Inside out: Individuals’ sustainability engagement in energy system transition

Abstract: Sustainability transitions research has been criticised for being mostly on the system level. To the extent individuals have been recognised, they have mostly been acting in so called niche initiatives, as entrepreneurs, grassroot innovators or users. Not much attention has been paid to individuals connected to established organisations, here called insiders. Through case studies in three different settings, this thesis shows that insiders, who actively and independently choose to engage in sustainability initiatives, can be key enablers of an energy system transition. Engaged insiders, contextualise the value of a sustainability initiative through adding to a new narrative and attracting others to join the narrative. Three contexts in which insiders can choose to engage are introduced and explained: outreach engagement, entrepreneurial engagement and job engagement. Assisted by theories from social psychology, it is also explained why sustainability engagement sometimes does not occur when expected. The main contribution of this thesis is that individuals can choose to engage in a sustainability transition in different contexts in and beyond their organisational home grounds. These individuals are important to see and appreciate if we want to better understand how sustainability transitions are achieved.

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