What is REALS?

The Swedish Institute (SI) has granted Permaculture Sweden support for the project REALS; Resilient and Ecological Approaches for Living Sustainably), a thematic partnership within the Baltic region during the period 2013-2016. The project aims to create networks and intercultural learning between Sweden, Russia and Belarus, with a focus on socio-ecological resilience and sustainable lifestyle.   In addition, the project REALS is a part of the newly created “European Network for Community-led Initiatives on Climate change and Sustainability” – Ecolise. REALS is also contributing to the implementation of the EU Strategy of the Baltic Sea Region, under its Horizontal Action “Sustainable Development”


REALS will run during September 2013 – August 2016, where goals are to increase learning, awareness and access to information in relation to sustainable lifestyles, waste reduction and sustainable resource management in western Russia, Belarus, Sweden and in the Baltic Sea region. To underpin this, the project aims to generate cross-sector and international networks within the theme of sustainable living. Here it involves different movements as the ecovillage-, the permaculture (www.permakultur.se)– and the Transition (transitionnetwork.org) movement as well as private and public sectors. Project owner is Permaculture Sweden. Partners are CEMUS at Uppsala University, SLU, Greenelizer (Sweden), the Russian “Ecovillage and Eco-initiative Network” REEN, Department of Sustainable Development at the St.Petersburg State University, as well as EcoHome and Ecoproject, voluntary organizations with established networks in the Belarusian Green Movement. REALS is also supported of many Associated Partners. The project will promote the sharing of information between participating countries, especially around the practices and perspectives that highlight local resilience and emphasize the regeneration of the local ecosystem. Expected results are practical thematic workshops, expanded networking and open-source data gained from workshops, research, and other stakeholders.

Approved and funded by Swedish Institute (si.se) with  2 838 198 SEK Here you find the   Project application – full version

PROJECT STATEMENTS – current proposal


What is needed to enable a lifestyle which sustains the earth and its climate for future generations?



The REALS partnership is based on an integral approach with an aim to enhance local resource efficiency, carbon sequestration and reduction of waste in the partner-countries by pointing towards the importance of bottom- up action, change in consumer behavior and choice of lifestyle. The statements below are seen as of high importance for this change to occur. 

All statements also acknowledge the essential importance of gender equality and justice where the empowerment, free participation and human rights shall be accessible to all. The gender perspective shall be seen as integrated in all statements.


REALS highlights the importance of building personal, social, ecological and economical resilience in local places and communities in its strive for reaching undertaken goals of sustainability and bioeconomy in the BSR. And -by recognizing the multitude of already existing successful initiatives and best practices, we see the need for increased bottom-up interaction to reach real Multi Level Governance (MLG) and the regions targeted environmental goals. Increased encouragement from the broader society plus an enabling structure for bottom-up interaction is needed. In addition – Environmental and social care need to be relevant to local specific needs and cultures.  Click here for definition of resilience.


Nature functions in wholes. REALS supports a whole system thinking which highlights the importance to see and explore interconnection and interdependence meanwhile building resilient and diverse solutions. Increased “bottom up as well as top down” political cooperation between sectors and Multi Level Governance (MLG) are important examples of an integral approach in relation to REALS. In the same time can this statement be applied on the need of integrated and wholesome farm-systems, approaches to local economy, work and modells for apprenticeship and much more. Klick here for further reading on the whole systems approach.


The project aims towards highlighting and spreading sustainable and regenerative technologies and ways of living, where ecosystem services are reinforced by choice of lifestyle. This relates to ecosystems with difference in scale, where one example could be small-scale regeneration of fertile soil and clean water in a particular location. The prevention of climate change is another example, and relates to regeneration of the ecosystem on a bigger scale. These exempels are of course interlinked as local solutions build global change.


As each place is different, each place needs to be understood and designed along its own unique patterns. REALS points towards the value of small scale, diverse and low- tech solutions as an important complement to the development of high- tech within the bioeconomy of the Baltic Sea Region. This empowers people and places in ways of reinforced local participation and the use of local resources.


With the fact that people need to sense a feeling of opportunity, coherence, relevance, trust, and meaning in their life´s and places in order for wellbeing, participation and engagement to occur, REALS highlights the importance of the ”relevance” between “work for sustainability” and the local people, communities and cultures. Sense of social trust and meaning is at core here besides economical sustainability.


REALS aims towards taking traditional and tacit (silent) knowledge as well as appropriate technology into account where old knowledge is unified with new technology to meet the needs for socio-ecological resilience in local regions. There´s a need  for exploration of possible dissemination channels for sources of traditional knowledge, so they can be accessible and known to a bigger spectra of actors.


REALS highlights the importance to engage urban citizens to act for a lifestyle which support rural society, urban/rural ecosystems and economies. The project also highlights opportunities  and different models within the area of rural and sustainable living


REALS emphasizes ecological, cultural and social diversity with beneficial communication between its parts, as an essential resource and basic building block in future development of resilient societies. For this, its of fundamental importance to create relations where companionship, listening and reciprocity are at the center of any activities. Practical examples are increased cooperation between diverse stakeholders and levels of society, increased collaboration between cultural groups, and actions for increased biodiversity. Diversity, dialogue and connection are basic building blocks for resilience.


REALS is further guided by principles already established within the principles of permaculture, transition and holistic management.


REALS strive for continuous learning processes where skills enabling community initiatives to unfold are empowered. Education for increased awareness related to the environmental impacts of human lifestyles, with climate change as one important example, is often key in the realisation of sustainable solutions. There is also a need for increased skills in participatory leadership – where participants encourage each other to step up and believe in their own capacity and role in contributing to local communities and initiatives.


“Resilience is the capacity of a system to continually change and adapt yet remain within critical thresholds”   ecosystems Text: Stockholm Resilience Centre

A key concept in the resilience framework is the concept of social-ecological systems. In our world today here are no natural systems without people, nor social systems without nature. Social and ecological systems are truly interdependent and constantly co-evolving.

There are neither natural or pristine systems without people nor social systems without nature. Social and ecological systems are not just linked but truly interconnected and co-evolving across spatial and temporal scales. We refer to them as social-ecological systems. We use the concept social-ecological since it emphasizes the humans-in-the-environment perspective; that earth´s ecosystems, from local areas to the biosphere as a whole, provide the biophysical foundation and ecosystems services for social and economic development. But also that the ecosystems we observe have been shaped by human decision making throughout history and human actions directly and indirectly alter their capacity to sustain societal development.

Human dimension fundamental

It is difficult and even impossible to truly understand ecosystem dynamics and their ability to generate services without accounting for the human dimension. Focusing on the ecological side only, as a basis for decision making for sustainability, simplifies reality to the extent that the results become incomplete and the conclusions partial. Doing the natural science first with the social dimension added on later in the processes misses essential feedbacks. The same is true for social sustainability. Despite a vast literature on the social dimension of resource and environmental management, studies have often focused on investigating processes within the social domain only, treating the ecosystem largely as a given, an external “black box”, assuming that if the social system performs adaptively or is well organized institutionally it will also manage ecosystems in a sustainable fashion. A human society may show great ability to cope with change and adapt if analyzed only through the social dimension lens. But such an adaptation may be at the expense of changes in the capacity of ecosystems to sustain the adaptation, and may generate traps and breakpoints in social-ecological systems.