Prosocial Framework

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= rules framework for the evolution of fairness, based on the principles of Ostrom

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"PROSOCIAL is a framework for improving the efficacy of groups that is being developed by the Evolution Institute.

It is based on eight core design principles that are needed by most groups whose members must work together to achieve common goals:

  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.

These principles were initially derived by Elinor Ostrom, a political scientist by training, for groups that were attempting to manage common-pool resources. The fact that groups possessing these design features were capable of managing their own affairs was so new against the background of received economic wisdom that Ostrom was awarded the Nobel Prize in economics in 2009. The design principles were later generalized by David Sloan Wilson, Ostrom, and Michael Cox in two respects. First, they follow from the basic evolutionary dynamics of cooperation in all species and our own evolutionary history as a highly cooperative species. Second, because of their theoretical generality, they apply to a much broader range of human groups than those attempting to manage common-pool resources. That is why they provide a practical framework for improving the efficacy groups, which is the objective of PROSOCIAL." (


Core and Auxiliary Design Principles:

"Virtually all positive change efforts can be seen as the wise management of evolutionary processes so that they become aligned with our current environments and normative goals. ‍ The first step of the Prosocial Path helps groups and their members take charge of their evolution, expanding their repertoire of behaviors (variation) for overcoming obstacles and working toward their valued goals (selection).

Groups can be much more effective than individuals at accomplishing positive change--but only if they are structured in the right way. Inspired by the Nobel-prize winning work of the political scientist Elinor Ostrom, the second step of the Prosocial Path teaches eight core design principles that all groups need to function well, plus auxiliary design principles that are needed by some groups but not others to reach their particular objectives. ‍ Not only can these principles forge your group into a highly cooperative unit, but they can also be used to create cooperative relationships with other groups. Once a meta-group becomes a highly cooperative unit, it can cooperate with other meta-groups, all the way up to a global scale. It really is possible to think globally, act locally, and also act globally in this multi-level fashion!

The third step of the Prosocial Path is to “hit the ground running” with short-term goals that the group formulates on the basis of the first two steps. However, the Prosocial Path does not end with the first three steps. Our intention is to work with groups over the long term to track their success and develop their relationships with other groups. In this fashion, Prosocial groups score early successes and keep on going to achieve their long-term goals."

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