Research & Activism: A guide

Bridging the gap between research and activism

The STEPS Centre’s Pathways Approach, among other approaches and ideas, offers ways to understand pathways to sustainability grounded in social justice. In practice, however, there are numerous boundaries that prevent such useful tools and approaches from serving this purpose.

These include language barriers, a shortage of time for reflection or exploring alternative ways of thinking about problems and solutions, and the difficult power and politics that exist within and between organizations working on environmental and social challenges.

The resources in this section explore some of the challenges of applying the pathways approach in practice, some possible solutions, and links, questions and ideas to provoke further reflection and action.

The resources in this section were compiled by Shauna Mahajan, a participant in the 2016 STEPS Centre Summer School.

Read Shauna’s report

This report builds on the discussion at the Summer School and offers reflections and ideas on the subject.

Bridging the practitioner and scholar divide (PDF)


A list of links to networks and further reading.

Concepts and ideas

Boundary science
A group of conservation scientists have been advocating the use of the term ‘boundary science’ – reflecting science that is useful for conservation decision making.

see also: Cook, C.N. et al (2013) Achieving Conservation Science that Bridges the Knowledge–Action Boundary, Conservation Biology 27(4): 669-678

Useful Science
A website developed by a group of young scientists in Canada, which aims to summarize scientific findings from across disciplines in a way that is easy to digest.

Resources that operate in the ‘middle ground’ between science and practice

Human-Centred Design
A toolkit designed by IDEO, a San Francisco based design firm, for action research, featuring a number of participatory research methods.

Offers training in the PhotoVoice methodology, which helps communities to tell their story through images and words.

Teaching Case Studies at PAL
A useful way of presenting a complex materials online through teaching videos.

Stockholm Resilience Centre’s “Applying Resilience” series
The Stockholm Resilience Centre has a number of video vignettes that communicate some of the concepts core to the resilience approach, and also highlights particular ongoing research initiative and projects.