Social Science Baha

Lecture Series

Why Embracing Uncertainty Means Rethinking Development

Ian Scoones
Lecture Series CVII
October 20, 2022

Ian Scoones
Why Embracing Uncertainty Means Rethinking Development

This lecture makes the argument for putting uncertainty at the centre of thinking and practice in development. This means rejecting a linear, technocratic framing and embracing the implications of uncertainty for today’s complex, dynamic world. Through a number of examples – from the fields of banking, critical infrastructures and disease control – the elements of new thinking on uncertainty and development are explored. The lecture however, argues that those who live with and from uncertainty day-to-day are best placed to innovate and help refashion development more broadly. Examples of pastoralism from around the world are offered to demonstrate the importance of learning from the margins. It concludes with a reflection on new directions for development that take uncertainty seriously and help refashion the way we imagine the future.

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To listen or download lecture in audio format


Ian Scoones is with the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex, United Kingdom. He originally trained as an ecologist, but now works on the interface between science and policy in the fields of livelihoods, land, agriculture and environment, particularly in Africa ( Professor Scoones was co-director of the ESRC STEPS Centre (, 2006-21) and is the Principal Investigator of the European Research Council Advanced Grant, PASTRES ( Together with Andy Stirling of SPRU/University of Sussex, he recently edited the book, The Politics of Uncertainty: Challenges for Transformation (2021, open access:

This event was organised concurrently as Pani Satsang 70 hosted by the Nepal Water Conservation Foundation.

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