What is Prosocial - A short introduction to 3 big ideas

introductory Oct 14, 2020

This is a short introduction to Prosocial that we have used in the Facilitator Training course, written in 2018.


So what is this Prosocial thing. We (the team of people collaborating to bring you Prosocial) think of it as four main things:

  1. A set of ideas and concepts
  2. A process for enhancing cooperation in groups
  3. A community of practice, and
  4. A research program

In the facilitator training course, we teach you the ideas and the process - and you will be in a great place to join the community after the course is over. We hope that we can interest you in getting involved in the research as well because it can both improve your own practice and make the Prosocial process more attractive for groups with whom you might want to work.

Let's talk a bit about the process and why it's special. Prosocial began with David Sloan Wilson bringing together two very powerful ideas. The first is the idea of multilevel selection. In a nutshell, "Selfishness beats altruism within groups....

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When it pays to be selfish

We often say that the point of Prosocial is to balance and integrate self and collective needs. But people often hear that as saying that we should think more about the good of the group and less about themselves. In this post, I want to tell you a story about how becoming more prosocial is sometimes a matter of going deeper to understand and express our own needs.

I have a 15-year-old daughter. We love each other deeply and have lots of times of loving connection. But lately, I have found myself frequently saying the same sorts of things over and over again in an exasperated, irritated tone.: "Please put your phone down and tidy your room," "Please get up off the couch and do your chores," "Please do your homework before you check out and play games." Often these requests are met with anger, eye-rolling, or delays from my daughter. My parenting feels like wading through treacle, and it isn't working so well for either of us. 

So, what can I do to create a more...

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The Mondragon Cooperative CDP8 in action

Uncategorized Jul 22, 2020

The following is a case study describing some aspects of the worker-owned Mondragon cooperative ecosystem in the Basque region of Spain. Mondragon is a living, thriving example of a large network of organisations that perform highly complementary and cooperative functions. It is founded in strong social purposes illustrated by its tagline "Humanity at work" (CDP1), it is highly egalitarian (CDP2; see the quote below), it involves a highly democratic approach to decision making based around "one person, one vote" (CDP3) and a sophisticated system to represent front line workers' views throughout the network as well as extensive knowledge sharing through educational institutions (CDP4) which extend into a valuing of "learning by doing" where people are strongly reinforced for participation and cooperation (CDP5).  

Each organisation within Mondragon operations highly autonomously (CDP7) while still complementing and cooperating with the broader ecosystem (CDP8)...

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Prosocial and conflict - The Coming Down to Earth event

Uncategorized Jul 18, 2020

I was interviewed about Prosocial for the global Coming Down to Earth event by the wonderful Nuno da Silva in early July 2020.

I met Nuno when he did a Prosocial for Sustainability course with myself, David Sloan Wilson and James Dyke early in 2020 with a team from the Transition Network. Nuno is the Curator of The Emergence Network and Co-creator of RIPPLES of the New eXperiment; a catalyst for the Art of Hosting community in Portugal, a founding member of FESCOOP – the first ethical finance cooperative in Portugal, trainer in the Portuguese hub of the Transition Network and a contributor to the Transition Global Movement, a member of the Portuguese NGO Development Platform and the Council of Europe Pools of Trainers and a catalyst for the European and Global community of Reflexive Social Practice collaborating with the Proteus Initiative.

Some points of interest in our interview:

7' 50'' What is Prosocial?

14' 20" How might Prosocial be useful in the context of...

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Using the ACT Matrix to help prepare for, and facilitate conflict

This was a workshop I just did for the “Coming Down to Earth” series on conflict in July 2020.  The first bit is just an introduction to Prosocial but if you go to minute 40′ onwards you will see me introducing a version of the matrix I like to use to prepare for conflict situations. Most of the examples I use are from my work in schools with teachers.  I was using mentimeter in this presentation and the audience make interesting contributions regarding their own experiences of conflict.

Here are the Conflict resolution matrices I used in this talk.  You can download and use this tool in your own conflict situations.


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Prosocial for Human Happiness

Uncategorized Jun 02, 2020

Let's begin with the assertion that our wellbeing is ultimately 100% determined by the quality of the relationships we have.

We are social beings

Every aspect of our being is social. Our emotions are socially constructed, our health and longevity are dependant on the quality of the relationships we have and to the degree that we are of service to those relationships. Our meaning in life is ultimately founded in the relationships we have and our performance in any sphere of work or pleasure are similarly. This includes language. Language has emerged from cooperation but has, in turn, put our capacity to cooperate into hyperdrive through our ability to tell stories. If you really think about how institutions nationally and globally cooperate, it is through this ability to tell stories. To be able to describe what has been, what is, and what could be, shows us that our language gives us great possibility. We've constructed certain stories that determine the degree to which we are...

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Balancing personal and collective interests with Prosocial in the time of COVID-19

Uncategorized May 12, 2020

How is Coronavirus changing how you relate to the people around you?

Even if you are not allowed to go outside, how is it changing how you think about the people you see on the news, those who care for you and whom you care for, and the people you see through the tiny windows of your teleconferencing app?

Here in Australia, we are in a kind of partial lockdown, people are still walking the streets but we veer around one another, making sure to keep at least 1.5m apart. Yesterday I did an elaborate dance in a shop with the man wanting to also buy broccoli. I have tried to smile more than usual, to be polite and cognizant of others around me - not in a kind of 'has he got the virus?' way, but more like 'here is another human being, also trying to get by and also probably afraid'.  But I also see people backing away from me, and I back away from them.

All these strange new rituals, and all these new thoughts and emotions that we had not even imagined. Something significant has...

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An overview of the Prosocial Process

Uncategorized Mar 03, 2020

Think about all the small groups to which you belong – work teams, community groups or clubs, even families.  Some groups get important things done in the world, way beyond what any individual could achieve alone, while also giving their members meaning, joy and satisfaction. Other groups seem to limp along, maybe putting up with undiscussed conflict, lack of clear purpose or roles, inequitable workloads, or struggling to make decisions efficiently and effectively.

Margaret Mead once famously said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” Whether you are a facilitator, leader, work-team member or community member trying to mobilise change, your best chance of improving the world is through your capacity to create groups around you that are life-giving, purposeful and effective.

PROSOCIAL is a process for building life-giving,...

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