The concept of sustainability became one of the buzz-words in policy-making, as well, as in scientific research in the last decades. Our approach to sustainability is based on the ideas published by the Brundtland Report: sustainable policies preserve and enrich natural, social and human resources for the next generation. Additionally, we argue for a less normative perspective; policies also need to encourage social dialogue on sustainability to make the dimensions of the idea visible for everybody and make them part of everyday decisions (Tovey 2008, Dobson 2003).
We share the idea that participative methods can lead on the one hand to acquaint knowledge from everyday local people with their ideas on sustainability; and on the other to foster social changes towards more sustainable practices within local communities.
The profile of HETFA Research Institute covers a broad range of activities. Although most of our works are based on applied research to support decision-making in different policy fields, our colleagues are also active in project generation and in scientific debates.
The analysis and evaluation of EU development policies at different administrative levels are among our hard-competencies. One of our main research topics aims to describe and analyse territorial inequalities applying a multi-disciplinary methodology including econometrics, quantitative and qualitative methods of sociology and social-anthropology. We have experience in generating space-based, innovative and sustainable development initiatives mainly in the Transdanubian part of Hungary using the dense network of our colleagues. Based on our expertise in policy support, developing relationship between science and society, and our field experience, in many cases we contributed to the development of local plans by defining the problems together with local stakeholders, mediating among different local and non-local actors and facilitating actions. According to the organizational statement, our research activity is supposed to result in useful results both at local, national and EU level. It shall be reached through the establishment of a forum for discussion among the civic society, scholars, advisors, decision-makers, and the locals.
In the last few years HETFA Research Institute conducted several researches on sustainability issues. The most recent ones are as follows:
1. Community Governance
The main aim of our research on ‘Factors influencing the success of GI-products’ was to analyse local producers’ efforts to maintain collective reputation of their products by institutions of collective governance. The theoretical background of the research is based on the IAD framework (Ostrom, 2005). According to the IAD framework the levels of governance are nested in each other: the institutions of local communities are defined on the one hand by national rules; while on the other hand by local norms, habits, or customs which constitute the basis of collective decisions developed at community level. During the research we collected these data and analysed them by focusing on the institutionalization of collective decisions. We argued that the reputation of products with geographical indication (GI) can be kept a common pool resource, and presented the factors influencing the success or failure of GI initiatives.
Hétfa (2012): Helyi termelők és termelői önszerveződés – Elinor Ostrom nyomában [Local producers and producers’ communities – following Elinor Ostrom.] Research Study is available in Hungarian but there is also a brief English summary.
2. Sustainable investments in tourism sector
The RELACS project (Renewable Energies for Tourist Accommodation Buildings Co-workers) aimed at exploring the attitudes of entrepreneurs of the tourism sector in the area of the lake Balaton towards environment, energy saving methods and renewable energy. According to our results only a few hotels and pensions realized energy saving developments; however, the majority of these accommodations are inquisitive towards these solutions. You can find the Hungarian website of the RELACS project by clicking here.
3. Preliminary Sustainability Assessment for the National Strategy for Sustainable Development
The National Strategy for Sustainable Development approved by the Hungarian legislation in May 2013 (1) provides the general definition of sustainable development, (2) presents the main resources which shall be sustained and enriched by each society, and (3) examines those resources of the Hungarian society which are at high risk.
The Strategy also suggests the introduction of the sustainability assessment to reinforce the validation of sustainability goals through the decision-making process on the one hand; on the other hand, to pay more attention to the effects of the proposed measures on the main (human, social, economic and natural) resources.
The task of HETFA Research Center was to
- review and evaluate the relevant alternatives of the sustainability assessment,
- propose the methodology of the sustainability assessment to be used in Hungary,
- demonstrate the functioning of the proposed methodology by testing a selected policy measure.
You can find further details here.
Beside of the above described projects, our colleagues participated in researches on sustainable development and energy use as the following list of publication shows:
Fischer, A. – Peters, V. – Vávra, J. – Neebe, M. – Kriel, A. – Lapka, M. – Megyesi, B. (2012): Climate Change? No, Wise Resource Use is the Issue: Social Representations of Energy, Climate Change and the Future. In: Environmental Policy and Governance, doi:10.1002/eet.1585
Fischer, A. – Peters, V. – Vávra, J. – Neebe, M. – Kriel, A. – Megyesi, B. (2011) Energy use, climate change and folk psychology: Does sustainability have a chance? Results from a qualitative study in five European countries. In: Global Environmental Change (2011), Volume: 21, Issue: 3, pp. 1025-1034.