The method

PROSOCIAL training is a fast method that can take place during a single 2-day retreat or as three meetings with a little homework between meetings. The meetings can be face-to-face or can take place online. The group is led through the method by a trained facilitator. Data is captured throughout the process, which enables group members to know with confidence whether the method is working. The data is added to a multi-group database so that the PROSOCIAL development team can further improve its own ability to improve the efficacy of groups and wellbeing of their members. By the end of the method, groups will have:

  • A stronger sense of identity and purpose;
  • ​More flexibility for working toward valued goals;​
  • Greater awareness of the Core Design Principles (CDPs) and an assessment of the CDPs for their group;​
  • Awareness of Auxiliary Design Principles (ADPs) that are needed in addition to the CDPs;
  • Short-term actionable goals that can take the group, step-by-step, toward its long-term goals.

Step 1:
Acceptance and Commitment Training

Acceptance and Commitment Training (ACT) is a powerful method for increasing flexibility and selecting actions that lead toward valued goals. It was developed primarily for individuals but can be equally useful for groups. PROSOCIAL uses an especially fast version of ACT called the Matrix.

The Matrix is a space divided into four quadrants. The lower half refers to thoughts, feelings, and emotions that take place in our heads. The upper half refers to objects and actions that take place in the world. The way that we act in the world depends upon what is in our heads. The right half of the Matrix refers to mental events and actions that take us toward our valued goals. The left half refers to mental events and actions that take us away from our valued goals.

During Step One, group members are introduced to ACT andtake two “spins” (reflecting upon each quadrant in turn) through the Matrix, first as an individual and then as a group. The Matrix is designed to be used repeatedly, but even the first two spins can create a stronger sense of identity and purpose and more flexibility for working toward valued goals.

Step 2:
The Core Design Principles

No matter what their specific objective, nearly all groups require a number of “Core Design Principles (CDP)” to coordinate action, avoid disruptive behaviors among group members, and cultivate appropriate relationships with other groups in a multi-group ecosystem. During the second step of PROSOCIAL, group members learn about the CDPs and independently evaluate their group with respect to four questions:

  1. Strong group identity and understanding of purpose
  2. Fair distribution of costs and benefits
  3. Fair and inclusive decision-making
  4. Tracking agreed upon behaviors
  5. Graduated responses to transgressions
  6. Fast and empathetic conflict resolution
  7. Authority to self-govern
  8. Appropriate relations with other groups

1) How important is each CDP for the group?
2) How well does the group currently understand each CDP?
3) How well is each CDP currently implemented?
4) How much has the group been handicapped by failing to implement each CDP?

Each group member is also asked to nominate Auxiliary Design Principles (ADPs) that are important for their group, in addition to the CDPs that are needed by all groups.

The individual evaluations are aggregated into a report that is discussed by the group with the help of the coordinator. The report can be regarded as like a medical exam that indicates what aspects of the group are healthy and what other aspects need attention. Just as individuals need regular checkups, PROSOCIAL groups are encouraged to evaluate the CDPs at regular intervals for their long-term health.

Step 3:
Short-term measurable goals

Step One of PROSOCIAL provides the start of an action plan with the upper right quadrant of the Matrix. Step Two provides a more detailed action plan for implementing the CDPs. In Step Three, group members formulate short term measurable goals that take the group in a step-by-step fashion towards its valued long-term goals (“True North”), often improving implementation of the CDPs and ACDs along the way. Step Three enables the group to “hit the ground running” at the completion of the training course.