A roundup of events and publications from the ESRC STEPS Centre and the Pathways to Sustainability Global Consortium.
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STEPS Summer School 2019: Apply

The STEPS Summer School on Pathways to Sustainability is a two-week immersive course on theories and practical approaches to sustainability, through creative, interactive and participatory learning. Applications are invited from doctoral and postdoctoral researchers in development studies, science and technology studies, innovation and policy studies, and with an interest in transformations, uncertainty, political ecology, natural resources, and methodologies for sustainability.

Applications are due by 27 January 2019 for the next Summer School, to be held at the University of Sussex in May.
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Paper: Transformations to Sustainability

A new paper sets out a new threefold framework for achieving transformative change under the Sustainable Development Goals.

Transformations to Sustainability

by Ian Scoones, Andy Stirling, Dinesh Abrol, Joanes Atela, Lakshmi Charli-Joseph, Hallie Eakin, Adrian Ely, Per Olsson, Laura Pereira, Ritu Priya, Patrick van Zwanenberg and Lichao Yang

STEPS Working Paper 104

Download (PDF)

Recent events

What is needed for sustainability in Africa to flourish?

In October, an event hosted by the Africa Sustainability Hub explored sustainable development challenges and priorities for the African continent. Topics include the role of research and partnerships, what research is needed, priority funding areas and opportunities for Africa. The event also concluded a phase of work by the ISC-funded Pathways Network, a project convened by the STEPS Global Consortium.

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Hilary Wainwright on a new politics from the Left

The author and activist Hilary Wainwright gave a talk at the Institute of Development Studies on her recent book, A New Politics from the Left.

In her talk, Wainwright uses examples from history and the present day to propose a leftwing politics that values tacit knowledge and creativity, rather than state control or top-down solutions.

Watch the video

CIACIAR 2018: Open Science under the microscope

CIACIAR (Congreso de Ciencia Abierta y Ciudadana en Argentina) was held on 2 November at the University of San Martín, Buenos Aires, Argentina.

The event was convened by CENIT and Cientópolis, and sponsored by STEPS Latin America. It brought together over 200 people across different disciplines, from synthetic biology, physics and programming to sociology and digital humanities.

Blog: The challenges of open science

Learning from pastoralists about uncertainty

Pastoralists are experts in uncertainty. What can we learn from them about how to respond to global challenges? A series of blog posts from the PASTRES project share insights from visits to the Mediterranean island of Sardinia, Isiolo (Northern Kenya) and the Tibetan plateau.

To follow the PASTRES project, view the latest newsletter and click the 'subscribe' button.

Video: Rural populism?

A short video from openDemocracy, featuring speakers at the 2018 ERPI conference Authoritarian Populism and the Rural World, shares ideas on how rural people can be part of the fightback against authoritarian, populist regimes.  
Watch on Facebook

New projects launched

System Change HIVE

The System Change HIVE is a creative engine room to explore alternative futures and visions of society through art and virtual reality. Starting in Brighton in early 2019, the HIVE will include a series of collaborative sessions between researchers (including from the STEPS Centre), emerging artists and established art mentors. Resulting artworks will tour and be a focus for discussions with policymakers, NGOs, the general public and the media.

The project has been awarded an arts grant from the Arts Council of England (ACE), and will be co-led by interdisciplinary arts organisation Swarm Dynamics, STEPS members, and the School of Media and Centre for Spatial, Environmental and Cultural Politics at the University of Brighton.

System Change HIVE website

TAPESTRY: Transformation as Praxis

Led by Lyla Mehta (Institute of Development Studies), the TAPESTRY project will examine how transformation may arise ‘from below’ in marginal environments with high levels of uncertainty.

Climate change uncertainties, especially at the local level, constitute one of the main challenges to the sustainability of societies and ecosystems, calling for systemic transformative changes.

TAPESTRY focuses on three 'patches of transformation' in India and Bangladesh – vulnerable coastal areas of Mumbai, the Sundarbans and Kutch – where hybrid alliances and innovative practices are reimagining sustainable development and inspiring societal transformation. It is one of twelve projects funded under the Belmont Forum and NORFACE joint programme, Transformations to Sustainability (T2S).

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Rapid Transition Alliance

A new initiative to learn from stories of rapid change was launched in London on 3 December, at the start of COP24, the UN’s annual global conference on climate change. The launch event included brief talks from the UK MPs Clive Lewis, Ed Davey, the Green Party politician Amelia Womack and campaigner Farhana Yamin.

The Rapid Transition Alliance explores the lessons from past and present changes in finance, work, resources, food, technologies, or social arrangements, and what can create the conditions for equitable and lasting change. In doing so, the RTA aims to produce ‘evidence-based hope’ to challenge inaction on sustainability challenges.

