The ProSocial Process

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Build a context
for change
Project aims, authority, relations, resourcing, listening and
Whenever we seek to help a group evolve into a new level of effectiveness, we start by creating a rich and productive context for change. Issues like clarifying key success criteria for the project, exploring and managing authority and power relations that might impact upon the dproject, and making sure the project is adequately resourced are all part of preparing to embark on a journey of significant change.
Build sense of shared vision, identity and purpose:
Futuring, community and system mapping, deliberative dialogue.
Humans are unique in their ability to imagine better possible futures. A key part of coming to alignment on shared purpose and identity is having a shared vision dd what might be possible. ProSocial helps people to dream stogether, not just by using helpful tools for collectively imagining a better future, but by making it safe and rewarding to dream together.
Explore aspects of prosocial governance:
Defining groups, ensuring effectiveness within groups, balancing individual and collective interests, establishing appropriate relations with other groups.
Once a group has begun to form around a strong sense of shared identity and purpose, it is time to explore how it can work best together to realize that purpose. This is where Ostrom's work with the core design principles is so helpful. Ostrom perceived the key factors that need to be considered to build the commons. In this phase of the work, the group uses the psychological flexibility skills built earlier to turn toward the question of how best to organize together to achieve their vision.
Qualify opportunities:
Identifying and prioritising opportunities for action to improve group effectiveness internally or externally.
The individual and collective visioning and planning so far will have generated a large number of opportunities for change. In this phase of the work we move from creative divergence into convergence on the highest priority opportunities for action. The group collectively decides where to direct its attention to best meet its own needs and the needs of those it serves now and will serve in the future.
Action research and evaluation:
Pursuing the fittest participatory action learning opportunities and testing which methods will serve us best.
Recognising that human systems are living, complex and adaptive, we hold our plans with commitment and flexibility. Adopting an attitude of ongoing learning and adaptation allows us to continually revisit the effectiveness of the groups action in relation to its purpose.
Develop awareness and communication skills:
Psychological flexibility, personal values and aims, perspective taking, emotional self-regulation.
Change projects rely heavily on the capacity of participants to take the perspectives of others, empathize, regulate their own emotions, and understand the dynamics of goals, values and needs. ProSocial projects involve an essential phase of 'inner work' where participants learn the skills of psychological flexibility – noticing the present moment, unhooking from rigid beliefs, tuning into our emotional being, clarifying what really matters, and committing to action together in the service of shared values.

The ProSocial Core Processes combine a perspective on and critical and dialogical understanding of both the structures of our world (political, economic, environmental, cultural, spiritual, etc.) and the fluid movement of forces that act to sustain those structures in hegemonic equilibrium.

When employed, the ProSocial Core Processes resist rigid certainties and create space for a creative understanding of our constantly changing world. When shared through a range of dialogical processes, this allows for relationships that typically resist change to be reforged within the context of shared purpose. In this way, the Core Processes weave alliances across many sectors at multiple levels between different social movements. They are a suite of multi-cropping practices of personal growth, skills building, dialogue, and participator action learning that is simultaneously theory and practice.

The Core Processes outlined above are typically facilitated over six phases: building a context for change; developing awareness and communication skills; building a sense of shared vision, identity, and purpose; exploring aspects of prosocial governance; qualifying opportunities for evolutionary change; and, action research and evaluation. These processes are complemented by generalized learning from participatory, pragmatic, and purposeful research. One proviso about these phases is to beware of the tendency to view them as a linear process, moving from one step to the next. They are better understood as recipe ingredients that need to be mixed in proper measure and with respect to the uniqueness of local conditions.

When applied, the Core Processes become a collective means of conducting a social analysis for action. Two dynamics prove important here: the movements of forces within society and the learning logic of action-reflection-action. What is unique about the Core Processes is that they acknowledge that all people have experience that gives them the potential and the right to engage in this kind of analysis, and in so doing, people become actors in changing their world, and not merely ‘acted-upons’.

The power of the ProSocial Process is embodied in the multi-level evolutionary approach of action-reflection-action.

The ProSocial Core Processes catalyze long-term change

Having conducted some ‘naming’ of ourselves, it is then important to share some information, often stories of one kind or another, to identify key concerns or issues and gain a perspective on shared needs and values.

This creates the need to decide which issues are important enough to warrant a collective critical analysis and response. Once key issues have been identified, a deeper analysis can be applied to qualifying opportunities to start living a preferred and probable future today. Finally, the question of ‘what to do about it’ must be posed and action steps discussed and converged upon.

In this way, the ProSocial Core Processes are typically not followed in a linear fashion. In the beginning, much back-and-forth movement is necessary to ensure a truly participatory process. Essentially, this is learning to ‘name ourselves’. This allows for and encourages a combination of perspective-taking and the negotiation of meaning, an essential ingredient for the success of all processes. Practically speaking, the overall process is a deep enquiry into our personal and cultural identities that is simultaneously shaped by our personal and community histories and the selection of a future that is worth living for now.