The paper describes how social economy is a tool to further ambitions of sustainable development in model areas such as biosphere reserves. This is based on the notion of interdependencies between humans and nature in socio-ecological systems. Understanding the local resource base is vital to achieve a sustainable development, where a focus on mere economic development will blind policymakers and stakeholders to other resources and ambitions. By assessing a multitude of resources, outlined in the Community Capitals Framework, new paths towards sustainability will emerge. Resources include natural, cultural, social, human and others. The multi-perspective approach also enhances the need to understand and address complexity and how to manage complex processes. Strategies for this will include being as simple as possible but not simpler, being dynamic rather than static, and embracing uncertainty and unpredictability.
One application of the theoretical reasoning in the paper is the Biosphere Innovation System, where structures to promote and employ innovation for sustainable development are outlined, among them research linked to local knowledge, forums, financing and facilitated learning for policy makers and citizens.