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IDS 50: Sustainability transformations: the intersecting roles of state, market and society

5th July 2016 @ 11:30 am - 1:00 pm

IDS 50 conferencePart of the Institute of Development Studies 50th Anniversary Conference: States, Markets and Society, this panel session will examine the politics of sustainability transformations through different cases, drawing on the work of the STEPS Centre and the emerging STEPS Global Pathways to Sustainability Consortium.

The panel will open with an overview of the different ways ‘transformations’ are understood, and how sustainability transformations require a focus on coalition building across diverse actors. This will be followed by three case study presentations from three different regional settings and on three different sustainability challenges (waste and water, low-carbon energy, and agri-food) examining how, over time, state, market and society have interacted in the construction of pathways – promoting some and sidelining others – and how a wider political economy analysis has helped to illuminate which combination of factors are important in facilitating transformations to sustainability.

Chair: Ian Scoones, IDS and Director of the ESRC STEPS Centre


Ritu Priya
Centre of Social Medicine and Community Health, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India

Cosmas Ochieng
African Centre for Technology Studies, Kenya

Anabel Marin


This event is only open to participants with tickets to the IDS 50 Conference. Registration information is here.


Ritu Priya: Water and waste: Developmental conflicts, contestations and dialogue towards urban sustainability transformations in India

State-led development of urban water and waste disposal systems, uncritically adopting Euro-American technological systems, resulted in chronic urban water shortages and limited waste disposal capacities. Since the 1990s, both problems have compounded to crisis point due to escalating urbanisation and consumption patterns. Consequently, a plurality of citizen/civil society-led initiatives emerged: rights-based policy and legal contestations, culturally attuned techno-social innovations, ‘green technology’ promotion, social innovations in decision-making, and adaptive community innovations. However, conventional techno-social systems continue to be dominant, perpetuated through public–private partnerships. This presentation shares learning and questions from grass-roots initiatives on the politics of sustainable transformations.

Cosmas Ochieng: Innovation and transformation histories in the Kenyan solar sector: Lessons for low-carbon development pathways in Kenya

Access to modern energy services remains a significant challenge in Kenya, with only 30 per cent of households having access to electricity. The Kenyan government has tried to address this problem through a range of policies focused on accelerating access to ‘green and inclusive’ sources of energy, especially geothermal, wind, hydro and solar power. Arguably, the adoption and use of these technologies has been most successful in the solar sector. This presentation examines the ‘innovation history’ of the Kenyan solar market over the last three decades with a view to shedding light on how the tri-partite relationship between the state, markets and society impacts low-carbon development pathways in Kenya.

Anabel Marin: The politics of access to seed in Argentinian agriculture

Argentina is currently in the middle of contentious and currently stalled debates about the reform of intellectual property (IPR) law for seeds. IPR regimes govern transformation pathways in important ways because strict property rights can undermine the scope to support more diverse, sustainable agricultural futures. This paper will discuss important opportunities for a different system of property rights for seeds that emerges from the particularities of the country. These opportunities are related to the presence of a strong domestic seed industry using a distinctive business model that is different to that of large MNCs. Alliances between domestic business interests and activists are forming with shared interests in creating more sustainable agricultural futures, with an alternative IPR regime shaping pathways.


More about transformations

book cover The-Politics-of-GreenBook: The Politics of Green Transformations

Multiple ‘green transformations’ are required if humanity is to live sustainably on planet Earth. Recalling past transformations, this book examines what makes the current challenge different, and especially urgent.

Contributing authors

Erik Millstone, Andy Stirling, Matthew Lockwood, Adrian Smith, Adrian Ely, Mariana Mazzucato, Stephen Spratt, Hubert Schmitz, Ian Scoones, Melissa Leach and Peter Newell.

Order the book from Routledge

Transformations event series

transformations-logo-for-maWhen in the past have societies made rapid transitions, and what were the circumstances that drove them? What can we learn from these times, positively and negatively to enable the transition we need to make today in the face of climatic upheaval and fossil fuel dependence?

The Transformations series, co-organised by the New Weather Institute and the STEPS Centre, aim to change the conversation about transition in the UK. Through informed public discussion and engagement we will gather opinions, capture outcomes and stimulate debate about how to facilitate the speed and scale of the transition.

See the Transformations event series page for more details.


5th July 2016
11:30 am - 1:00 pm
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Room 100, Institute of Development Studies
Library Road
Falmer, BN1 9RE United Kingdom