014

Climate Compatible Development in Kenya Is it possible for Kenya to simultaneously tackle energy poverty, contribute to climate change mitigation and reduce exposure to climate vulnerability? There is growing international focus on how to support more integrated approaches to addressing climate change in ways that capture synergies and minimise the trade-offs between climate change mitigation,…

Read more
Published: 19th February 2014

This briefing summarises insights from the Low Carbon Development project. Sustainable energy technologies could contribute significantly to human development and economic growth in low-income countries. Public policy has an important role to play in fostering the markets for these technologies. This briefing summarises key policy lessons from historical research explaining the success of the market…

Read more
Published: 12th November 2013

The Dynamic Drivers of Disease in Africa Consortium is bringing together natural and social scientists to understand four neglected zoonotic (passed from animal to human) diseases in five African countries: henipavirus infection in Ghana; Rift Valley fever in Kenya; Lassa fever in Sierra Leone; and trypanosomiasis in Zambia and Zimbabwe. These five research updates, one for…

Read more
Published: 2nd October 2013

In India, as part of the Uncertainty from Below and Above project, the STEPS Centre is working with leading research institutes – the Institute of Health Management Research, Kolkata; Sarai of the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, Delhi; and the Gujarat Institute of Desert Ecology, Bhuj, Gujarat – in locations with distinctive ecological…

Read more
Published: 18th July 2013

This report presents proceedings of an innovation histories workshop on the Solar Home System (SHS) Market in Kenya. The workshop was held on 3 June 2013 at Silver Springs Hotel in Nairobi Kenya s part of the Pro-poor, low carbon development: Improving low carbon energy access and development benefits in Least Developed Countries (LDCs). Stakeholders…

Read more
Published: 3rd May 2012

Available in English and Kiswahili, this short, non-technical briefing outlines the aims, rationale and approach of the Low Carbon Development project. The project is a partnership between the University of Sussex (including the STEPS Centre, Sussex Energy Group and Tyndall Centre) and the African Technology Policy Studies Network (ATPS), in Kenya. Using the case study of Solar Home…

Read more

This Rapid Response briefing from the Dynamic Drivers of Disease in Africa Consortium sets out recommendations for a new, integrated ‘One Health’ approach to zoonoses that moves away from top-down disease-focused intervention to putting people first. Over two thirds of all human infectious diseases have their origins in animals. The rate at which these zoonotic diseases…

Read more
Published: 8th January 2013

Although the H1N1 ‘swine flu’ pandemic of 2009-10 was less severe than anticipated, the event revealed weaknesses in the world’s current configuration of planning for and responding to pandemic influenza, according to new research outlined in this briefing. Science, public health policy makers and people worldwide were confounded by the uncertainty, complexity and politics inherent…

Read more
Published: 19th April 2008

The beef industry in southern Africa has been a stalwart of economic development, but new conditions of trade, market access and disease dynamics, particularly of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD), mean a major rethink is required. Our research addresses key policy options to allow southern Africa to benefit from the global ‘livestock revolution’. It explores what options…

Read more
Published: 19th June 2007

(French version / en français) Cooperation, innovation and diversification are the keys to a bright future for the red meat industry in southern Africa. This was the message emerging from a workshop “Transboundary animal diseases and market access: the future of beef marketing in southern Africa” that was held in Pretoria, South Africa from 7…

Read more
Published: 19th April 2008

(English version / en Anglais) Coopération, innovation et diversification sont les clés du succès futur du secteur de la viande rouge en Afrique australe. Tel est le message ayant émergé à l’issue de l’atelier « Maladies animales transfrontalières et accès aux marchés : l’avenir du secteur du boeuf en Afrique australe », qui s’est tenu…

Read more
Published: 28th August 2011

From food prices and hunger to GM crops and biosafety, debates about agricultural innovation involve many competing narratives about key science and technology problems and their potential solutions. With each narrative suggesting different pathways to a more sustainable and productive food future, why do certain narratives and pathways come to dominate science policy debates while…

Read more
Published: 28th August 2011

Rapid environmental and social changes – such as climate change, population explosion, urbanisation and globalised economics – are posing urgent practical, moral and political challenges across the globe. Consequently the core development challenges of alleviating poverty and inequity are increasingly complex. How might pathways to sustainability – linking environmental integrity with social justice – be…

Read more
Published: 8th November 2011

Energy and development go hand-in-hand: lighting, cooking, mobility, heating, cooling and communications are all essential to development processes. Moreover, the manner in which energy services are realised has both positive and negative consequences for our health, environment, wealth and social relations. At a time when increasing access to modern energy services is seen as a…

Read more
Published: 8th July 2010

Update on progress on the STEPS Centre’s Rethinking Regulation project.

