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Pathways to sustainability: knowledge, politics and power

8th December 2021 @ 1:00 pm - 3:00 pm

Virtual event, 8 December 2021

This final event of the ESRC STEPS Centre brought together friends, collaborators and networks from around the world. We explored the major challenges for sustainability in the present moment, reflected on lessons from the past fifteen years, and discussed future possibilities, plans and initiatives.

Video playlist: Watch Talks from the event

This video playlist includes clips from the plenary and parallel sessions at the event. It begins with short reflections from Alison Park (ESRC Executive Chair) and Melissa Leach (Director, IDS), as well as Line Gordon (Director, Stockholm Resilience Centre) and Dipak Gyawali (Pragya, Nepal Academy of Science and Technology).

The playlist also features recordings of eight of the parallel sessions, as well as talks that looked forward to ongoing initiatives and future plans, including the Mexico-based transdisciplinary collective Umbela – Transformaciones Sociales, the Africa Research and Impact Network (ARIN), the Transdisciplinary Research Cluster on Sustainability Studies (TRCSS) in India, and the Bioleft initiative on open source commoning in seeds.

View this playlist on YouTube

Event details

Since 2006, the STEPS Centre has focused on multiple challenges around social justice and environmental sustainability, building on long-standing struggles. From epidemics and pandemics to water, energy, food and other resources, and the politics of innovation and technologies, multiple ‘pathways to sustainability’ are always influenced by different kinds of knowledge and forms of power.

As a research centre, we understand that knowledge is not neutral. It not only ‘speaks’ to – but is also partly shaped by – politics and power. Powerful interests not only sideline ‘inconvenient truths’, they also condition what is taken to be true. Through our research programmes and our Pathways Approach, the STEPS Centre has aimed to highlight this shaping of knowledge by power. We have sought to help establish practical ways to properly address the perspectives of marginalised people. We have helped develop diverse methods, options and understandings to underpin action to ‘open up’ the politics of sustainability.


13.00 Setting the stage (PLENARY)

  • Alison Park, ESRC Executive Chair
  • Melissa Leach, Director, IDS
  • Chair: Ian Scoones, STEPS Centre

What’s next for the politics of knowledge, in driving radically progressive worldwide transformations to sustainability?

  • Line Gordon, Director, Stockholm Resilience Centre
  • Dipak Gyawali, Pragya, Nepal Academy of Science and Technology

13.30 Key themes: challenges, lessons and opportunities (PARALLEL)

Regulating technologies (PDF)

Transformative space making for urban sustainability (PDF)

Reframing climate technology policy beyond hegemonic discourses of hardware-finance (PDF)

Power and politics in grassroots innovation (PDF)

Care vs. control in agri-food system transformations (PDF)

Uncertainty and transformation: looking back and looking forward (PDF)

Pandemics and the politics of knowledge (PDF)

Moving beyond methods in support of transformative change (PDF)

Nature, crisis stories and the politics of repair (PDF)

Energy transition, minerals, conflicts and civil society participation in Latin America and the Caribbean (PDF)

14.15 Next steps and onward collaborations (PLENARY)

Plenary with interventions by speakers from initiatives connected to the STEPS Centre, followed by discussion (Chair: Andy Stirling, STEPS Centre)

  • Transformative transdisciplinary experiences as inspirations for next endeavours
    Lakshmi Charli-Joseph (LANCIS-IE, UNAM) & Patricia Pérez-Belmont (Umbela)
  • Citizen alliances and ecological democracy for sustainable urbanisation
    Ritu Priya Mehrotra (TRCSS-JNU, India)
  • Decolonising methodologies for sustainability
    Joanes Atela and Joel Onyango (Africa Research and Impact Network/ACTS)
  • Towards open source commoning on seeds: The BioLeft initiative
    Anabel Marín (IDS)

15.00 Close


Visit our registration form to sign up for this event. When registering, you will need to indicate which breakout panel you would like to be in. You will be assigned to that breakout group on the day of the event.


Related content

BOOK: Transformative Pathways to Sustainability: Learning Across Disciplines, Cultures and Contexts

Edited by Adrian Ely (2021)
Routledge – Pathways to Sustainability Series, Open Access

Draws on content and cases from across the ‘Pathways’ Transformative Knowledge Network, an international group of six regional hubs working on sustainability challenges in their own local or national contexts. Each of these hubs reports on their experiences of ‘transformation laboratory’ processes on food systems, low carbon energy and industrial transformations, and water and waste in cities.

Transformative Pathways to Sustainability: Learning Across Disciplines, Cultures and Contexts

Book: The Politics of Climate Change and Uncertainty in India

Edited By Lyla Mehta, Hans Nicolai Adam, Shilpi Srivastava
Routledge – Pathways to Sustainability Series, Open Access (forthcoming – Winter 2021)

This book brings together diverse perspectives concerning uncertainty and climate change in India. With case studies from coastal Mumbai to dryland Kutch and the Sundarbans delta, the book unpacks the diverse discourses, practices and politics of uncertainty and demonstrates profound differences through which the “above”, “middle” and “below” understand and experience climate change and uncertainty.

The Politics of Climate Change and Uncertainty in India

Animation: What are Pathways to Sustainability?

Watch our short animation explaining the STEPS Centre’s Pathways Approach and what it means for transformative action for sustainability.

The STEPS Centre’s final year: reflections on a 15-year journey

STEPS Centre co-directors Ian Scoones and Andy Stirling reflect on the story of the Centre, with a timeline of key events and developments.

The STEPS Centre’s final year: reflections on a 15-year journey

Stories of Change

Ten stories show what the STEPS Centre learned from our involvement in debates around pandemics, energy, food, nature, transformations, uncertainty and more.

Stories of Change


8th December 2021
1:00 pm - 3:00 pm

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