Prosocial’s goal is to “consciously evolve a world that works for all.”

Prosocial draws on three lineages:

  • Evolutionary theory
  • Core Design Principles of Elinor Ostrum (Nobel Prize 2009 for Economics)
  • Contextual Behavioural Science

Evolutionary theory: this draws on the work of David Sloan Wilson and Multi-Level Selection. In any group there are different levels where behaviour can be selected based on its consequence. For example, selfish behaviour within a group will win if there is no regulation to stop it from doing so, very much like cancer spreading through the body if the replication of cells is not stopped. However, it is also possible to select behaviour at the level of the group. In this situation, selecting the group needs, such as supporting the local community in the light of the coronavirus pandemic, will benefit the whole community and lead to better outcomes than those communities where selfish self-interest is dominant (such as clearing shop shelves of toilet rolls).

Figure 1. Photo by krakenimages on Unsplash

Elinor Ostrum: Elinor Ostrum studied groups all around the world where they managed common pool resources well, such as a forest, water supply. She came up with 8 principles that these groups all abided to. Atkins, Wilson and Hayes (2019) adapted these principles to apply them to any group and to be able to scale up the principles to the whole planet:

Figure 2.

Contextual behavioural science: Behaving flexibly with the shared interests/purpose of the group guiding behaviour, requires ‘psychological flexibility.’ The ACT Matrix is one perspective taking tool that is used in Prosocial, to help individuals and groups be aware of what matters to them, what difficult stuff (thoughts, feelings, sensations etc.) can push people around and take them away from what matters, what ‘away’ moves might look like and what ‘towards’ moves might look like. Please see my Matrix for writing this blog post:

Figure 3.

In Neurorehab, Prosocial can be applied to families, rehabilitation teams and organisations. My colleague, Jim Lemon is applying Prosocial across many levels in the NHS in Scotland. Prosocial can be applied to any group in any context.

Figure 4.

If you’d like to know more about Prosocial and sign up for Prosocial Facilitator training, please visit:

As a trained Prosocial Facilitator myself, please contact me if I can help your group.