Pro-Social organisation

Most groups exist to accomplish a common goal: whether a volunteer organisation, business, charity, or grassroots community group. At one end of a spectrum lies the familiar top-down hierarchical model of managing business – typical of the military, or large state institutions such as the NHS. At the other end of the spectrum, less familiar, are examples of small peer groups of people successfully managing common resources alongside other small groups – often practising fully participatory consensual decision making.

This is an exciting new model for inclusivity and fair sharing. PROSOCIAL enables a new kind of dialogue about how to get things done. PROSOCIAL group design is the nuts and bolts of consciously directed cultural evolution; evolving human culture towards a sustainable and regenerative attitude towards the earth’s life support systems and a more just means of accessing resources and opportunities.

A number of core design principles are required for groups to accomplish their equitable goals. PROSOCIAL is a practical method for coaching groups on the core design principles, making them more successful at whatever they are striving to do.

PROSOCIAL has been developed by a team of distinguished scientists and is designed to be used with the help of a facilitator. Groups learn about the design principles in two – easy to “understand & own” sessions which help them to build their identity, reflect upon their purposes, and formulate goals. PROSOCIAL is also designed to measure progress that group members will know when they are succeeding.

PROSOCIAL has been designed to be fun – it also requires a commitment on the part of the group. If group members think that their common goals are important and worth investment of time and effort, then PROSOCIAL is likely to succeed. Otherwise PROSOCIAL (or any other method) is likely to fail.

A short introductory video (below) offers much information in a nutshell:

The work of Elinor Ostrom and her associates was considered ground breaking and eventually earned her the Nobel Prize in economics in 2009 (Ostrom, 1990, 2010). The main import of Ostrom’s work was to show that when certain conditions are met, groups of people are capable of sustainably managing their common resources. Here is a short description of those principles. A much fuller treatment can be found here: Generalizing the Core

(1) Clearly defined boundaries. The identity of the group and the boundaries of the shared resource are clearly delineated.

(2) Proportional equivalence between benefits and costs. Members of the group must negotiate a system that rewards members for their contributions. High status or other disproportionate benefits must be earned. Unfair inequality poisons collective efforts.

(3) Collective-choice arrangements. Group members must be able to create at least some of their own rules and make their own decisions by consensus. People hate being told what to do but will work hard for group goals that they have agreed upon.

(4) Monitoring. Managing a commons is inherently vulnerable to free-riding and active exploitation. Unless these undermining strategies can be detected at relatively low cost by norm-abiding members of the group, the tragedy of the commons will occur.

(5) Graduated sanctions. Transgressions need not require heavy-handed punishment, at least initially. Often gossip or a gentle reminder is sufficient, but more severe forms of punishment must also be waiting in the wings for use when necessary.

(6) Conflict resolution mechanisms. It must be possible to resolve conflicts quickly and in ways that are perceived as fair by members of the group.

(7) Minimal recognition of rights to organise. Groups must have the authority to conduct their own affairs. Externally imposed rules are unlikely to be adapted to local circumstances and violate principle (3).

(8) Appropriate coordination among relevant groups. Every sphere of activity has an optimal scale. Large scale governance requires finding the optimal scale for each sphere of activity and appropriately coordinating the activities, a concept called poly-centric governance (McGinnis, 1999). A related concept is Subsidiarity, which assigns governance tasks by default to the lowest jurisdiction, unless this is explicitly determined to be ineffective.

Teams of scientists from the Evolution Institute and the Association of Contextual & Behavioural Science, ACBS (both of which I am proud to be a member)

have come together around this seminal research in Economics to develop a method to encourage behaviour change at both local and societal level.

I am a recognised, certificated and experienced pro-social facilitator; do contact me if you’d like help orientating your organisation in this way? I would like to help you.

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