About us

Crossing a swollen river in the Sunderbans, India. Credit: STEPS Centre

The ESRC STEPS (Social, Technological and Environmental Pathways to Sustainability) Centre carries out interdisciplinary global research uniting development studies with science and technology studies to reduce poverty and bring about social justice.

The STEPS Centre is hosted in the UK by the Institute of Development Studies and the Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU) at the University of Sussex. Our main funding is from the UK’s Economic and Social Research Council.

Current focus

From 2018-2021 the STEPS Centre and Global Consortium are focusing on four annual themes. The first theme, in 2018, is Transformations.

How we work

We work as part of a Global Consortium with hubs in Africa, China, Europe, Latin America, North America and South Asia. Our research projects, in many countries, engage with local problems and link them to wider concerns.

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A4 summary of the pathways approach (download PDF)

Our pathways approach links theory, research methods and practice to highlight and open up the politics of sustainability.

We focus on complex challenges like climate change, food systems, urbanisation and technology in which society and ecologies are entangled. These are varied, changing and unpredictable. They are political because people can disagree on both what the problems are, and what the solutions might be.

STEPS research explores how poor and marginalised people can be involved in identifying and diagnosing problems, as well as deciding what to do. This often involves challenging power and assumptions, and exploring many different values, perspectives and possible futures.

To do this, we use participatory methods which draw from diverse fields including anthropology, medicine, development studies and science & technology studies. We work with transdisciplinary approaches which take seriously different forms of knowledge beyond academia, and connect research to action.

We work closely with local partners – ranging from activists to policy makers – to help shape the questions we ask. We work hard to share our answers and learning so that it can benefit other communities facing similar challenges.

We aim to:

  • Address global challenges through interdisciplinary research projects which bring together development studies and science and technology studies
  • Develop a theoretical pathways approach to understanding interactions between social, technological and environmental dynamics in diverse local conditions
  • Link new theories with practical solutions by devising a suite of tools and methods to create more sustainable, socially just and favourable conditions for the poor
  • Influence policy and generate new debate by engaging with diverse local and global audiences to help make change happen
  • Train a new generation of junior researchers, Masters’ students, PhD students and postdoctoral fellows in the STEPS Centre’s concepts, methods and approaches.

 

Leadership

Prof Ian Scoones (IDS) is Director of the STEPS Centre, and Prof Andy Stirling (SPRU) is its co-Director.

We are also a partner in the Green Economy Coalition and Future Earth.

Photo credits here