1.1: What is the Pathways Approach?

The Pathways Approach is the core conceptual approach of the STEPS Centre. It aims to guide thinking and action on sustainability challenges in a complex, dynamic world.

Essential reading

Leach. M., Scoones, I. and Stirling, A. (2007) Pathways to Sustainability: an overview of the STEPS Centre approach, STEPS Approach Paper, Brighton: STEPS Centre (OA) 
Questions to guide reading
  1. What do the authors argue constitute the shortcomings of traditional approaches to policy for sustainable development and linear accounts of socio-ecological processes?
  2. How do the authors define “sustainability” and what normative goals are they interested in?
  3. What do the authors mean by “pathways” to sustainability?
  4. How do the authors understand the roles of “framing” and “narratives” in defining which pathways to sustainability are realised and which are not?
  5. In what way does this constitute a political reading of sustainability? What is the role of power in the construction of pathways?
  6. In what way do the authors attempt to resolve traditional distinctions between “constructivist” and “positivist” perspectives?

Lecture: The Pathways Approach

In this lecture, STEPS Director Ian Scoones gives an overview of the Pathways Approach and how it can help to draw out political debates and neglected perspectives on sustainability challenges.

Additional reading

Leach, M., Scoones, I. and Stirling, A. C. (2010) Dynamic Sustainabilities: Technology, Environment, Social Justice, Routledge/Earthscan

Assessment questions

  1. How does the Pathways Approach differ from singular notions of “sustainability” and “development”?
  2. Apply the Pathways Approach to discuss critically the limitations of traditional, linear accounts of socio-ecological approaches. Use examples to illustrate your answer.

Go to the next section > 1.2: Pathways Approach case study: Liquid Dynamics

Last modified: Thursday, 2 February 2017, 2:24 PM