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Research profile

ESSRG cultivates cross-boundary research in a cross-disciplinary fashion, as it includes both natural and social sciences. Landscape, as a typically boundary crossing concept, cannot be understood without adequate ecological knowledge on the one hand and without paying careful attention to the socio-political processes of meaning making by knowledgeable social actors.

Conducting agri-environmental research from a multi-stakeholder perspective means facing the conflict of values and interests as well as problems at different levels (local, regional, national, international, global). ESSRG aims to develop competencies, practical skills that are highly important for managing conflict intensive boundaries. Action research methods and community development, conflict management and mediation competencies constitute an integral part of capabilities and skills developed and cultivated by ESSRG.

Our core capacities include:

  • Training in ecological economics, environmental sociology and participative approaches to decision making;
  • Participative methodologies: group facilitation; assessment of ecological management options, policies and plans;
  • Systems thinking and social learning approaches to complex environmental and regional development problems.

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  • European Knowledge and Learning Mechanism to Improve the Policy-Science-Society Interface on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services - EKLIPSE
  • SPARKS - awareness-raising and engagement project to promote Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI)
  • Fostering a Transition towards Responsible Research and Innovation Systems -FoTRRIS
  • Operationalisation of Natural Capital and Ecosystem Services - OpenNESS 
  • Quantification of Ecological Services for Sustainable Agriculture - QuESSA
  • The European Observatory for Crowd-Sourcing - SciCafe2.0 
  • TRANsformative Social Innovation Theory - TRANSIT
  • Public Engagement with Research And Research Engagement with Society - PERARES
  • Sustainable Dél-Borsod

Vignettes from Fieldwork

Community-based planning in the South Borsod Region

The Borsodi Mezőség Environmentally Sensitive Area is officially designated as a most disadvantageous area of Hungary both in economic and social terms. This position has a lot to do with the radical changes in the ecological characteristics of the area. Our community-based research is committed to practical application of science through launching a community-wide learning process and creating a learning environment to bring the region closer to its own sustainability ideals. The learning process is enhanced through Participatory Action Research method and Appreciative Enquiry, which both facilitate actions for change. The concrete participatory methods applied include narrative interviewing, direct observation and participatory transect walks, focus group discussions and "Vision to Action" type of community forum.

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Community awareness raising of local ecological values

The Őrség-Vendvidék Environmentally Sensitive Area, located in the southern-western part of Hungary, at the Austrian and Slovenian border is a mosaic-like landscape used for centuries as orchards and at the same time as meadows for grazing. Our project-based community learning initiative sought to build cooperative relations between local primary schoolschildren, their teachers, graduate university students of agri-environmental engineering and national park experts in an attempt to map and register the local fruit trees in six villages. Local children, aged from 8 to 14, were taking photos and making drawings of the fruit trees in different seasons and also collected local tales, legends, food receipts and any other cultural aspects of old fruit trees. The project ended with a series of exhibitions, touring from the headquarter of the national park to each of the local schools, where local children presented their pictures and drawings.

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Valuing forest ecosystems by local communities

This exploratory interviewing and focus group research aimed at assessing perceptions and value themes of the most forest-dependent communities of rural Hungary with respect to non-market values and sustainable forest management. Eliciting forest management attributes, traditional and expert knowledge forms, informal norms, behavior codes, recreation and bequest values as well as perceptions about manifold economic-societal benefits of local foresters and owners has improved our understanding on non-market based decision-making perspective in forest management. Giving voice to stakeholders with the most to lose and the least power to influence national forest policy decisions is a useful input for policy analysis of sustainable forest management institutions and policies.

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Valuing agro-biodiversity in smallholder farms

In Hungary there are only a few remaining crop landraces on farms other than maize or beans. Though Hungary is not a center of origin for these crops, Hungarian landraces bear distinct characteristics of both potential social and private value to the farmers who manage them. Agro-biodiversity encompasses many types of natural resources, including a wide variety of genetic resources as well as the ways farmers manage biodiversity. Traditional small-scale farming in home gardens maximize crop biodiversity and enhance plant genetic resource conservation by saving, selecting and propagating seeds for various farming benefits. Crop biodiversity management on Hungarian family farms was assessed in an extensive qualitative research with special regard to the perspective of the stakeholders with the most to lose and the least power to influence. Group discussions in three study areas (Dévaványa, Őrség-Vendvidék, and Szatmár-Bereg Environmentally Sensitive Areas) with the maize or beans seed-saving local farmer communities were focusing on the local valuing, narratives and understandings of landrace, maize or beans seed choice, perception and management of crop biodiversity.