People walking along a flooded causeway

How can NGOs feel at home with uncertainty?

by Irene Guijt, Head of Research and Publishing at Oxfam Great Britain Uncertainty is a given in Oxfam. Each day brings new concerns, unexpected twists in relationships and the rollercoasters of dynamic contexts. We adjust out of necessity. But how explicitly do we build uncertainty into our work? And how do we not get paralysed…

STEPS Uncertainty Podcast

The STEPS Uncertainty Podcast is a series of four conversations recorded with participants after our symposium in July 2019, available as a podcast to stream or download. The symposium, The Politics of Uncertainty: Practical Challenges for Transformative Action, explored the many ways that people understand and respond to uncertainty in different domains – including finance…

A participatory approach to initiating transformative actions from the bottom-up

Jai and Ketaki Bhadgaonkar (Bombay 61) give this report from the Ideation Workshop in Mumbai for the TAPESTRY project.  Versova Koliwada is one of the most thriving fishing villages in the city of Mumbai. It is important to address the concerns and uncertainties around the sustenance of those who live in this village. The TAPESTRY…

Envisioning the future in the present: making sense of uncertainty

The STEPS symposium on ‘the politics of uncertainty’ made me think about a couple of questions that I have been concerned with in my research work, but that I have so far mostly approached from a perspective of risk, and how risk is translated into space (‘riskscapes’). The symposium addressed the issue of uncertainty and…

Infrastructures of the imagination: uncertainty and the politics of prefiguration

By Martin Mahony and Silke Beck Sticky imaginaries, shifting frames, irreducible incertitude . . . the recent Politics of Uncertainty symposium gave us much to reflect upon in the context of recent shifts in the politics of global climate change, and what they might mean for the relationship between knowledge and action. Cluster 2 of…

Embracing uncertainty: lessons from journeys and struggles

Michele Nori, Rose Cairns and Nathan Oxley Embracing uncertainty, by choice or by necessity, is something migrants, victims of political violence, and people holding a religious belief have in common. What could we learn from their experiences about a broader understanding of living with uncertainty, and how can this inform other domains and contexts? This…

Solidarity, insurance, emotions and uncertainty

I spent a fascinating three days at the STEPS Politics of Uncertainty Conference in July, and in the last few weeks have been mulling over what I have taken from the rich conversations we have had. I spent much of my time in a stream focused on uncertainty in the context of finance and banking….

Control room

When ignorance does more than you think

Unstudied conditions are avoided as vigilantly as possible—right now, when it matters—by control room operators of large critical infrastructures mandated to operate reliably and safely systemwide. Having failed to fail because an operator was behaving ignorantly is orthogonal to high reliability management. That said, ignorance has differentiated functions in large socio-technical systems—but in ways not…

Unpacking uncertainty in times of climate change

By Shilpi Srivastava, Hans Nicolai Adam and Lyla Mehta Climate change undoubtedly is one of the most significant development challenges of our times. Research over the last few decades has demonstrated clearly the links between anthropogenically induced emissions and climatic changes. Despite these scientific advancements, uncertainties persist at multiple scales; with respect to future societal…