I am more than happy to notice such projects taking place as the PEOPLE project. As a student who believes into making my own knowledge and passion work out into more tangible and yet subject related practices. To be active and work for what I care about!

Gabriele Zukauskaite, social anthropologist
University of Kent

The nice thing about PEOPLE project is that the challenge came directly from the industry partner and we got a chance to work with real life data and provide concrete solutions for the occupants of the building.

Ajda Pretnar, researcher and PhD candidate
University of Ljubljana

The Problem Based Learning teaching philosophy is really helpful, because students start out with real world problems and not disciplinary problems. They don’t start out with a theory and then what is lacking in that theory to understand the world. They start out with a real world problem and then they see what kinds of theories could be helpful, what kinds of methods could be helpful for understanding that problem, for analysing it and finding a solution.

Maja Hojer Bruun, Associate Professor and PEOPLE Advisory Board Member
Department of Learning and Philosophy, Aalborg University

Given what we know about the likely impacts of the global climate change and the processes that drive these changes, I think that humankind will be essentially forced into a more sustainable lifestyle by external conditions. Social sciences can play an important part in this process by making it more bearable, swift and efficient.

Jan Urban, researcher and instructor
Charles University Environment Center in Prague and Department of Environmental Studies of Masaryk University in Brno

What I really liked about PEOPLE project is that we learned how to use our anthropology and social science skills to try to help the industry and find solutions for their real problems. We looked at the human side of the problems and we tried to find recommendations. During lectures we learn the theory and is all very abstract; but now we learnt how to put this into practice – and this is very valuable for my future job!

Marck Verhulst, MA student in anthropology
Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

PEOPLE has been a very special experience for me! I think that for Alliander it is very important to include the humanistic perspectives. We are dealing with the energy transition that is very much aimed at changing the society – so with technical innovation we are not getting there. We need people-centred approaches! So, I love being part of the PEOPLE project!

Maxime Jonker

My personal ambition is to inspire other anthropologists to be more than an add-on to interdisciplinary research projects and development teams. We should be able to influence and direct the design of solutions, products and services, and thus make a much bigger impact in the world.

Dan Podjed, applied anthropologist
ZRC SAZU - Research Centre of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts

PEOPLE project and case studies help students to learn what skills they have and how they can position themselves in the workplace. This is a huge value of PEOPLE project!

For me the people-centred approach is much more than being a social scientist – it’s about being a human being!

Anna Kirah, design anthropologist, psychologist
Anna Kirah, design anthropologist and psychologist and PEOPLE Advisory Board member
Design Without Borders

To get everyone to come together, all with a common goal and with the open mindedness who want to talk about sustainable energy. I think this was the most valuable thing of the Co-Creation Camp.

Shelly Tsui, Doctoral Candidate, participant at the Co-Creation Camp event in Amsterdam
Department of Industrial Engineering & Innovation Sciences, Eindhoven University of Technology

In PEOPLE I realised that complex real-life problems are always inter- or transdisciplinary. After working intensively with social scientists and humanities scholars, my perspectives changed significantly. Due to the PEOPLE project and working with social scientists, I started to call myself a people-centred humanistic engineer. I became one of the biggest ambassadors of the people-centred development approach and I try to incorporate it into the different projects I am involved in.

Jure Vetršek, mechanical engineer
IRI UL - Institute for Innovation and Development of University of Ljubljana

The PEOPLE project has been an absolutely incredible part of my university experience as it has allowed me to combine the skills and learning from classroom settings and allowed me to apply them in a test situation. We were able to do our own research but were also able to bring in the expertise and experience of our mentors in a really structured way and producing something really interesting and quite exciting.

Luke Lobo, Msc Energy and Society student
Durham University

PEOPLE aims to put people in the centre of attention – which we consider as crucial for future development in line with Industry 4.0 paradigm.

Janez Žmuc, Technical Director

What is inspiring in PEOPLE is to hear the stories and perspectives of the industry. We think that anthropology can have an added value for the industry – but at the same time we have to listen to their needs. And I think we can find a balance. So being an independent academic but at the same time to do valuable and social relevant research. And I think that in PEOPLE we did that!

Lenie Brouwer, Professor
Faculty of Social Sciences, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

We believe that social science related disciplines have been underappreciated and there should be more multidisciplinary projects in order to offer user-friendlier attractive solutions that encourage and lead to positive changes in a society on a long term. It is not an easy job to facilitate interdisciplinary work between engineers, ICT developers and social scientists as each of us speaks our own language but it’s definitely worth it and beneficial!

