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Mission & Philosophies


ISET-International catalyzes transformative changes toward a more resilient and equitable future. Through research, training and implementation activities, we improve understanding and elevate the level of dialog and practice as society responds to natural resource, environmental and social challenges. We serve as a framework for equal collaboration among individuals and organizations in the North and South.



Partnership, strategic thinking, communication, and commitment are the cornerstones in ISET-International’s philosophical foundation. No region, government, organization, community or body of specialists by itself can develop effective responses to the challenges now facing global society.

In an increasingly multi-polar and complex world, horizontal partnerships that recognize the knowledge, skills and capacities of diverse groups are essential for solutions to evolve. Furthermore, given the dynamic nature of change processes, strategic approaches that recognize points of leverage within interlinked local to global systems are of fundamental importance for building resilience and strengthening the adaptive capacity of society. Think strategically; act accordingly.

Communication is also of fundamental importance. Unless information, ideas and perspectives can flow across the bounds of culture and disciplines, new ways of thinking that can respond to new realities have little chance of evolving. None of this will matter if commitment—a basic ethical belief in the importance of responding to challenges that affect global society as a whole and particularly the most vulnerable within it—is shallow. 


Core Philosophies

  • Partnership
    Insights on effective approaches to environment and development challenges are generated in all parts of the world through formal research, traditional knowledge, private initiatives and a multitude of other sources. Equal collaboration and sustained engagement among people from the North and South are key sources of access to these insights. Through equal partner­ship, we seek to jointly harvest and apply insights whatever their source.

  • Think Strategically, Act Accordingly
    Environment and development challenges are attributes of interlinked natural, technical and social systems. Solutions depend on understanding of the interaction between such systems. They often require action at multiple levels (from local to global) and through multiple avenues of intervention (technical, institutional and educational). Change in these systems is rarely linear, so planning must be agile enough to accommodate rapidly evolving circumstances and new opportunities. We need strategic responses that are more flexible than most planning permits. We believe that analysis must identify points of leverage at whatever level and through whatever discipline necessary.

  • Participation
    We believe in working with people, helping them find solutions and developing capacity in the process. Furthermore, the most effective decision makers are often located in communities, private sector organizations (global corpora­tions to local companies) and quasi-governmental organizations (municipal corporations, large cooperatives, etc.). Government decision-makers often have relatively little effective power, particularly at local levels where action actually takes place. Most decisions are made autonomously, so interven­tions must recognize this diffusion of control. We believe approaches that enable authentic participation by all relevant stakeholders are essential.

  • Communication
    Results and insights must be communicated as broadly as possible to promote effective responses. Traditional mechanisms of dissemina­tion—policy papers, publications and websites—need to be supplemented. Effective communication requires cycles of shared doing and learning. Innovative mechanisms are needed to generate dialogue among local, national and global actors. Communication is beyond dissemination; it is about sustained engagement and tangible demonstration of ideas.

  • Capacity Development
    Sustainable solutions to social and environmental challenges depend on society’s ability to respond flexibly as new issues arise. Similarly, within the ISET Network, the ability to identify innovative approaches to challenges depends on continuous enhancement of member and affiliate capacity. Increased capacity includes improved skills, structures and networks, along with honesty and a willingness to learn. ISET is set up to meet these needs.

  • Innovate, Incubate, Replicate
    Through innovation, adaptation and sharing of ideas, we seek to catalyze the transformation of systems in ways that respond to the critical challenges facing society in the 21st century. We need to rethink our natural, technical and social systems and innovate new patterns. ISET-International works with a variety of partners to identify innovative solutions and incubate them so that they can be replicated on a wider scale.

  • Commitment
    Sustainability requires long-term commitment to partners, affiliates, local counterparts and the societies and communities facing the challenges of change.