Read more
Published: 2nd November 2011

La incorporación de nuevas tecnologías en el agro comporta beneficios, riesgos e inequidades diferentes para distintos tipos de usuarios. Las regulaciones (leyes, normas, resoluciones, acuerdos, etc.) pueden contribuir a controlar y equilibrar las condiciones generales de acceso a las tecnologías. Sin embargo, es frecuente que el diseño regulatorio no resulte, en la práctica, tan efectivo…

Read more
Published: 17th March 2010

Sorghum, millet, cowpea, pigeon pea and green grams: these resilient plants once dominated smallholder farms in the drought-prone regions of Eastern Kenya. But in the last 50 years these ‘orphan crops’ – as they are known today – have been all but replaced by a single crop: maize. There are many reasons why maize has…

Read more

Maize is central to household food security for most Kenyans. As a result, policies that affect maize directly influence most Kenyan families’ access to food. Moreover, ‘maize politics’ is played out at the highest levels of government and involves some of the most influential public-sector and private-sector actors in the country.Repeatedly, the STEPS Kenya team…

Read more
Published: 14th March 2010

The term ‘pathways’, in the STEPS project, is used to refer to the particular directions in which interacting social, technological and environmental systems co-evolve over time. A ‘pathways’ approach recognises that social systems, technologies and their diffusion, as well as environmental conditions, change in interactive dynamic ways. These interactions can be complex, uncertain and non-linear,…

Read more

Technology assessment (TA) is a term for processes that collect, interpret and evaluate information and perspectives about different technological options, in order to inform investments, strategies or policies (see Figure 1). It can play an important part in steering science, technology and innovation towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals and addressing the sustainability objectives at…

Read more
Published: 6th August 2009

The increasing recognition of water as a vital substance for which demand is spiralling has resulted in scarcity scenarios and tales of a ‘looming water crisis’ becoming staple fare for newspaper headlines and international conferences alike. Widespread perceptions of water scarcity have prompted many countries to reform their water legislation and systems of water use…

Read more
Published: 16th April 2010

Some vaccines are developed at lightning speed. Other, potentially useful, vaccines do not see the light of day. Understanding why this happens may help identify new policies aimed at a more sustainable vaccine development process. This briefing looks at the accumulation of technological knowledge in vaccine innovation and offers an alternative focus for policy attention….

Read more
Published: 14th May 2009

Many policy makers, journalists and politicians are keen to celebrate the ‘pro-poor success’ of genetically modified (GM, transgenic) crops in developing countries. However, a detailed look at the evidence reveals that the impacts of GM crop varieties have actually been very mixed. Although some farmers have captured substantial benefits, others, especially smaller-scale and poorer farmers…

Read more
Published: 5th January 2009

In a world where threats – linked to climate change, epidemic disease, or fluctuating financial markets – loom ever larger, resilience thinking highlights the complex dynamics of social-economic- environmental systems, across multiple scales. This briefing accompanies the Working Paper Re-framing Resilience: Trans-disciplinarity, Reflexivity and Progressive Sustainability – a Symposium Report.

Read more
Published: 14th October 2008

In 1997, 18 people were infected with the highly pathogenic avian influenza virus, H5N1. Six died, and since then a further 245 deaths have been reported. The virus has spread across most of Asia and Europe, with regular outbreaks in poultry. In some countries – Indonesia, China, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Nigeria and Egypt – the disease…

Read more

How do we deal with the spread of HIV/ AIDS or avian ‘flu? How can farmers in dryland Africa cope with the challenges of climate change? How do we address water and pollution problems in rapidly-growing Asian cities? Who benefits from genetically-modified crops? Today’s world is experiencing rapid social, technological and environmental change, yet poverty…

Read more
Published: 28th August 2011

Over the last five years, the ESRC STEPS Centre has explored the management of resources in peri-urban areas, and how sustainability can be defined and sought in this context. We have aimed to unpack the politics of sustainability in peri-urban areas and to highlight alternative visions of sustainability. Our work has focused on how water…

