SPRU - Science Policy Research Unit

Free online course on Pathways to Sustainability launched

The ESRC STEPS Centre, co-hosted by SPRU and the Institute of Development Studies has launched a new online learning website on Pathways to Sustainability for self-study and use in teaching.

The STEPS ‘Pathways to Sustainability Course’ is unlike anything else that we are aware of, in a number of ways.

First, because it highlights that sustainability and associated issues of environmental justice do not just present formidable technical challenges, but are also inherently and fundamentally political – and so crucial matters not only for robust policy and strategy, but also emancipatory struggle.

Second, because it combines insights from science and technology studies with development studies, innovation studies, social anthropology and political ecology – and applies these to concrete challenges in the framing of knowledge from natural science, public health and engineering.

Third, because by looking at practical examples around food, water, health, resources, energy and urbanisation, it takes seriously that power is not just a force outside the practices of knowledge and innovation – but also works inside to shape the imaginations of directions to be taken by science and technology.

Fourth, because participants work together collaboratively to explore on the basis of diverse experience in concrete settings, how to ‘open up’ greater space for appreciating the particular pathways to sustainability that best address the interests of the world’s most vulnerable and marginal people.

The STEPS Learning site features:

  • An online course on Pathways to Sustainability, with video lectures, reading lists and questions on theories, methodologies and practical examples informed by a decade of the STEPS Centre’s work linking research and action on sustainability
  • A guide to Research & Activism with reflections, literature and networks related to the links between research and movements for social change

The online course and guide are fully open access, so users of the website can study at their own pace. They are also designed to be used as a teaching aid in courses related to sustainability, international development and science and technology policy.

Pathways to Sustainability course

The course builds on the popular STEPS Summer School run since 2012 at the University of Sussex. It includes modules on the STEPS Pathways Approach; uncertainty and incomplete knowledge; policy processes; technology & innovation including grassroots innovation; the politics of planetary boundaries and the Anthropocene; resource politics; and methods & methodologies.

Dr Adrian Ely, and Professors Adrian Smith, Andy Stirling and Fiona Marshall were directly involved in creating the material, with PhD student Jonas Torrens playing an advisory role. The course allows students to develop a deep understanding of sustainability that is needed to address the challenges of today, for the world of tomorrow.

The lectures and reading lists include practical examples and case studies from STEPS work in South Asia, Africa, Europe and Latin America, as well as different perspectives and ideas on how sustainability is understood. There is a strong focus on linking research and action in a fast-changing and complex world.

Creating a new generation of sustainability professionals

The latest in our the STEPS Centre series of impact stories shows how, since its launch in 2006, STEPS has worked in various ways to connect research, action and training to foster the new skills and alliances needed to address the challenges of sustainability.

Read the story

Navigating a tangled web: how STEPS helped to build a community of new sustainability professionals (Medium.com)

Browse the STEPS Learning site

Visit STEPS Learning to view the course and more materials on linking research and action for sustainability