Institut de Gestion de l'Environnement et d'Aménagement du Territoire

Individuals in Context: Supportive Environments for Sustainable Living (InContext)

This FP7 (EU) project addresses gaps in the current understanding of the complexity of the contexts of individual behavior and how these should be taken into account when devising policies for transitions to sustainable development. InContext distinguishes two strands of contexts determining the opportunities (drivers) and constraints (barriers) shaping individual behaviours related to sustainable development: a° the external context to individual behaviour: politics, policies, infrastructure, social institutions, culture, habits, lifestyles (societal or structural factors). b° the internal context to individual behaviour: knowledge, personal interests, values, priorities and basic needs as the motivational factors for any behaviour (individual or agent-based factors).


The research project InContext identifies the framework conditions enabling societal transition towards an ecologically sound, economically successful and culturally diverse future. At the core of the project lies an examination of the interplay between structural conditions and internal factors in building the context for individual behaviour.

Funded under the 7th Framework Programme of the European Union, InContext brings together leading European research institutions in the fields of transition, behaviour and sustainable development.

The project will be implemented in close co-operation with a network of local governments and an interdisciplinary advisory board. This will allow for constant communication and give political and business professionals the opportunity to provide reality-checks. In addition, three pilot communities have been selected to test the concepts and instruments developed within the project in a practical manner, with the aim of closing the gap between sustainability awareness and behaviour.


InContext assumes that individual and collective behaviour respond to both an external context (like social norms, policies, and infrastructure) and an internal context (like needs, values and priorities). So far, initiatives to further sustainable development have focused mainly on changing external contexts. By conducting case studies and implementing pilot projects, InContext will contribute to the development of theories on the internal context and will subsequently produce policy advice in this respect.

CASE STUDIES, will be conducted to identify structural drivers and barriers and their interplay with mind-sets. They will look at existing cases from the area of energy and food consumption in Austria, Belgium and Germany.

PILOT PROJECTS, will follow an action-research approach in three local communities: in Rotterdam (The Netherlands), in Wolfhagen (Germany) and in a community in Austria (to be selected). They will employ the concept of ‘transition arenas’ using scenario development and back-casting exercises with the aim of empowering individuals to develop alternative strategies for fulfilling their needs.


THEORY DEVELOPMENT will build the basis for the practical work of the project and will:

  • characterise relevant internal and external contexts as well as their interplay and the way individuals respond to them;
  • test whether the transition approach utilising participatory scenario development and back-casting exercises creates suitable frameworks for inducing individual and collective changes.

POLICY ADVICE will put together the project results in a way that is easily accessible for policy-makers at various levels, including:

  • a manual, targeted to the local level providing guidance to communities who want to implement transition processes themselves as developed and tested by InContext.
  • a policy brief, directed to EU- and national level policy-makers giving recommendations on how they can assist communities to implement transition processes and how they can address the internal context in a way that supports sustainability-driven action.

Project website : .


INCONTEXT is an FP7 (EU Commission) funded collaorative research project. The project is coordinated by ECOLOGIC (Berlin, Germany; Anneke von Raggamby and Ralph Piotrowski) and involves also the following partners :


EU-Commission, DG RTD, FP7.