Read more
Published: 28th August 2011

Technologies are finding their way to more remote and diverse corners of the globe, bringing with them significant opportunities for human development, but also risks – to individuals, the environment, and society as a whole. The ESRC STEPS Centre’s Regulation project investigated the challenge of regulating technology across very different local settings within an interdependent…

Read more
Published: 28th August 2011

In a region where droughts and other extreme weather events are common, maize is central to food security for most households across East and Southern Africa. From national policy to individual households, maize security has come to be equated with food security. The resulting complex web of ‘maize politics’ directly influences both policy and families’…

Read more
Published: 30th November 2010

In Kenya, STEPS Centre research partners from the African Centre for Technology Studies (ACTS), the Centre for African Bio-entrepreneurship (CABE), Tegemeo Institute at Egerton University, in association with the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) and Science and Technology Policy Research (SPRU) at the University of Sussex, UK, have been collaborating on a study to examine…

Read more
Published: 26th November 2010

Both Kenya and the Philippines have been regarded as ‘test cases’ for biotechnology and biosafety regulatory development in their respective regions. Biosafety and its regulation has become the lightning rod for debates about the governance of transgenic (GM) crops in developing countries. This focus has tended to narrow policy debates about agricultural biotechnology to the…

Read more
Published: 8th November 2010

This research report is intended to inform and encourage debate on the management of resources in the peri-urban fringe. In particular it demonstrates how the dominant, mainstream, strategies for water supply and management are failing in terms of social justice and environmental integrity, and the particular opportunities and challenges associated with the peri-urban situation. It…

Read more
Published: 26th October 2010

Biochar is a carbon-rich product that results when biomass is burned under oxygen-deprived conditions. There is both technological optimism and debate about its potential. The addition of biochar to soils is being hailed both as a promising tool in carbon sequestration and enriching soils, and it appears also to offer a range of other benefits…

Read more
Published: 26th October 2010

Access to sanitation is vital to people’s health and well-being, particularly women. In the past, sanitation has been provided through top-down, supply-oriented approaches. Now, Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) offers another way, by focusing on behaviour change and local people’s needs. This could provoke policy-makers to change their approach to sanitation. However, CLTS also faces its…

Read more
Published: 26th June 2010

Ill health is still a major human problem and a high burden for many countries, despite the availability of effective interventions. Growing impatience with this situation, at both national and international level, has led to big political and financial commitments; and large new international organisations have been set up to improve health outcomes globally. But…

Read more
Published: 25th June 2010

Markets for healthcare and pharmaceuticals are spreading rapidly in many countries. Meanwhile, new information communications technology (ICT) is changing the way people access advice and medicines. And as recent events such as SARS, H1N1 and avian influenza have shown, changing patterns in human behaviour and the environment have meant that epidemics can spread in new…

Read more
Published: 16th June 2010

The spectre of a devastating global pandemic has been raised more than once in recent years. Recent disease events such as SARS, H1N1, avian influenza and haemorrhagic fevers (Ebola, dengue, etc) have focussed attention as never before on the need to understand and prepare for these unpredictable events. A series of new infectious diseases have…

Read more
Published: 1st March 2010

In semi-arid areas of Eastern Kenya many small-scale farmers plant local maize seed, saved from the previous year, or obtained from within the community, rather than purchase commercial seed from their local agro-dealers and stockists. There are a number of reasons for this. Firstly, farmers are reluctant to invest scarce resources in inputs in the…

Read more
Published: 1st March 2010

In the course of the STEPS maize project, the research team, which included both Kenyan and UK-based researchers, met and talked at length with a diverse range of farmers in the Sakai valley about how to respond to the challenges posed by frequent droughts and the threat of climate change. This is the third in…

Read more
Published: 1st January 2010

One of the success stories in Kenya’s agricultural  sector has been the rise of the horticultural industry,  which has shown remarkable growth both in the  domestic and export markets Despite this remarkable growth, the export sector  remains a relatively small part of the overall  horticultural system in the country. Over 90% of all fruit and…

Read more
Published: 26th September 2008

Alongside climate change and terrorism, epidemics capture the contemporary imagination of a vulnerable, interconnected earth. Bursting from a confined area onto the world stage, epidemics demonstrate precisely the kind of combustible unpredictability that fuels fears of systemic, global risks. This briefing accompanies the Working Paper Epidemics for all? Governing Health in a Global Age.

