Prosocial Design Method


What Is Prosocial Design Method?

The word ‘prosocial’ refers to an attitude, behavior, belief or institution that is focused on the well-being of others and society as a whole. “Prosocial is the first change method based on evolutionary science to enhance cooperation and collaboration for groups of all types and sizes that’s effective at a global scale.” It’s a practical method that helps group members work better together.
When we talk about the need for positive change, we often use words like “adapt” and “evolve.” The only change method that uses the latest developments in evolutionary science to achieve its goals is the Prosocial method.
Evolutionary science not only observes individual and group adaptations over time, it also supplies practical tools to help all groups adapt to environments that are constantly changing and improve the way they operate.
Prosocial combines these tools in an evidence-based method that increases satisfaction, productivity, and motivation among its group members. The Prosocial method is a powerful concept that helps groups work better among their own members and with other groups as well. The goal is to enlarge the scope of positive change in our communities and eventually the world.

How Did It Develop?

David Sloan Wilson, recent Seton Cove guest speaker and president of the Evolution Institute, developed what is now referred to as Prosocial design method. After completing a study to show “how prosocial behaviors can evolve in a Darwinian world,” Wilson was driven to continue studying prosociality. This led to the opportunity to establish a think tank where he could do just that…and connect with other like-minded scientists. When the financial crisis occurred in 2008, Wilson began to reexamine economics from an evolutionary angle. During this time, he met Elinor Ostrom and Wilson says, “another key piece of prosocial fell into place.”
Ostrom was a political scientist who won the Nobel Prize in economics by showing that some groups have the ability to manage common resources such as grazing land, irrigation waters, and forests…but only if the groups have certain core design principles. At the time, conventional wisdom believed that these resources were susceptible to “the tragedy of the commons,” since members of the group are tempted to take more than what is fair. Ostrom’s work proved that to be untrue.
Wilson became aware of how much Ostrom’s core design principles paralleled his work on prosociality. He explains, “Very simply, a group that strongly implements the core design principles provides a safe and secure environment for the expression of prosociality. Moreover, nearly all groups whose members must work together to achieve common goals should benefit from the core design principles.” Until Ostrom’s death in 2012, Wilson worked with her and her associate, Michael Cox, to merge her core design principles with evolutionary theory.
Wilson realized the core design principles weren’t just general, they were also practical. “They seemed to offer a blueprint that real-world groups could use to improve their performance.” He became inspired to help groups learn about the core principles, be able to evaluate their group based on the principles, and determine how to implement the principles to make their group stronger and more effective. According to Wilson, “That was the seed that grew into prosocial.”

In a Nutshell

Prosocial design method is a framework that helps improve the effectiveness of groups. Based on Ostrom’s prize winning research, the eight Core Design Principles (CDP’s) have been refined by Wilson and can benefit any group with members who must work together in order to achieve common goals.
The 8 Core Design Principles are:

1. Strong group identity and understanding of purpose
2. Fair distribution of costs and benefits
3. Fair and inclusive decision-making
4. Monitoring agreed-upon behaviors
5. Graduated sanctions for misbehaviors
6. Fast and fair conflict resolution
7. Authority to self-govern
8. Appropriate relations with other groups

Any group, regardless of size or socioeconomic level can benefit from these Core Design Principles. If you’re interested in learning more about the Prosocial method and how Seton Cove can help you implement these principles, contact us today.