Dr Steve Connelly
Department of Urban Studies and Planning
+44 114 222 6916
Full contact details
Department of Urban Studies and Planning
Geography and Planning Building
I graduated from Oxford with a BA in Physics & Philosophy and then took up a career in overseas development. I was awarded an MSc in Forestry and its Relation to Land Use by the Oxford Forestry Institute in 1988. Having worked in India, Sri Lanka, Sudan and Eritrea I returned to the UK with a commitment to public participation in governance and sustainable development, and an intellectual interest in why these desirable goals are often not achieved. This led to a PhD, at Sheffield’s Department of Urban Studies & Planning, on the impact of local authority policy processes on public involvement in Local Agenda 21. I was appointed as Lecturer in the Department in 2002 and Senior Lecturer in 2011. My principal administrative role in the department is as the Co-Director of our Research School. I convene an inter-departmental Critical Realism reading group, and a reading group for doctoral students on New Institutionalism.
I'm also a member of the Nuclear Consulting Group, a group of leading academics and experts in a diverse range of social science and technical fields related to nuclear energy. The Group exists to promote open dialogue and critical questioning of taken for granted policy assumptions. I am now part-time 'Researcher in Residence' with Civic, a development NGO which aims to "re-imagine and re-make the world. one neighbourhood at a time".
- Research interests
My research involves critical explorations of the practice of policy making, and of the concepts that inform practice and analysis. Underlying it is a concern about what happens to values such as democracy and sustainability in complex policy making processes. In particular I am intrigued by how and why these (and other) apparently widely-valued outcomes do not become dominant. Within this a core element is an investigation of the nature of the public’s and other stakeholders’ engagement with governance structures, with a focus on the importance of informal institutions and processes.
Over the years the concept of ‘legitimacy’ has become central to my work: what is it about a process, a person, an organisation or a research finding which makes it acceptable and gives it authority? How is this essential yet intangible quality created and challenged? This has led me into studying representation (listen to me talk about this here); the ‘translation’ of academic knowledge into policy processes; the role of community organisations; and how public participation is achieved in undemocratic contexts. Recently I have been making practical use of these ideas in developing pragmatic approaches to the evaluation of complex policy interventions, working with colleagues in local authorities and the National Health Service (see new paper in Evaluation.)
I find it increasingly hard to imagine doing research which is not coproduced or participatory in some way. Tackling complex real world problems seems to me to demand close engagement between researchers and those involved in solving those problems, in many cases through an ‘action research’ approach in which research and learning-by-doing are closely intertwined.
In mid-2020 I am starting research with the NERC-funded Mobilising Adaptation: Governance of Infrastructure through Coproduction (MAGIC) project, led by Dr Liz Sharp. This will explore and demonstrate how formal and informal governance organisations, developers and local residents can coproduce climate adaptation to improve flood resilience and wellbeing. This will be achieved through a case study seeking to bring transformative change to urban drainage governance in and around the city of Hull. My involvement will principally be in co-producing an evaluation framework.
My most recent completed projects have been:
- Translation across borders: Exploring the use, relevance and impact of academic research in the policy process (AHRC)
- Valuing Different Perspectives – a comparison of academic and community-led evaluations (AHRC)
I have recently finished an evaluation of Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council’s ‘Building Stronger Communities’ social cohesion programme, using a "theory of change" approach. Read more about it and access the report from here.
- Creating legitimacy for citizen initiatives: representation, identity and strategic networking. Planning Theory and Practice. View this article in WRRO
- The craft of evaluative practice: Negotiating legitimate methodologies within complex interventions. Evaluation, 24(4), 419-437. View this article in WRRO
- Everyday stories of impact: interpreting knowledge exchange in the contemporary university. Evidence and Policy: a journal of research, debate and practice. View this article in WRRO
- The importance of interpretive social science to promoting renewable energy and sustainable development. Renewable Energy and Sustainable Development, 2(2), 68-69. View this article in WRRO
- Destabilizing Environmentalism: Epiphanal Change and the Emergence of Pro-Nuclear Environmentalism. Journal of Environmental Policy & Planning, 1-18. View this article in WRRO
- Constructing legitimacy in the new community governance. Urban Studies, 48(5), 929-946.
- Participation in a hostile state: How do planners act to shape public engagement in politically difficult environments?. Planning Practice and Research, 25(3), 333-351.
- Deliberation in the face of power: Stakeholder planning in Egypt. Policy and Society, 28(3), 185-195.
- Monitoring and guiding development in rural Egypt: local sustainable development indicators and local Human Development Indices. Environment, Development and Sustainability, 1-22.
- Studying water: Reflections on the problems and possibilities of interdisciplinary working. Interdisciplinary Science Reviews, 32(3), 213-220.
- Mapping sustainable development as a contested concept. Local Environment, 12(3), 259-278.
- Situated legitimacy: Deliberative arenas and the new rural governance. Journal of Rural Studies, 22(3), 267-277.
- Looking inside public involvement: How is it made so ineffective and can we change this?. Community Development Journal, 41(1), 13-24.
