Committing to the Commons: 2 Tools for Taking Your Collaborative Work to the Next Level

Uncategorized Dec 22, 2021

The world has never been more in need of a new greatest generation of change agents.  This is not about heroes  going it alone against the challenges threatening our shared future.  What we need are people who have found new ways of growing themselves and collaborating with others within a community grounded in shared values.

 The video for this post is about committing to the commons--to our shared interests--in new ways.  It explores two tools for stepping up your collaborative skills.

Tool #1: Partnership Brokering

The first is from the field of international partnership brokering.   This technique has been developed over past 25 years to promote sustainable economic development internationally.  It has had ll kinds of successes in economic development from Nepal to Nigeria and is increasingly being successfully applied in other fields.  The secret sauce is about naming and taming individual interests in the process of collaboration.  

The idea with partnership brokering is that we come together to advance a shared interest, AND we recognize that each one of us can and will step back from this partnership table if our key individual interests are harmed. So, we agree to:

  • Declare our own overriding individual interests
  • Do no harm to other's overriding individual interests
  • Help others advance their individual interests whenever we can

Lots more on this here and here.

Tool #2: The Prosocial ARC Process

The recent book Prosocial lays out the Prosocial ARC process. It was developed as a practical application of Elinor Ostrom’s Nobel prizing winning economic research on overcoming barriers to collective action.  It has been successfully applied in wide variety of contexts, from rebuilding community parks in Detroit to reducing violence against women in Sierra Leone, and it includes web-based community hub launched in 2020.

The method is grounded in 8 design principles for high functioning groups.

  1. Shared identity and purpose
  2. Equitable distribution of contributions and benefits
  3. Fair and inclusive decision making
  4. Monitoring agreed behaviors
  5. Graduated responses to helpful and unhelpful behaviors
  6. Fast and fair conflict resolution
  7. Authority to self govern according to principles 1-6
  8. Collaborative relations with other groups using principles 1-7

For more on how to apply this approach, the Prosocial World website and online community is a great resource.






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These are the same materials we use with the social entrepreneurs in our accelerator program and the funders we coach one on one.  The world has never been more in need of a new, greatest generation of change agents and that's why we're opening up free access to these materials to anyone who's ready to make use of them!