Priestley PhD Scholarships

Project title: Participatory and social design of actions aiming to achieve 1.5° in Leeds

The urgency, rapidity and severity of climate change require research that looks beyond incremental measures and established disciplines (IPCC SR1.5). This project is conceived as a way of responding to this urgency through creative, exploratory and experimental research. It builds on the university’s strong links with Leeds communities and government and the recent experiences of Leeds City Lab co-production of knowledge with partners (Chatterton et al 2018). The goal is to explore and develop diverse forms of communication, organisation, advocacy and social design to facilitate the co-production of 1.5° degree compatible community action plans.

As a means to this end, this project will combine three elements. First, the project will use experimental participatory design (Cottam 2010, 2018), an approach which is framed within the capabilities philosophy of Martha Nussbaum and Amartya Sen and draws on connections and relationships within a given community. Second, we will combine this approach with the Human Scale Energy Services (HUSES) approach (Brand-Correa et al 2018), a workshop design that enables communities to develop alternative energy provision, based on understanding the connections between energy services and human needs. As a third ingredient, we will engage topical experts to inform the participants on the potential of different efforts to achieve 1.5°, as advocated in Gough (2017).

The focus for this project will be Kirkstall Valley where the Valley Development Trust, in partnership with the Centre for Alternative Technology, is developing a community-based sustainability demonstrator. There are two aspects to this (a) a 1.5° ‘hothouse’ to incubate ideas into action and (b) the zero carbon leadership Academy, which intends to undertake collaborative leadership training across diverse stakeholder groups so, institutions can understand and respond to the 1.5° challenge.

The project will be articulated around three phases: understanding for action (on the challenge of achieving 1.5°), articulating collective plans, and experimental implementation. Details are at the end of the document.  This project is expected to result both in real on-the-ground change in awareness and mobilisation against climate change in Leeds, as well as learning in methods and outcomes which will can be replicated in many other locations.

Key benefits

The Priestley International Centre for Climate brings together researchers cross-campus to deliver excellent research to underpin robust and timely climate solutions. Leeds has outstanding reputation for climate related research with more than 170 experts and 110 PhD researchers and an active research grant portfolio of over £70m. The Priestley Centre supports a range of events, activities and opportunities to foster exciting interdisciplinary collaborations including our Climate Exchange seminar series and public engagement events, Piers Sellers Prizes, Priestley Society and Priestley Climate Scholars. Find out more at

Entry requirements

Applications are invited from candidates with or expecting a minimum of a UK upper second class honours degree (2:1) or equivalent, and/or a Masters degree in a relevant subject area.

How to apply

Formal applications for research degree study should be made online through the university's website. Please state clearly in the research information section that the PhD you wish to be considered for is the "Participatory and social design of actions aiming to achieve 1.5° in Leeds" as well as Dr Katy Wright , Professor Paul Chatterton or Dr Julia Steinberger as your proposed supervisor(s).

Applicants are requested to submit the following elements in a single document of no more than two sides (size 12 standard font) overall, as part of their application:

  1. A brief (one or two paragraph) statement of / reflection on the problem the research will address
  2. One main research question and two-three sub-questions
  3. Around half a page of writing covering each of:
    • A brief literature review
    • Methods / programme of work
    • Possible outcomes

If English is not your first language, you must provide evidence that you meet the University’s minimum English Language requirements.

How to apply (email)

How to apply (phone)

+44 (0)113 343 8056