- Value-driven SEA: Time for an environmental justice perspective?. Environmental Impact Assessment Review, 25(4), 391-409.
- Exclusion: The necessary difference between ideal and practical consensus. Journal of Environmental Planning and Management, 47(1), 3-17.
- Translating research for policy: the importance of equivalence, function and loyalty. Humanities and Social Sciences Communications.
- View this article in WRRO Translation across borders: Connecting the academic and policy communities, Valuing Interdisciplinary Collaborative Research: Beyond Impact (pp. 173-189).
- Evaluating legacy: The who, what, why, when and where of evaluation for community research, Valuing Interdisciplinary Collaborative Research: Beyond Impact (pp. 45-64).
- View this article in WRRO Translation across borders: Exploring the use, relevance and impact of academic research in the policy process In O'Brien D & Matthews P (Ed.), After urban regeneration: Communities, policy and place (pp. 181-198). Bristol: Policy Press.
- Decentred Legitimacy in the New Community Governance In Griggs S, Norval AJ & Wagenaar H (Ed.), Practices of Freedom: Decentred Governance, Conflict and Democratic Participation (pp. 155-175). New York: Cambridge University Press.
- Effective policy-making in the uplands: A case study in the Peak District National Park In Bonn A, Allott T, Hubacek K & Stewart J (Ed.), Drivers of Environmental Change in Uplands (pp. 376-392). Abingdon: Routledge.
- Legitimacy, deliberative arenas and the new rural governance In Cheshire L, Higgins V & Lawrence G (Ed.), Rural Governance: International Perspectives (pp. 245-258). Abingdon: Routledge.
- Reinventing public participation: Planning in the age of consensus In Blundell Jones P, Petrescu D & Till J (Ed.), Architecture and Participation (pp. 77-104). Abingdon: Taylor & Francis.
- Theorising participation: pulling down the ladder In Rydin Y & Thornley A (Ed.), Planning in the UK London: Ashgate.
- Communicative capacity: public encounters in participatory theory and practice, by Koen P. R Bartels. Critical Policy Studies, 10(3), 382-384. View this article in WRRO
- Book Reviews: Paul Sabatier, Will Focht, Mark Lubell, Zev Trachtenberg, Arnold Vedlitz and Mark Matlock (eds), Swimming Upstream: Collaborative Approaches to Water-shed Management. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2005. 328 pp. ISBN 0262195208, £41.95/US$65.00 (hbk); ISBN 0262693194, £16.95/US$26.00 (pbk). Planning Theory, 6(2), 190-196.
- Story and sustainability: Planning, practice and possibility for American cities. JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN PLANNING ASSOCIATION, 70(3), 364-364.
- View this article in WRRO Translation for Policy
- View this article in WRRO The contribution of stakeholder involvement to policy making for sustainable development in National Parks
- View this article in WRRO The long march to collaborative democracy and open source planning – public participation in English local governance.
- View this article in WRRO Participatory Learning and Action – the coproduction of knowledge and action in the Global South.
- View this article in WRRO Spatial justice, European spatial policy and the case of polycentric development.. Uppsala, Sweden.
- Research group
I supervise a group of PhD students who share overlapping interests, principally in the complexity of (environmental) governance, and welcome applications for PhD study from people interested in joining this exciting and innovative group. I have a particular interest in research concerned with the broad Middle East/North Africa region.
I currently provide primary supervision to the following students:
- Salman Aldalbahi, Institutional factors in delivering affordable housing in Saudi Arabia
- Hoda Elhalaby, The effect of NGOs interventions on development in urban villages in Egypt
- Sarah Linn, Syrian refugees in Middle Eastern cities
- Naomi Oates, Policy translation in Malawi’s rural water sector
- Emma Stevens, Social representations of flooding and climate change adaptation
- Chao Wang, The translation of knowledge in Chinese environmental planning
I am also part of the supervisory team for:
- Juliet de Little: Flood justice in England
- Emmanuel Maiyanga: Household water practices in a rapidly urbanizing city: implications the future of potable water in low-income countries
- Jenny Patient: Trade Unions and Just Transition
- Dimitra Pilichou: Does living in an eco-community make you happier?
- Said Zaaneen: The Effectiveness of International Humanitarian Aid Agencies in Enhancing The Living Conditions of People Displaced in Urban Settings: A Study from Refugee Camps in the Gaza Strip
and outside USP for:
- Andrea Antoniou: An Ethnography of Life in the Larissa Refugee Camp in Northern Greece (School of Languages and Cultures)
- Maha Basha: Culturally Appropriate Retrofitting and Futureproofing Residential Buildings for the Bedouin Communities in Sinai, Egypt (School of Architecture)
- Teaching activities
My current teaching is on sustainable development as a concept, and on principles and methods of social science research for our postgraduate students. Throughout I draw directly on my current and recent research, and also on principles of student-centred teaching developed within the university and in previous work in community adult education.
I currently teach on the following modules:
- TRP344 Environmental Policy & Governance
- TRP409/617, Sustainable Development: A Critical Perspective
- TRP626 Doctoral Training in Urban Studies & Planning