"Live... and Let Live"

Promoting cooperation through reciprocity.

Marilyn La Court, Program Director

"Live… and Let Live"
When Cooperation Counts

     People of all ages, children, adolescents, and adults can enjoy the benifits of living, learning and working in a cooperative environment.

     "Once established, the evolution of cooperation has the potential for positive broad and long range effects in social systems."

—Robert Axelrod
"The Evolution of Cooperation"
Basic Books, New York, 1984

     Cooperation means associating with others for mutual benefit.

     In Cooperation, everybody wins.

     The opposite of cooperation is trying to win at the expense of others; for one to win, another must lose.

     When people try to win at the expense of others, and winning becomes too important, bad things can happen. Cheating can be expected; altercations are likely to escalate into feuds. Violence, abuse, coercion, destruction, and even death can become the consequences. Then nobody wins!

     There are many good reasons why people are nice to one another. Some are nice because it just makes them feel good to be nice. Others are nice because they want something in return.

     There’s a lot more to cooperating than JUST being nice. Cooperation requires people to be nice AND to be fair. In cooperation, people need to be accountable for their actions, both the good ones and the bad ones. Reciprocity holds people accountable in a fair and respectful manner.

     It is acknowledged that interpersonal conflict, perceptions of significant differences between people, are normal. The extent to which altercations between individuals in conflict with each other become coercive or violent depends to some extent upon the culture within which these occur. A cooperative culture will not eliminate the perception of differences (interpersonal conflict) but within a cooperative culture altercations are less likely to become coercive or combative.

     In "LIVE… and LET LIVE" workshops participants will lean to increase self-reliance, personal responsibility, a sense of personal security, resilience, and minimize the potential for violence.

     Why Should We Promote Self Reliance and Reciprocity?

  • Reliance on authority is always a last resort when all else fails. Exclusive reliance on authority promotes dependency, discourages personal responsibility, denies free will, autonomy, and creative solutions to complex problems, and is punitive, costly, and cumbersome.
  • Reliance on understanding to promote tolerance denies the fact that understanding does not equal agreement. In fact understanding may promote an acute awareness of disagreement. Further, reliance on understanding to promote tolerance naively denies the human propensity for ethnocentricity.
  • Reliance on altruism has its problems too. We could probably convince half the people in the world to live according to the values of altruism, empathic understanding and genuine good will, but the other half would call them suckers and figure out ways to take advantage of them.
  • Reciprocity works to promote cooperation and self-reliance. Using the communication skills of reciprocity can reduce the potential for the escalation of violence regardless of whether the motive for cooperating is altruism or self-interest. Reciprocity is fair and respectful but does not require agreement, understanding, or acceptance of difference to promote cooperation.
  • The concept of reciprocity is clear. The communication skills needed to practice reciprocity are not difficult to teach and to learn. In a context of cooperation there are no losers. Everybody wins, but there are no really big winners. The rewards of cooperation are self-evident however, when the products of collaborative cooperation create a better product from which everyone benefits in the long run.
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