Large information bases that are used by several different users and applications accommodate the demands of their users more effectively, if they can be split into possibly overlapping fragments, called contexts. The latter allow one to focus attention on specific concerns such as topics, tasks, or user-views. This paper proposes a conceptual, generic framework for contexts supporting context-specific naming and representation of conceptual entities, relativised transaction execution, operations for context construction and manipulation, authorization, and change propagation. A partial validation of the framework is given by showing how specific topologies of contexts, associated with specific authorization and change propagation policies, result in design templates for modeling well-known applications such as modules, views and workspaces. Further, examples are used to illustrate how modifications of the templates lead to generalizations of these applications that better support specific applications, such as those calling for tight cooperative work. The context framework is aimed at providing a common kernel for the modeling of information base partitions in general and well known notions such as views, workspaces, topics, versions and requirements engineering viewpoints, in particular.