Research Themes

Climate Change & Energy

We seek to identify pathways that will enable poor people to access energy services sustainably. We also research climate governance, with particular focus on the impact of climate change on poor and marginalised people living in developing countries.

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Food & Agriculture

Our work identifies alternative pathways for agricultural policy that are more sustainable and socially just. This is important because certain narratives about agricultural innovation dominate science policy debates, while others remain marginalised, or even hidden from view.

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Governance & Policy

We investigate how policy processes work in theory and practice from the Sustainable Development Goals to local contexts. Our research explores how states, markets, technology and citizens combine to create different kinds of transformations, and the role that power plays in affecting governance and policy processes.

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Health & Disease

The threats of emerging infectious disease - from avian influenza to Ebola - are the result of complex social and ecological interactions. Our work is examining the dynamics of disease and its consequences for poverty and social justice, especially in Africa. We are defining new approaches to policy that work, in places where health services are limited and access to pharmaceuticals is constrained. We aim to identify pathways that improve health for the poor, informing both policy institutions and field practitioners.

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Pastoralism supports many people's livelihoods, but is often neglected in debates about food and land. We aim to learn from pastoralists and the way they respond to uncertainties.

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Resource Politics

Resources such as land, water, forests and food are often contested and political. Our research looks at how conflicts are created or overcome, how ideas like scarcity, access, nature and rights are used to justify decisions about resources, and what these decisions mean for social justice and the environment.

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Technology & Innovation

Changes in technology can have important impacts on the environment and people’s ways of life, for good or ill. We explore how people react and relate to technologies – both old and new – how they resist or use them, how they are developed and why, who shapes them, and why they succeed or fail.

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Understanding Sustainability

How can ideas about sustainability be shaped, combined or challenged, and how do they inform policies and action? We aim to analyse and understand debates about sustainability.

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The world’s population increasingly lives in cities. But the boundaries between cities and the countryside are often hard to define, with people, money and resources flowing in and out. We look at the many visions, plans and realities for different groups of people in urban places, and how they could be made more sustainable.

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Globally, billions lack access to safe water and sanitation. The tragedy of this failure persists despite widespread recognition that the situation is unacceptable. Our research concentrates on two themes: waste and environmental health in rapidly changing urban and peri-urban spaces, and water security.

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Global Consortium

steps global consortium map


Learn more about the STEPS pathways approach and the politics of sustainability. Browse our learning materials, including our annual Summer Schools on Pathways to Sustainability, our guide to methods and methodologies, and online learning courses from the STEPS Centre.