Read more
Published: 26th September 2008

Alongside climate change and terrorism, epidemics capture the contemporary imagination of a vulnerable, interconnected earth. Bursting from a confined area onto the world stage, epidemics demonstrate precisely the kind of combustible unpredictability that fuels fears of systemic, global risks. This briefing accompanies the Working Paper Epidemics for all? Governing Health in a Global Age.

Read more
Published: 1st June 2008

often hear that genetically modified (GM, transgenic) crops are urgently needed to kick-start agricultural development and overcome poverty, hunger and malnutrition in the global South. But the experiences of the Chinese, Indian and South African smallholders growing GM crops have been mixed. This briefing – Transgenic cotton: a ‘pro-poor’ success –  accompanies the Working Paper Made…

Read more
Published: 19th April 2008

The beef industry in southern Africa has been a stalwart of economic development, but new conditions of trade, market access and disease dynamics, particularly of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD), mean a major rethink is required. Our research addresses key policy options to allow southern Africa to benefit from the global ‘livestock revolution’. It explores what options…

Read more
Published: 19th April 2008

The beef industry in southern Africa has been a stalwart of economic development, but new conditions of trade, market access and disease dynamics, particularly of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD), mean a major rethink is required. Our research addresses key policy options to allow southern Africa to benefit from the global ‘livestock revolution’. It explores what options…

Read more
Published: 19th April 2008

The beef industry in southern Africa has been a stalwart of economic development, but new conditions of trade, market access and disease dynamics, particularly of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD), mean a major rethink is required. Our research addresses key policy options to allow southern Africa to benefit from the global ‘livestock revolution’. It explores what options…

Read more
Published: 19th April 2008

(English version / en anglais) L’industrie bovine sud-africaine a été l’un des fers de lance du développement économique du pays, mais les nouvelles conditions du commerce et de l’accès aux marchés, ainsi que la dynamique de certaines maladies, en particulier la fièvre aphteuse, exigent une refonte majeure de l’approche dans ce secteur. Notre recherche s’intéresse…

Read more
Published: 19th April 2008

(French version / en français) The beef industry in southern Africa has been a stalwart of economic development, but new conditions of trade, market access and disease dynamics, particularly of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD), mean a major rethink is required. Our research addresses key policy options to allow southern Africa to benefit from the global ‘livestock…

Read more
Published: 25th June 2007

The Liquid Dynamics Symposium in November 2009, hosted by the STEPS Centre, brought together people from disciplines including water resources, sanitation, health, and climate change, to address issues of sustainability and social justice in water and sanitation. “Liquid dynamics” is a term used to capture how the social, technological and ecological dimensions of water and…

Read more

The effects of recurring floods and droughts, the deaths of 6,000 babies daily from waterborne diseases and growing sanitation problems in booming peri-urban and urban centres. No act of terrorism generates devastation on the scale of the crisis in water and sanitation. A billion people still lack access to safe water and 2.6 people lack…

Read more

Health has risen up the agenda in rich and poor countries with governments and charitable foundations increasingly willing to support initiatives for addressing health-related needs. This political concern is creating major opportunities for improving poor people’s lives. But it is also creating risks that poorly designed interventions will fail to achieve their objective, or have…

Read more
Published: 25th June 2007

In an era of rapid change, growing risk and uncertainty, there are many challenges to the sustainability of agricultural policy and practice in the developing world. Concerns about chronic hunger, malnutrition and technology-enhanced productivity, adverse environmental changes, increasing land degradation, the loss of biodiversity, livelihood insecurity and poverty in agricultural communities abound. These apprehensions raise…

Read more
Published: 25th June 2007

In today’s highly dynamic world, development challenges involve addressing complex interactions between people and their social processes, and rapidly changing technologies and ecologies. Which directions or pathways such systems move through over time – and how far these are sustainable, resilient, poverty-reducing or socially just, for instance – is strongly shaped by political processes and…

Read more
Published: 25th June 2007

Globally, billions lack access to safe water and sanitation. Despite widespread recognition that the situation is unacceptable, the tragedy of this failure persists. Increasingly, the development world is realising that a long series of pronouncements, declarations of principles and global conferences are as much a part of the problem as the solution: they aid in…

Read more
Published: 25th May 2007

Today’s world is experiencing accelerated rates of change in social, technological and environmental processes, therefore taking the dynamics of systems seriously in policy and practice is essential. Dynamic systems are characterised by complexity, non-linearity and often non-equilibrium patterns, with high levels of uncertainty about likely outcomes and impacts. This briefing accompanies the working paper Dynamic…

Read more