(Peter Op’t Veld is the coordinator of the H2020 MOBISTYLE project, in which engineers work alongside anthropologists.)

Peter Op't Veld, Senior Consultant
Huygen Installatie Adviseurs

I’ve been reading about the PEOPLE Project’s mission and the aim of showing the value of anthropologists and other social scientists to industry. I was so delighted as that is exactly my aim here in England. My vision is to create a career path for some of the anthropology graduates from Bristol University. I have offered an internship to an anthropology and innovation student, starting in the new year, with the intention of getting him onto a technology project.

Dawn Walter, Mundy Anson, Managing Director, social anthropologist
Dawn Walter, Managing Director / Social Anthropologist

In industry, lots of products are being developed for a multitude of end-users, people with a diverse range of wants, needs and beliefs. These products need to fit these wants and needs, otherwise they’ll go unutilized. As social scientists, we can help to align these products with the needs and beliefs of their intended end-users by providing, what we call, the ‘social context’ and ‘cultural aspects’ of these products. In doing so we pair up our body of knowledge and research methods with the knowledge and skills of the engineers and designers working in industry. Together we create sustainable products that could have a profound positive impact on people’s lives.

Ellen Bal, anthropologist, VU Amsterdam, PEOPLE project, team member, Erasmus+
Ellen Bal, Senior Lecturer
Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

Our students have learnt a great deal about how to organise research in terms of allocating tasks and drawing on existing skills and experience. They have also learnt a lot about the amount of effort and time that is taken up in research projects through identifying third parties whose input is essential to conducting the research and managing relationships with them.

Sandra Bell, Professor
Department of Anthropology, Durham University

PEOPLE project

The key idea of the PEOPLE project is that understanding people should become an indispensable part of industrial development processes, as a means to achieve practical-based education as well as new categories of products, services, or business strategies that truly address people’s needs and lead to sustainable innovation.

The PEOPLE project addressed 3 urgent challenges for the European Union:

  1. the underemployment of European graduates in anthropology, sociology, psychology and related fields;
  2. a lack of social science expertise in the sustainable living and energy sector;
  3. the need for better-engaged social science learning in higher education.

The project focused on the mismatch between qualifications gained by humanities and social science students and skills expected from graduates by employers in industry. Particularly in the fields of anthropology, psychology, sociology, and related disciplines, a lack of practical experiences among recent graduates often diminishes their employability in the industry sector and contributes to high overall rates of unemployment among youth in the European Union.

The key innovative contribution is the implementation of Learning Cycles as a novel pedagogical approach that brings together interdisciplinary groups of students, faculty educators and industry professionals to solve real-life industry challenges. New learning modules were embedded in degree programmes, enabling students to gain valuable practical skills to complement their theoretical education, while demonstrating the value of that education for industry.

PEOPLE project therefore addressed the immediate needs of both graduates and companies. The former applied the skills learned through their training in sociology, psychology, and anthropology to real-life and work situations, as well as gained a unique research experience and acquired new skills and competences. The latter benefited through an understanding and implementation of people-centred research and development processes into their product or service development and innovation. At the same time, our alliances contributed to the recognition and higher employability of young and perspective humanities and social sciences cadres in industry.

The project will have a long-lasting impact on higher education institutions and society at large by improving the relevance of social science teaching and research: taking into account the needs of the industry, displaying the applied value of anthropology, psychology, sociology, and related disciplines, providing graduates with relevant skills, and promoting their employment in the business and industry sectors.


PEOPLE (People-Centred Development Approaches in Practical and Learning Environments) is an international project co-funded by the by the European Union under the Erasmus+ Programme (Cooperation for innovation and the exchange of good practices, Knowledge Alliances for higher education).

Project Reference: 574832-EPP-1-2016-1-SI-EPPKA2-KA
Start date: 01. 11. 2016
End date: 31. 10. 2019

PEOPLE on Erasmus+ Project Results Platform

To jointly develop and integrate people-centred development approaches into research, teaching and learning practices an alliance was formed between a higher education or research institution and an industry partner from the energy efficiency and sustainable energy sectors in each of the four participating countries:

The project was coordinated by an intermediary organisation from Slovenia, IRI UL (Institute for Innovation and Development of University of Ljubljana).


Project Partners

  • Durham UniversityVU Amsterdam
  • ALLIANDERCharles University
  • Durham County Council

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