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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.

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

Edited by Adrian Ely Routledge, Pathways to Sustainability Series (2021) Open Access Read/Download this book About this book Transformations to sustainability are increasingly the focus of research and policy discussions around the Sustainable Development Goals. However, the different roles played by transdisciplinary research in contributing to social transformations across diverse settings have been neglected in…

Transformation as praxis: responding to climate change uncertainties in marginal environments in South Asia

This paper provides some of the conceptual and methodological underpinnings being developed in the ongoing TAPESTRY project which is part of the Transformations to Sustainability (T2S) Programme. We debate how the notion of transformation may be conceptualized from ‘below’ in marginal environments that are especially marked by high levels of climate-related uncertainties. We propose the notion of…

pathways approach

Animated explainer: What are Pathways to Sustainability?

How should people address problems like climate change, environmental destruction, poverty and injustice? With many possible ways to respond, whose voices and ideas will shape the pathways that are chosen? This animation introduces the idea of pathways to sustainability – a way to think about challenging sustainability problems and their alternatives. Watch the video About…

T-Labs: A Practical Guide

T-Labs: A Practical Guide Using Transformation Labs (T-Labs) for innovation in social-ecological systems Pathways Network, September 2018 Between 2016 and 2018, the Pathways Network aimed to investigate new approaches for transformations to sustainability across different disciplines, cultures and contexts. The network carried out comparative research in six countries to explore how to work with local…

Structured Collaboration Across a Transformative Knowledge Network — Learning Across Disciplines, Cultures and Contexts?

Realising the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will require transformative changes at micro, meso and macro levels and across diverse geographies. Collaborative, transdisciplinary research has a role to play in documenting, understanding and contributing to such transformations. Previous work has investigated the role of this research in Europe and North America, however the dynamics of transdisciplinary…

Transformative spaces in the making: key lessons from nine cases in the Global South

Laura Pereira, Niki Frantzeskaki, Aniek Hebinck, Lakshmi Charli-Joseph, Scott Drimie, Michelle Dyer, Hallie Eakin, Diego Galafassi, Timos Karpouzoglou, Fiona Marshall, Michele-Lee Moore, Per Olsson, J. Mario Siqueiros-García, Patrick van Zwanenberg and Joost M. Vervoort Sustainability Science, November 2019 (Open Access) Read this paper online Creating a just and sustainable planet will require not only small…

How deep is incumbency? A ‘configuring fields’ approach to redistributing and reorienting power in socio-material change

This paper examines a variety of theories bearing on ‘socio-material incumbency’ and explores methodological implications. The aim is to develop a systematic general approach, which builds on strengths and mitigates weaknesses in prevailing analytical frameworks. A particular priority lies in avoidance of self-acknowledged tendencies in existing theory to ‘reify’ central notions like ‘the regime’. Such…

The Transformation Laboratory of the Social-Ecological System of Xochimilco, Mexico City: Description of the Process and Methodological Guide

The activities described in this guide are designed to support participatory research in the search for transformative pathways to social-ecological system sustainability. The guide offers activities with practical examples to help researchers creatively explore new ways for participants to relate to each other and to their environment. This publication draws on the experiences of implementing…

Beyond Technical Fixes: climate solutions and the great derangement

Nightingale, A.J., Eriksen, S., Taylor, M., Forsyth, T., Pelling, M., Newsham, A., Boyd, E., Brown, K., Harvey, B., Jones, L., Kerr, R.B., Mehta, L., Naess, L.O., Ockwell, D., Scoones, I., Tanner, T. and Whitfield, S. (2019) Climate and Development, 2019 Climate change research is at an impasse. The transformation of economies and everyday practices is…

What is Uncertainty and Why Does it Matter?

STEPS Working Paper 105 April 2019 Uncertainty defines our times. Whether it is in relation to climate change, disease outbreaks, financial volatility, natural disasters or political settlements, every media headline seems to assert that things are uncertain, and increasingly so. Uncertainty, where we do not know the probabilities of either likelihoods or outcomes, is different…

Transformations to Sustainability

STEPS Working Paper 104 September 2018 The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) highlight how transformations to sustainable economies and societies are a major global challenge. This Working Paper offers a brief overview of different conceptual approaches to transformation, and outlines a set of practical principles for effective research and action towards sustainability. We review three approaches…

Seeking unconventional alliances and bridging innovations in spaces for transformative change: the seed sector and agricultural sustainability in Argentina

Experimental spaces for learning about and nurturing processes of social-ecological transformation are of increasing interest; a reflection, in part, of a more interventionist approach to sustainability research and funding. We reflect on our experience in Argentina facilitating a multistakeholder transformative space to identify and discuss agricultural sustainability challenges associated with seed market concentration, and to…

Transdisciplinary research as transformative space making for sustainability: enhancing propoor transformative agency in periurban contexts

In this paper, we discuss how transdisciplinary development research (TDR), if approached in particular ways, can produce new knowledge and also foster deeper systemic changes in the knowledge system itself. We are concerned with systemic change that supports propoor sustainability transformations, and conceptualize the processes that contribute to this type of systemic change as “transformative…

Promoting agency for social-ecological transformation: a transformation-lab in the Xochimilco social-ecological system

Experiments to create spaces for social-ecological transformation are multiplying. These experiments aim at transcending traditional spaces for rational deliberation, planning, and participatory decision-making. We present a methodological approach for triggering the emergence of “transformation laboratories” (T-labs), which are participatory spaces where new agency is activated in relation to a stagnant sustainability challenge to generate intentional…

Uncertainty in Environmental Studies

Threats to climate, biodiversity, soils, air and water join long-standing issues of poverty and vulnerability in demanding urgent action. Radical transformations are required in global institutions and infrastructures for provision of energy, food, water, mobility and livelihoods. So, political, economic and social – as well as environmental – stakes are high. Yet it is rarely…

Power in Practice: Insights from Technography and Actor-Network Theory for Agricultural Sustainability

STEPS Working Paper 100 October 2017 In this paper, we use conceptual insights from two distinct traditions within the social studies of science and technology, namely actor-network theory (ANT) and technography, to explore the relationship between power and the reconfiguration of agricultural practices toward sustainability. Noting the generative (productive) and repressive aspects of power, we…

Linking well-being with cultural revitalization for greater cognitive justice in conservation: lessons from Venezuela in Canaima National Park

Across the globe, conservation policies have often suppressed nonscientific forms of knowledge and ways of knowing nature, along with the social practices of the groups that are informed by such knowledge. Reversing this process of epistemic supremacy is crucial both for achieving greater cognitive justice in conservation areas and ensuring that conservation aims are achieved….

Integrative modelling for One Health: pattern, process and participation

by I. Scoones, K. Jones, G. Lo Iacono, D. W. Redding, A. Wilkinson and J. L. N. Wood Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B. 372:20160164 June 2017 This paper argues for an integrative modelling approach for understanding zoonoses disease dynamics, combining process, pattern and participatory models. Each type of modelling provides important insights, but all are…