4. Technology, Innovation and Sustainability

STEPS Learning > Course: Pathways to Sustainability > 4. Technology, Innovation and Sustainability

In this section, we’ll think about the relationships between technology, innovation and development. With the emergence of the UN Sustainable Development Goals and other, related agendas (e.g. the Sustainable Energy for All agenda), it is increasingly clear how much emphasis (and, indeed, faith) is being put on the role of technology and innovation in delivering sustainability.

This section provides some critical perspectives and conceptual tools for navigating and analysing these emerging agendas, from the global to the local scale.

Learning outcomes

At the end of this module, a successful participant should be able to:

  1. Name the “3Ds” of the STEPS approach to innovation and sustainability.
  2. Articulate why the 3Ds are integral to a Pathways Approach to sustainable innovation and development.
  3. Define what is meant by “grassroots innovation”.
  4. Articulate how grassroots innovation might contribute towards pathways towards sustainability that are of benefit to poor and marginalised women and men.

In this section:

4.1: Innovation and Sustainability – the 3D agenda

4.2: Grassroots Innovation


4.1: Innovation and Sustainability – the 3D agenda

Essential reading

Questions to guide reading

  1. Why do the authors argue that traditional metrics for measuring innovation (‘gross expenditure on R&D’) are limited? Why is this important when thinking about sustainability?
  2. What do the “3Ds” stand for?
  3. In what way do the authors argue that these 3Ds can support socially just and environmentally sustainable directions of innovation?

Lecture: Dr Adrian Ely, Innovation and Sustainability – the 3D agenda

Additional reading

Assessment questions

  1. Discuss how attending to direction, diversity and distribution might underpin innovation policy that can support socially just, environmentally sound pathways to sustainability.
  2. How does the STEPS 3Ds agenda link to the ideas raised by Stirling in his “keep it complex” paper? (see Part 2: Uncertainty and incomplete knowledge)

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4.2: Grassroots Innovation

Essential reading

Questions to guide reading

  1. How do the authors define “grassroots innovation movements” (GIMs)?
  2. What are the two different modes of engagement that the authors describe as occurring between GIMs and mainstream science, technology and innovation institutions?
  3. Why are the authors interested in these modes of engagement?
  4. What material effects do the authors argue that these modes of engagement result in?
  5. What is their relevance to development policy and practice?

Lecture: Prof Adrian Smith, Grassroots Innovation

Additional reading

Assessment questions

  1. Discuss the tensions and synergies between ideas of “grassroots innovation” and “inclusive innovation”.
  2. How do grassroots innovation movements interact with mainstream science, technology and innovation institutions and why might this be of interest to development policy and practice?

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