6. Methods and Methodologies

Sharing learning from group work in Kakamega, Kenya. Credit: STEPS Centre

STEPS Centre research has sought to help to ‘open up’ perspectives on complex, often contested, problems and ‘broaden out’ the possible options or outcomes in generating pathways to sustainability.

Pathways and their implications are framed differently by different people with divergent perspectives and interests. This makes appreciating diverse cultures, discourses and positions essential. This can emerge by combining and sequencing methods across quantitative, qualitative and participatory, action-oriented approaches.

Lecture: Andy Stirling, Methods and Methodologies

Andy Stirling introduces ideas and examples on methods for pathways to sustainability.


After you have watched the lecture, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. How can different methods help open up and broaden out research and social appraisal approaches? And, conversely, how can methods act to close down or narrow perspectives? Think of some examples from your experience.
  2. How can a methodology that helps open up issues, involving diverse knowledges, help to challenge incumbent power and reverse biases in knowledge-making? How can ‘methods’ be seen politically as part of a wider struggle towards emancipation and sustainability?

Essential reading

Stirling, A., Leach, M., Mehta, L., Scoones, I., Smith, A., Stagl, S. and Thompson, J. (2007)

Empowering Designs: towards more progressive appraisal of sustainability, STEPS Working Paper 3 (OA)

Read more

Stirling, A. (2010)

From Enlightenment to Enablement: opening up choices for innovation. Chapter in Lopez-Claros, A., The Innovation for Development Report: 2009-10

Read more

Ely, A., van Zwanenberg, P. and Stirling, A. (2014)

Commentary: Underestimating the challenges of avoiding a ghastly future. Frontiers in Conservation Science, vol 2

Read more

Ely, A., van Zwanenberg, P. and Stirling, A. (2014)

Broadening out and opening up technology assessment: Approaches to enhance international development, co-ordination and democratisation. Research Policy 43 (3): 505-518

Read more

Further reading

Stirling, A. (2007) “Opening Up” and “Closing Down”: Power, Participation, and Pluralism in the Social Appraisal of Technology. Science, Technology and Human Values 33(2): 262-294

Read more

The STEPS Centre’s Methods portal

Discover how methods are combined to help to ‘open up’ perspectives on a problem, and ‘broaden out’ the possible options or outcomes.

Challenging Research

A series of debates during the STEPS Centre’s ‘methods year’ in 2021, exploring the politics of methods, transdisciplinary practice and decolonising research methodologies.

Find out more

Part 5  Course home Feedback