Challenging Research

In a series of events in 2021 entitled Challenging Research, we asked critical questions on the way we use and think about methodologies in sustainability research.

About the series

Faced with multiple intersecting crises and long-term social and ecological problems, sustainability research is called to challenge power, revealing alternative pathways to diverse futures. But it is hampered by hidden assumptions about objective knowledge, market forces and disciplinary silos, an artificial boundary between action and knowledge, and pressures for research to narrow down its questions and reach single answers or ‘solutions’.

The Challenging Research series critically examines the roles of methods and methodologies in addressing these problems, through a series of conversations between researchers and others mobilising for change around the world.

The series included events convened by the ESRC STEPS Centre (co-hosted by IDS and SPRU, University of Sussex), ARIN (African Research and Impact Network), and events in Mexico coordinated by the NGO Umbela Transformaciones Sostenibles, co-coordinated by LANCIS-IE-UNAM, and in association with IIMAS-UNAM and the School of Sustainability at Arizona State University (these last three organisations comprise the North America Hub of the STEPS Global Consortium).


Challenging research for sustainability – transdisciplinary methods, relationships, politics and praxis

Launch event. Speakers included Andy Stirling (STEPS/University of Sussex); Anabel Marin (IDS); Lakshmi Charli-Joseph and Patricia Pérez-Belmont (LANCIS-IE-UNAM/Umbela); Joel Onyango and Joanes Atela (ACTS/ARIN). Moderators: Marina Apgar (IDS) and Rose Cairns (SPRU).

Event details Video (YouTube)

Power and Methods

Webinar convened by the Africa Research and Impact Network (ARIN) on how larger theories about methodologies have been applied to engage, challenge and shift power, and rein in hierarchical authorities (coloniality) associated with methods in Africa.

Event details Video (YouTube)

Valuing diversity in Methods

This seminar, hosted by ARIN, explores how concrete methods have been applied in different (geographical, social, political) settings to demonstrate diversity, with multiple range inputs, framings, and voices.

Event details Watch video

Multidimensionality of Methods

ARIN-hosted seminar exploring how patterns of funding, politics and gender bias act together to reinforce coloniality in research.

Event details Watch video

Methods ‘bazaar’: Transdisciplinary methods for sustainability

Knowledge exchange event for researchers and other participants in sustainability initiatives interested in transdisciplinary methods.

Find out more

Methods ‘conversatorios’: Cultivating knowledges

The Cultivating Knowledges series explored alternative knowledge and belief systems with insights from Latin America, and how they can offer inspiration in unlearning many of our inherited ways of seeing the world and universe around us.

The series included four talks structured around the metaphor of “cultivation”. It was led by Umbela – Transformaciones Sostenibles together with LANCIS-IE-UNAM, IIMAS-UNAM and SOS-ASU.

Regenerating the soil for new roots
Cultivating Knowledges series #1

The sowing of shared dreams
Cultivating knowledges series #2

Gathering knowledges
Cultivating knowledges series #3

Caring for and nurturing the soil – Umbela Conversatorio #4
Cultivating Knowledges series #4

Blog posts from the series

Challenging sustainability research: how can methods make a difference?
Marina Apgar and Rose Cairns, February 2021

How do we ‘decolonise’ research methodologies?
Joel Onyango and Nora Ndege, March 2021

Waves of challenging research for sustainability
Patricia Pérez Belmont, March 2021

Challenging power through methods
Linet Mwirigi, Maureen Kabasa, Kennedy Mbeva and Joel Onyango, May 2021

More about Methods

methodsVisit our Methods resources to view case studies, examples, publications and more on transdisciplinary methods for sustainability.

Explore Methods