Norm Supporting Actors and Structues at the very local level of Implementation in Higher Education

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingPaper in conference proceeding


This Norm focussing article starts exploring the various influence processes that take place in connection with the dawn of a new theme - the environment and then sustainable development - in today's society. The Swedish society has in the early 1990-ies declared that educational institutions, places designed for the intentional influence, shall utilise the new environmental theme in its practice. In recent years the theme of sustainable development is added in this educational context. We probably will have a number of drivers and barriers as well in these new processes in higher education. What can we learn from these experiences?

My Sociology of Law study (a research project carried out 1993-99 – Wickenberg, 1999 & 2000) is following and studying three flows of influence that meet in the local schools. From above come two geographically distant, slow processes of influence, collecting their active impulses from within the system in the form of: firstly, the Environment Amendment to the Act on Education, December, 1990 and the new curricula and syllabi that followed it; and secondly, the Agenda 21 program on the environment and the future, originating in Rio de Janeiro in June, 1992. From below comes the temporally distant and slowly but surely growing environmental interest of the understream. This interest is borne and conveyed by various categories of dedicated individuals (souls of fire) and key actors from the lifeworld in the local schools of the system. My research is into the meeting described above from structural as well as actor or individually based perspectives. I have utilised close and concrete studies of advanced practice, a practice that has not yet become a custom. In analysis, contextualisation, interpretation, and understanding I introduce my instrument of analysis, the Norm model: values-will, knowledge and opportunities. The Norm concept is the point of departure in order to be able to interpret and understand the actions and action patterns of individuals and groups, and is thus the theoretical centre of my research.

An important result of my study is, from this perspective, the understanding that it is knowledge, commitment, and inspiration from the actor’s lifeworld that has been allowed - contrary to earlier ideals - to influence the professional role of the school's adult actors. This mode of professional, clearly value based practice has been introduced by dedicated individuals or key actors that have acted as forerunners and norm setters in their normative action. This development would not have been possible if the professional and bureaucratic-administrative actors had not adapted to this development by creating Norm supporting structures in the local environment. This in turn has collected its nourishment and driving force from the distant management and action impulses connected to the policy development that has taken place at the national and international level, especially in relation to the Agenda 21 program and the dawn and rising of the notion ’sustainable development’. The article then continues to elaborate and analyse some new but quite similar Norm Research projects – also in Higher Education – I have been running or have been part of since 1999.

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Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication[Host publication title missing]
Publication statusPublished - 2005
EventDrivers and Barriers for Implementing Sustainable Development in Higher Education - Göteborg
Duration: 2005 Dec 72005 Dec 9


ConferenceDrivers and Barriers for Implementing Sustainable Development in Higher Education

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Law and Society


  • implementation
  • sociology of law
  • norms
  • DESD
  • sustainable development
  • Rio
  • Johannesburg
  • decade
  • law
  • rättssociologiska enheten


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