Islands of Sustainability

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Michael Narodoslawsky:

"One approach put into effect in the Feldbach region in the south‐east of Austria was the concept of Islands of Sustainability. The idea of this concept was the realisation of a regional pathway towards sustainable development via conscious management of flows (of matters, products, capital, etc.) into the region as well as increasing the intra‐regional networking of social actors. This concept called for a long term involvement of research in the process of implementation of sustainable development. The experiences showed that existing research institutions, such as universities as well as consultant companies, were not optimally equipped to support this process. As a consequence, a new approach of “regionalised” research centres was adopted. This approach ensured accessibility of research capacity by the important players in the region, as well as efficient application of scientific knowledge to concrete on‐the‐ground decision making within the region." (


  • Article: Islands of sustainability: A bottom-up approach towards sustainable development. By H P Wallner, Michael Narodoslawsky and F Moser. RepEC, 1996


"In this paper we introduce the concept of 'islands of sustainability'. The basic assumption is that the development towards sustainability can be introduced starting from sustainable 'islands'. An island is an area where sustainability is reached at a local or regional level. Exchange activities within the regional network and with the environment are key points in creating an island of sustainability. One of the main theses is that the concept of sustainabiity addresses not only the interactions between the economic system and the ecosphere, but also structural aspects of the anthropogenic system, such as the economic diversity and economic connectedness. Hence, sustainability is linked to the complexity of the regional network. In order to attain sustainability the intensity, the speed, and comprehensiveness of internal and external interactions, as well as the connectedness of the regional network, have to be changed. In this paper we examine the regional system. The structure, elements, interactions, and boundaries of the regional system are discussed in detail. This systems analysis is the basis of the definition of islands of sustainability. Once we reach sustainable development within islands, we then turn our discussion to the change of the whole unsustainable economic system. Islands of sustainabiity can be seen as 'trouble makers' which infiltrate the whole unsustainable system and act as cells of development."

More information

  • Article: Michael Narodoslawsky, (2001) "A regional approach to sustainability in Austria", International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, Vol. 2 Issue: 3, pp.226-237,