Repository – Methods for Pathways to Sustainability Return to Methods

Search examples, events, commentary and publications on methods that help explore pathways to sustainability. This archive draws from 15 years of the ESRC STEPS Centre’s research with collaborators around the world.

For an overview of our work on this theme, visit the Methods front page.

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History of the Sussex Manifesto

Professor Sir Hans Singer considered it one of the three most important reports he had been involved in writing. Given Prof. Singer’s illustrious career spanning seven decades from 1936, that is quite an endorsement. The report in question is The Sussex Manifesto: Science and Technology to Developing Countries during the Second Development Decade (1970). Professor…

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…

group discussion

How do researchers’ roles relate to the methods they work with?

Throughout 2021, through a series of virtual events, we explored a wide range of methods that sustainability researchers are using and combining to both generate knowledge and contribute to positive change. Researchers working on different sustainability challenges around the world shared their experiences of, and lessons – both positive and negative – from transdisciplinary methods….

Caring for and nurturing the soil – Umbela Conversatorio #4

In connection with our 2021 Methods theme, the Mexico-based NGO Umbela – Transformaciones Sostenibles has held a series of online events on the theme of ‘Cultivating Knowledges’. In this fourth conversation, María, Ingrid and Marila talk about what it means to care for and nurture long-term transformation processes. They share learnings from their experiences and…

Gathering knowledges – Umbela Conversatorio #3

In connection with our 2021 Methods theme, the Mexico-based NGO Umbela – Transformaciones Sostenibles has held a series of online events on the theme of ‘Cultivating Knowledges’. In this third event, the conversation focuses on Gathering knowledges. ‘Gathering knowledges’ is a conversation where we speak from the collective, from the organisations that have sown diverse…

The ‘Methods bazaar’: what did we learn about transdisciplinary methods for sustainability?

What methods can help to ‘open up’ and ‘broaden out’ pathways to sustainability, revealing alternatives to one-track visions of progress and expertise? Sustainability challenges – from Covid-19 to climate change, agri-food futures to urbanisation – require thinking carefully about the relationships between power, knowledge and action. Transdisciplinary methods can offer a way to make new…

Methods: The sowing of shared dreams – Umbela Conversatorio #2

In connection with our 2021 Methods theme, the Mexico-based NGO Umbela – Transformaciones Sostenibles is holding a series of online events on the theme of ‘Cultivating Knowledges’. In the second event in this series, The sowing of shared dreams, Tania, Enrico, Mirna and Loni talk about how to plant dreams, utopias that they describe as…

Methods video: Regenerating the soil for new roots – Umbela Conversatorio #1

Our colleagues in Mexico have have launched the first webinar in a four-part series, Cultivating Knowledges. The first webinar was convened in April by Umbela Transformaciones Sostenibles and LANCIS-IE-UNAM and brought together four “knowledges cultivators” from Colombia and Mexico. They discussed how they expanded their belief systems in order to incorporate more plural ways of…

Challenging power through methods

By Linet Mwirigi, Maureen Kabasa, Kennedy Mbeva and Joel Onyango In every sphere of life, different methods and power relations are at play. The dynamics and dimensionality of power and methods are evident in different disciplines, more so in research and academia. Historically, the seat of power in research is seen to be the global…

Round icon with colours representing the Sustainable Development Goals

To meet the Sustainable Development Goals, we must transform innovation

By Saurabh Arora and Andy Stirling This blogpost is republished from STRINGS (Steering Research and Innovation for Global Goals). In 1925, Mahatma Gandhi famously included ‘science without humanity’ and ‘knowledge without character’, alongside ‘politics without principle’ and ‘commerce without morality’ in listing Seven Social Sins. Today, we can see these social sins of Modernity as central to unsustainability,…

waves on a beach

Waves of challenging research for sustainability

by Patricia Pérez Belmont, Umbela Transformaciones Sostenibles How can research methods inform and catalyse change towards more sustainable worlds? Last month, the STEPS Centre held an online event to launch a series on the theme of ‘Challenging Research’. Over the last 15 years, STEPS has worked to shift discourses on the politics of sustainability to…

Buba river

How do we ‘decolonise’ research methodologies?

by Nora Ndege and Joel Onyango, Africa Research and Impact Network / African Centre for Technology Studies This blog post is part of the STEPS Centre’s 2021 theme on Methods. Researchers and the research community are increasingly asked to reflect on various research methods that can have positive outcomes and impacts on society, and challenge…

Challenging sustainability research: how can methods make a difference?

by Marina Apgar and Rose Cairns, Methods theme convenors In this introductory blogpost for the STEPS theme on Methods, we discuss three meanings of sustainability research as ‘challenging research’. Methods make a difference to the potential of research to challenge power; yet power also deeply shapes the way research is framed, carried out and interpreted….

How do we study mangrove ecology with pastoralists in Kachchh?

by Ranit Chaterjee, Pankaj Joshi, Mahendra Bhanani, Mahesh Garva and Nobuhito Ohte As part of the TAPESTRY project, we are working to understand the ecology of mangroves in Kachchh, on the western coast of India. Mangroves are an important part of the ecology of the district, providing shelter for animal life and shorelines, but are…

Transformation in a crisis: reflections on research and action

This is a personal reflection from Lyla Mehta on the Transformations to Sustainability mid-term workshop, which took place virtually in June 2020. Find out more about the meeting and see all related content on the T2S website. The world has changed dramatically since the Transformations to Sustainability projects started in late 2018. For one, we…

1970s illustration of two heads facing each other with cut out section showing cogs

Post-normal pandemics: Why COVID-19 requires a new approach to science

Guest post by David Waltner-Toews1, Annibale Biggeri2, Bruna De Marchi3, Silvio Funtowicz3, Mario Giampietro4,5, Martin O’Connor6,7, Jerome R. Ravetz8, Andrea Saltelli3,9 and Jeroen P. van der Sluijs3,10 READ THIS ARTICLE IN SPANISH: See alternative translations published by Democracia Sur and our partners Bioleft. In addressing pandemics, science has never seemed more needed and useful, while…

UK press conference

Science, uncertainty and the COVID-19 response

One of the abiding images of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak in the UK has been the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, looking nervous and uncomfortable, flanked by his scientific advisors at the regular press conferences. With three white men in suits in a wood-panelled room, the aim presumably was to project a sense of control and…

Politicising Pathways: illustrating Relational Power using the Vulnerability Walk

Blog post by Soundarya Iyer, Sayan Das, Uma Dey Sarkar, Natasha Maru, Nimita Pandey and Masresha Taye. In an increasingly complex and dynamic world, how can we envision and strive for sustainable development that upholds ideals of environmental integrity and social justice? This question is central to the endeavours of the STEPS centre, including its…

farmers in dryland landscape

Five problems with ‘integrated assesment’ models, and what to do about them

What are the most appropriate ways of understanding changes in natural resource change in rural areas, particularly in the context of climate change? How can we make use of data that is patchy and uncertain? How can models help decision-making about future management? These questions are at the heart of three recently published journal articles…

Art, Uncertainty and System Change

It is becoming increasingly common to see funders, at national and international levels, in the sciences, arts and humanities, encouraging interdisciplinary approaches to various fundamental policy challenges. Initiatives focusing on the interface between art and environment, or art and ecology, mostly have emerged from an arts-based starting point, but the Arts and Environment Network (AEN)…