Classroom Materials for

Prosocial ( ) is a non-profit organization, a theoretical framework, a group facilitation process, an online community, and a research method for improving cooperation within and between groups.

Understanding the science of working better together can provide valuable perspectives for how we cooperate and collaborate towards making the world a better place. Global sustainability, and Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) fundamentally depend on expanding many circles of cooperation across all scales of society. The knowledge and skills for working better together can be explored in the classroom as part of developing interdisciplinary perspectives on the causes and consequences of human behavior.

Global ESD supports schools and teachers in engaging both the process of Prosocial as well as the science behind it.

Join the Prosocial Community, including the Prosocial Schools Group and connect your classrooms with the Global ESD content and Community Science approach highlighted below.

The science behind Prosocial

Cooperation Science

Humans have a remarkable capacity to cooperate with others around shared goals. Yet, at the same time, many of society's most persistent social challenges are related to the difficulty of cooperating with others.

By studying the sustainable resource use patterns of diverse human communities around the world, Noble-prize winning political scientist, Elinor Ostrom, first identified 8 core design principles for how humans might organize our groups to facilitate cooperation around shared aims. Ostrom's framework has since been found to be helpful for a wide range of groups, including schools and classrooms.

Psychological Flexibility

Humans have a remarkable capacity to flexibly change our behaviors and that of those around us. Yet, at the same time, many of society's most persistent social challenges are related to the difficulty of behavior change, even when individuals and communities would prefer to do so.

Understanding the science of psychological flexibility provides a powerful lens for understanding the mental processes that can facilitate or hinder our abilities to move towards what matters to us.

Evolution Science

Understanding the evolutionary origins of our elaborated human capacities for cooperation and flexibility provides a unique perspective for understanding the causes and consequences of our everyday social behaviors.

Understanding the role of social context as selection pressure on our own behavioral variation provides still a further powerful lens for thinking about how humans can create conditions that allow them to work together better.

Global ESD Teaching Materials

Community Science

Students can use the methods of Prosocial to evolve school culture and work on other Community Science projects that are important to them and their communities.

We develop guides, tools and protocols for teachers and students to engage this process. Find out more on our Community Science page.

Recomended reading and further resources

  • Atkins, P. W. B., Wilson, D. S., & Hayes, S. C. (2019). Prosocial. Using Evolutionary Science to Build Productive, Equitable, and Collaborative Groups. Oakland, CA, USA: Context Press.

"A groundbreaking, comprehensive program for designing effective and socially equitable groups of all sizes—from businesses and social justice groups to global organizations.

Whether you work in business or schools, volunteer in neighborhoods or church organizations, or are involved in social justice and activism, you understand the enormous power of groups to enact powerful and lasting change in the world. But how exactly do you design, build, and sustain effective groups?"

In this 38 min Video, evolutionary scientist and co-founder of Prosocial David Sloan Wilson presents an overview of the scientific basis and core concepts behind Prosocial.

The video actually summarizes the core concepts that make up our Global ESD design concept and inform our development of sustainability education teaching materials.