About the Balaton Group

Officially named the International Network of Resource Information Centers, the Balaton Group is an international network of researchers and practitioners in fields related to systems and sustainability. It is governed by a steering group drawn from its active membership.

The group’s annual meeting, at Lake Balaton in Hungary, has welcomed more than 400 participants from 40 countries since 1982. Membership is by invitation only.

Each year, a retreat for envisioning solutions…

The annual meeting brings together 50 leading scientists, teachers, consultants, writers, and managers in a multi-disciplinary, collaborative environment that encourages debate and learning founded on the highest scientific standards, free of political and economic pressures.

…leads to models, games, books and conferences…

For over three decades, Balaton Group members have consistently advanced the boundaries of research and strategy for sustainable development. Collaboration among members has resulted in more than 30 books, over a hundred conferences, new learning centres and NGOs and uncounted computer models, training programmes, planning methods, journal articles, films, videos, policy initiatives, educational games, courses and research projects.

…and welcomes young professionals with a Fellowship.

The Donella Meadows Fellowship provides full financial support for attendance at the annual Balaton Group Meeting, a $1,000 stipend for a Fellowship Project, and access to a group of potential partners and mentors. Fellows are less than 40 years old, and engaged professionally in an organization or in projects that solve problems related to the environment and sustainable development.

A short film telling the story of the Balaton Group and its annual meetings. Produced by John de Graaf in 2011.


Niels Meyer, Alan AtKisson, “From Sustainability Science to Real-World Action: A Short History of the Balaton Group,” The Solutions Journal, Volume 3, Issue 5, September 2012, Pages 75-81


“Setting Down Roots: Dennis Meadows on the Founding and Mission of Balaton,” The Solutions Journal, Volume 3, Issue 5, September 2012, Pages 15-17


Kristín Vala Ragnarsdóttir, “Sustainability, System Thinking, and Envisioning: the Balaton Group Influence,” The Solutions Journal, Volume 3, Issue 5, September 2012, Pages 1-1


Donella Meadows, “Envisioning a Sustainable World,” The Solutions Journal, Volume 3, Issue 5, September 2012, Pages 11-14


Often behind the scenes, rarely branded or with credit claimed, members credit the Balaton Group for supporting their diverse accomplishments:

  • Pioneering energy-efficiency and wind-power policy programmes in Denmark in the 1980s
  • Developing and spreading the emerging field of sustainability indicators in the 1990s
  • Establishing or expanding several NGOs and training centers for sustainability in the 1990s and 2000s
  • Repairing fish stocks and health in Thai fishing villages by closing the sewage loop
  • Inspiring research into inventions and innovations such as efficient stoves and water purifiers that improved livelihoods for 100 million people
  • Being a catalyst for new ideas about scientific measurement that lead ultimately to the planetary boundaries initiative
  • Developing systems-based training methods and exercises now shared widely by LEAD International
  • Inspiring high-profile sustainability activities in Japan, such as Candle Night
  • Developing models and simulation games, such as SusClime, which inspired C-ROADS climate change model
  • Putting systems thinking to work in Indonesia through transformative work in biogas, zero waste, community and spatial planning, and policy changes to protect virgin forest
  • Calling for an international commitment to equal personal CO2 emission caps for all human beings on the globe by 2050
  • Advocating countries follow the Brundtland Report, Our Common Future, and making programmatic or content contributions to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, the Goa 2100 scenario process, and more

And, each year, bringing together thought leaders to share dreams and visions grounded in science and systems-thinking to accelerate innovation processes for sustainability.