What is sustainability? People give very different answers to this question.
What is sustainability? People give very different answers to this question. Julia Knop/LAIF-REA/laif

Headline: Narratives and Images of Sustainability

What does sustainability mean to people? How do they talk and write about it? What role do narratives of fear and hope play in this context? How can we manage to tell stories about concrete political problems in specific contexts without losing sight of the bigger picture and global justice? What obstacles does the term sustainability present to successful communication - and where can it be an asset? Are there artistic approaches that we can learn from?

These are the questions addressed by the researchers in this group. They investigate the factors that determine the success or failure of "narratives" of sustainability and seek to understand the core values that underlie such narratives, working on the assumption that the tensions between these values have a major influence on political, academic, and journalistic discourse. Content analyses in selected areas of activity - such as marine and transport policy - that link to other IASS projects are at the heart of their investigations. Conscious of the current inflationary use of the term, the group strives to ground its work on "narratives" in robust linguistic research. At the same time, it provides practical advice and assistance to stakeholders, and studies and supports local processes in projects geared more to transformation.

The group also encourages the adoption of artistic positions on socio-ecological issues and explores their potential to foster a better understanding of sustainability. This presents opportunities to involve other sections of the public in the debate on societal transformation.


Narratives and Images of Sustainability

What are the principal narratives in the field of sustainable development research? What does the success or failure of political narratives depend on? Researchers in this project explore how and by whom sustainability is 'narrated' and understood and make suggestions for successful narratives. They also examine how art can foster dialogue on sustainability.

Sustainable Housing (NachWo) - Sustainability as a Guiding Concept for Urban Development Projects

The city of Norderstedt is one of eight German cities to make it into the third round of the "Zukunftsstadt" (Future City) competition organised by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). The purpose of this programme is to encourage municipalities to get involved in research on sustainable transformation. A three-year collaboration on Sustainable Housing (NachWO) between Norderstedt and the IASS started in August 2019. The aim here is to generate practical knowledge for new sustainable housing projects.