Explore the website

Six stories of change from T-Labs

These six stories are summaries of T-Labs (Transformation Labs) carried out by the Pathways Network between 2016 and 2018. The project worked in Mexico, the UK, India, Argentina, China and Kenya.

Read the stories

New publications

Narratives and Pathways towards an Ecological Civilization in Contemporary China
Sam Geall and Adrian Ely, China Quarterly

Draws on theoretical insights from the pathways approach to explore the ways in which dominant policy narratives in China might drive particular forms of innovation for sustainability and potentially occlude or constrain others.

Low-carbon China: Emerging phenomena and implications for innovation governance
Adrian Ely, Sam Geall and Yixin Dai, Environmental Innovation and Societal Transitions (EIST)

An introduction to the special section of ‘Environmental Innovation and Societal Transitions’ which investigates emerging phenomena associated with low carbon transitions in contemporary China. It looks at supply and demand side dynamics, the changing role of citizens and a range of policy approaches characteristic of the Chinese context. The papers draw on diverse methods and frameworks, considering various sectors – such as energy, mobility, food and agriculture – to understand and explain these phenomena and to derive implications for innovation and transition governance.

How Deep Is Incumbency? Introducing a ‘Configuring Fields’ Approach to the Distribution and Orientation of Power in Socio-Material Change
Andy Stirling, SPRU Working Paper 2018-23

This paper examines a variety of theories bearing on ‘socio-material incumbency’ and explores methodological implications. Defining power as ‘asymmetrically structuring agency’, incumbency is visible in a diversity of power gradients constituted by multiple economic, political and social processes. Under an ostensibly detached ‘eagle-eye view’ (as if from a lofty governance ‘cock-pit’), ‘fallacies of misplaced concreteness’ emphasise unduly simplified notions like ‘the regime’. An alternative is argued to lie in addressing incumbency as a ‘multiplexity’ of overlapping ‘configuring fields’. 

Transformative Innovation in Peri-Urban Asia
Fiona Marshall and Jonathan Dolley, Research Policy

Draws on two case studies from India and China to discuss how and why rapidly urbanizing contexts are particularly challenging for transformative innovation, but are also critical sustainability frontiers and learning environments.

T:Labs: A Practical Guide
by the Pathways Network

A practical guide sharing insights from 'Transformation Labs', produced by the ISC-funded Pathways Network, which has run T-Lab processes in six sites around the world from 2016 to 2018.

Transformations to Sustainability
Ian Scoones, Andy Stirling, Dinesh Abrol, Joanes Atela, Lakshmi Charli-Joseph, Hallie Eakin, Adrian Ely, Per Olsson, Laura Pereira, Ritu Priya Mehrotra, Patrick Van Zwanenberg, Lichao Yang
STEPS Working Paper 104

Recent blog posts

Diets not riots: what would massive public dialogue on climate change look like?
Nathan Oxley

Authoritarianism, populism and political ecology
Amber Huff

The challenges of open science
Muriel Tosi

Hardware y software de código abierto para cambiar el mundo
Julieta Arancio

Open access and open science: a historic opportunity
Mariano Fressoli

Who benefits and who loses from large developments in Eastern Africa's rangelands?
Jeremy Lind

Are alternative visions missing from the debates about sustainability transitions?
Kasper Ampe, Michael Kriechbaum and Sofie Sandin

Transformation Labs series
The blog also features a series of posts from the Pathways Network project, sharing the results of 'Transformation Labs' around the world.

Argentina's Bioleft project shares its first open source seeds
Paddy van Zwanenberg and Anabel Marin

Bioleft project in Comunes meeting
Marcela Basch

The power of a T-Lab: sharing lessons on water and justice in Gurgaon, India
Dinesh Abrol, Pravin Kushwaha and Bikramaditya K. Choudhary

Creating bridges in Xochimilco through the "Pathways to Sustainability" game
Beatriz Ruizpalacios, Lakshmi Charli-Joseph, Hallie Eakin, J. Mario Siqueiros-García and Rebecca Shelton, 

How Transformative are mobile payments for solar home systems in Kenya?
Victoria Chengo and Kennedy Mbeva, Africa Sustainability Hub

Endings and beginnings: project-based work within wider transformations
Adrian Ely and Elise Wach

From digital commons to nurturing social relationships: how to practice open source ideas with seeds?
Mariano Fressoli, Patrick Van Zwanenberg and Anabel Marin

Transformations - our theme for 2018

Faced with a series of social and environmental stresses and shocks, there are urgent calls for radical, systemic change. What does it take to make these sustainability transformations emancipatory, rather than repressive?

Find out more on our Transformations theme page.

Copyright © 2018 STEPS Centre, All rights reserved.

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