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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Theatre as a participatory methodology for action research

Theatre can be used, as part of action research, to enable researchers and participants to explore, reflect and co-create understanding and knowledge on an issue. Participatory theatre can open up spaces for dialogue and understanding between the range of participants through the development of the script, setting up the logistics and the performance itself. In…

Serious games

A ‘serious game’ is a game played for educational, exploratory or research purposes to explore the complexity of a particular issue. These are distinct from games that are played purely for entertainment. In the video clip below, Dr Nicolas Saillou of ETH Zurich describes how he builds and uses ‘serious games’ for exploring natural resource…

Mānoa Mash-up Method

The Mānoa Mash-up method was developed by researchers at the Centre for Complex Systems in Transition (CST) at the University of Stellenbosch to build positive and just visions of the future for given specific contexts. The methodology is a combination of the Mānoa Method and 3 Transitions Method and involves bringing together participants who have…

Agency Network Analysis

←BACK TO METHODS VIGNETTES Agency Network Analysis (ANA) maps a given actor’s arena of social action in the context of a problem space articulated by that actor. This mapping is done via a multi-part interview process that elicits that actor’s social network map and cognitive map. You can download the AgNeS app to run Agency…

A facilitator points to a wall with sticky notes after an Evaluation H exercise

Methods vignettes: Evaluation H

←BACK TO METHODS VIGNETTES Background Evaluation H derives from the H-form/ ‘Rugby Post form’ Evaluation method developed by Andy Inglis in 1997 to assist local people in Somalia in monitoring and evaluation (Guy and Inglis 1999, see references below). Beyond a standard ‘continuum’ or ‘line’ method that allows participants to position themselves (or their perspectives)…

Women working in a waterlogged field

Methods Vignettes: Life Histories

←BACK TO METHODS VIGNETTES Background Life history as a method for appreciating the social and cultural dynamics of individual lives has been widely used in anthropology and psychology. Focusing on changes in the lives of individual human subjects, published life histories have provided detailed understandings of meanings ascribed by people to past events and experiences….

Rivers of life

Methods Vignettes: Rivers of Life

←BACK TO METHODS VIGNETTES Background The Rivers of Life method was devised originally as an ‘ice breaker’ exercise, for use in workshops where participants coming from diverse backgrounds need to quickly introduce themselves to one another and start to build a rapport with the group. For instance, this method has been used annually at the…

Large old telephone switchboard with connecting wires

Methods Vignettes: Technography

←BACK TO METHODS VIGNETTES Background Technography can be quickly summed up as ‘the ethnography of technology-in-use’. The analogy is useful because technography draws on the ethnographer’s extensive toolkit of research methods, including participant observation, key informant interviews, transect walks, journal writing, photography, video recording and others. However, technography may involve a diverse mixture of qualitative…

Methods Vignettes: System histories

←BACK TO METHODS VIGNETTES Background This is a method used within the STEPS Centre’s Responding to zoonotic and related diseases in intensifying livestock systems: diverse framings and pathways project. A system history is the manager’s account of the choices they have made over time in what they do in their enterprise, how they do it, the…

Methods Vignettes: Sociotechnical imaginaries

←BACK TO METHODS VIGNETTES Background: The idea of sociotechnical imaginaries is a theoretical concept. In this vignette, we’ll introduce you to some of the commonly used methods that will help you to generate empirical research around sociotechnical imaginaries. But first, a little bit on what an imaginary is. An imaginary describes the visions, symbols and…

Methods Vignettes: Sensitivity Analysis

←BACK TO METHODS VIGNETTES Background: “Sensitivity Analysis (SA) is the study of how the variation in the output of a model (numerical or otherwise) can be apportioned, qualitatively or quantitatively, to different sources of variation, and of how the given model depends upon the information fed into it” (Saltelli 2000, p. 3). In STEPS terms, we can…

scientometric mapping screenshot

Methods Vignettes: Scientometric Mapping

←BACK TO METHODS VIGNETTES Background: Scientometric mapping is a set of visualisation techniques developed in the field of scientometrics for the study of measuring science, technology and innovation activity and outcomes. Given that science, technology and innovation are processes that take place in all sorts of settings (firms, institutions, universities, hospitals etc), a key problem addressed in scientometrics is how to capture this activity and make it tangible. Often, research ‘output’ is measured using proxies such as publications,…

Q Method chart

Methods Vignettes: Q Method (Q Methodology)

←BACK TO METHODS VIGNETTES Background Q Method (also known as Q Methodology) is used to study subjective perspectives. It is useful when you wish to characterise how different groups of people think about a particular issue in a systemic way. It can be used to explore perspectives on any issue area where there is subjective…

Group of people in Borana looking at photos on a laptop

Methods Vignettes: Photovoice

←BACK TO METHODS VIGNETTES Background Photovoice is a ground-breaking approach to participatory action research. The beauty of photovoice is its diversity; every photovoice project is different, and each project has a different focus. With photovoice, different stories are told, different photographs are captured and different outcomes are sought. Despite the many differences, common to each…

Methods Vignettes: Participatory Scenarios

←BACK TO METHODS VIGNETTES By Stephen Whitfield Background Participatory scenario workshops have been used and developed in research by Anthony Patt (Patt, Suarez et al. 2005) in Southern Africa, Kasper Kok and colleagues (Kok, Biggs et al. 2007), and the USAID funded Climate Change Collective Learning and Observatory Network in Ghana (Tschakert and Dietrich 2010),…

Methods Vignettes: Participatory Rural Appraisal

←BACK TO METHODS VIGNETTES Background PRA is described as a ‘family of approaches and methods’ by Chambers (1994) and an ‘eclectic situational style (the humble learning outsider)’ by IISD. It is a means through which local people can determine issues of importance to them and then share, develop, systematically order and analyse their knowledge of…

Methods Vignettes: Participatory Impact Pathways Analysis

←BACK TO METHODS VIGNETTES Background Participatory Impact Pathways Analysis (PIPA) is a planning and monitoring & evaluation tool designed to help the people involved in a project, program or organization make explicit their theories of change, in other words how they see themselves achieving their goals and having impact. PIPA can involve a number of…

Methods vignettes: Open space technology

←BACK TO METHODS VIGNETTES Background Open Space Technology (OST) is a way to run a workshop or meeting for addressing a broad issue or theme in an open way. Essentially it comprises of the following stages: First, an initial gathering in which the theme is broken down for later break-out sessions by a self-governing participatory…

Methods Vignettes: Multicriteria Mapping

←BACK TO METHODS VIGNETTES Background Multicriteria Mapping (MCM) is an interactive hybrid qualitative/quantitative appraisal method for exploring contrasting perspectives on complex strategic and policy issues. Based around an easily-used, freely-available web-based tool, it aims to help ‘open up’ technical assessment by ‘mapping’ practical implications of different options, knowledges, uncertainties contexts and values – as seen…

Methods Vignettes: Innovation histories

←BACK TO METHODS VIGNETTES Background The Innovation Histories method was developed by Boru Douthwaite and Jacqueline Ashby (2005) as a way of drawing on experience from past innovation processes. The authors base their method within the wider Learning Selection Model developed by Douthwaite (2002). The method comprises a set of flexible guidelines on how to…