What do people need in order to achieve a sustainable lifestyle? The InContext Project identified the framework conditions enabling societal transition towards an ecologically sound, economically successful and culturally diverse future. At the core of the project lied an examination of the interplay between structural conditions and internal factors in building the context for individual behavior.


InContext assumed that individual and collective behavior respond to both an external context (such as social norms, policies, and infrastructure) and an internal context (such as needs, values and priorities). So far, initiatives to further sustainable development have focused mainly on changing external contexts. InContext contributed to the development of theories on the internal context and produced subsequently policy advice in this respect.


InContext brought together leading European research institutions in the fields of transition, behavior and sustainable development. The project was implemented in close co-operation with a network of local governments and a transdisciplinary advisory board. This allowed for regular and effective communication and gave political and business professionals the opportunity to provide reality-checks. Case studies were conducted to identify structural drivers and barriers and their interplay with mind-sets. In addition, three pilot communities were 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 behavior. The concept of ‘transition arenas’ was employed, using scenario development and back-casting exercises, to empowering individuals to develop alternative strategies for fulfilling their needs.


As a result, the InContext project characterized relevant internal and external contexts as well as their interplay and the way individuals respond to them. Furthermore, the project tested whether the transition approach utilizing participatory scenario development and back-casting exercises creates suitable frameworks for inducing individual and collective changes.


Consequently, policy advisors put together the project results so as to be 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 and a policy brief, directed to EU- and national level policy-makers. Read the key insights of the InContext project here, or visit the website for more information and relevant publications.


Duration of the project

The InContext project ran from October 2010 – 2013.


Client(s)/ Commissioning party

The project was funded by Europeans Commission’s Seventh Framework Programm.



Ecologic Institute, ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability, Institute for Agriculture and Forest Environment of the Polish Academy of Sciences, SERI – Sustainable Europe Research Institute, TU-Delft – Delft University of Technology, UFZ – Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research, ULB – L’Université libre de Bruxelles.


DRIFT team

Julia Wittmayer, Derk Loorbach, Frank van Steenbergen, Carolien Hoogland.