The Social Virtues in Action

The best way to understand Cooperative Wisdom is to see the social virtues in action. On this page, we’ll call attention to people who exemplify:

We invite readers to comment on our cases and contribute examples of their own.

When Things Fall Apart
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Hurricanes. Earthquakes. Wildfires. This has been a season of extreme events. The media present graphic images of destruction, and heartbreaking stories of people who have lost everything. Often, we also hear stories of first responders,... Read More

The Power of One Cooperator
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Last week, I heard a story about Creative Courage at a luncheon for our local chapter of Girls, Inc.. Their mission is to help girls become strong, smart and bold. And, if the young speakers... Read More

Double Down on Cooperation
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“Most people try to do the right thing most of the time.” That’s the first line in our book, Cooperative Wisdom. Recent events in Charlottesville force us to be explicit about the corollary: Sometimes, some... Read More

The Beauty of Intentional Imagination
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What makes a community project sustainable? I spent my career in philosophy trying to distill the principles that allowed people to cooperate in ways that persist over time. Those principles, including Intentional Imagination, are described... Read More

Making Good Use of Regret
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Every day we make decisions. Some are inconsequential. Some move us closer to our goals. And some will lead to regret. Researchers say the most enduring regrets are the result of things we didn’t do,... Read More

Sustainable Blogging
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We started this blog one year ago, because it seemed like a promising way to bring attention to our book, Cooperative Wisdom: Bringing People Together When Things Fall Apart. Now, it’s time to reappraise our... Read More

Learning from Conflict
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From time to time, we reprint essays that capture an important feature of Cooperative Wisdom. In this essay, Belinda Noyes explores what we call Deep Discernment, the process of understanding what really matters–both to ourselves... Read More

A Few Words about Catastrophic Molting
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(Photo first appeared on Elephant Seal Notes. Used by permission of nature4peace.) The little seal didn’t look good.  The first time I passed it on the beach, I didn’t even see it because it resembled... Read More

Tips for Communicating in Contentious Times
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How to Communicate Effectively in Polarized Political Environments. That was the timely topic for the March meeting of the Santa Barbara chapter of the Association of Women in Communications earlier this month. Co-author, Carolyn Jabs,... Read More

Taking Heart
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From time to time, we ask permission to share essays by people whose experience gives them unique insight into Cooperative Wisdom. This essay by Cynthia Zanti Jabs seems especially appropriate for February, a month when... Read More

Super Bowl Wisdom
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On Sunday, millions of Americans will be united in watching the Super Bowl. Across divisions of income, politics, ethnic background and even gender, people will gather with friends and family to devour nachos, comment on... Read More

Honoring Carson’s Courage
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A new documentary on Rachel Carson is showing on PBS stations this January. Presented by the American Experience, the program honors Rachel Carson’s courage as a “woman whose writings revolutionized how we understand our relationship... Read More

Respecting King’s Dream
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Many Americans will celebrate Martin Luther King Day this month.  Much has changed since King proclaimed his dream at the Lincoln Memorial in 1963, but the resonance of a true celebration is in its contemporary... Read More

Wise Resolutions for a New Year
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The end-of-year holidays call people out of their usual routines.  For most of us, it’s an opportunity for gratitude and reflection.  We spend time with family and friends. We enjoy moments of celebration and happiness.... Read More

Seeking Sustainable Peace
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During the holidays, many people reflexively wish for “Peace on Earth”.  The message shows up on old-fashioned Christmas cards, social media memes and television ads that feature softly lit windows or snow falling gently in... Read More

Secrets of Collaboration
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A version of this essay first appeared in ASJA Magazine, a publication of the American Society of Journalists and Authors. Like most freelancers, I’m accustomed to writing alone.  Of course, I do interviews and I’m... Read More

Discernment at the Dinner Table
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Many people are dreading holiday meals. In the wake of the recent election, they fear that conversations about politics will become contentious and angry. Major newspapers like the New York Times, the Washington Post and... Read More

After the Election…
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No matter what happens next week, one thing is certain. After the election, our country will need Cooperative Wisdom to recover from an especially corrosive campaign. Regardless of who wins, there will be a change... Read More

A Cooperative Feast for Sister Cities
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It was a cooperative feast.  Edamame and guacamole, savory meatballs and delicate sushi rolls, deviled eggs and spicy chicken wings, olive bread and kale salad, cellophane noodles and Turkish delight. Santa Barbara has seven sister... Read More

Finding Cooperative Partners at Intersections
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Churches. Retirement Communities. Franchise Businesses.   At first glance, it doesn’t seem as though they have much in common.  But look more closely. All of these institutions make long-term investments in real property.  Driving down the... Read More

Finding Solutions to Insoluble Problems
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Cooperative Wisdom describes five principles, social virtues if you will, that are highly effective in finding solutions for problems that seem insoluble. One of the earliest demonstrations of the power of these virtues in my... Read More

Recycling 101: Lessons in Cooperative Wisdom
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Every fall thousands of students migrate from home to campus, leaving in their wake millions of boxes and packing containers.  This year, at Bowling Green State University, residents of one campus learning community introduced newcomers... Read More

The Power of What If
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In Cooperative Wisdom, one of the essential social virtues is Intentional Imagination.  When we face problems that are likely to result in conflict, we can often change the dynamic by challenging premises.   One of the... Read More

Intentional Imagination and the Power Grid
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Cooperative Wisdom starts with the understanding that environments, both natural and social, are always changing.   The changes may be rapid and obvious; they may be slow and subtle. In both cases, Cooperative Wisdom directs us,... Read More

The Power of Community Solar
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Editor’s Note: We are very happy to have this guest post about community solar from David Dwyer, President of American Renewable Energy.  Dwyer will speak at the Building Big Solar in Ohio conference to be... Read More

Honoring the Solar Nun
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Editor’s Note: There will be a short tribute to Sister Gonzalez before the 4:30 panel discussion led by Dr. Scherer at the Building Big Solar Conference to be held on August 25 in Bowling Green... Read More

Elon Musk and the DC Dividend
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When Elon Musk combined SolarCity Corp. with Tesla Motors Inc., he created an integrated renewable energy company.  Not only can he sell solar panels to homes and businesses around the world, he can also sell... Read More

Finding Our Way Through Fog
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The other morning, I stepped out the front door and realized that I was standing directly under the dividing line between clouds and clear sky. If I turned one way, I saw dense fog. If... Read More

What Jazz Really Teaches Students
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By Guest Blogger, Dan Schunks, Director, Mineral Area College Kicks Band Concert This has been a difficult summer. The divisions and fault lines in our country have become more obvious, exacerbated in many cases by... Read More

The Power of Specialized Perspective
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When faced by conflict, most people wonder what they can do to make things better. This can be a complicated question. Most of us have highly specific knowledge about a relatively narrow part of the... Read More

“Look for the Helpers”
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  “Look for the helpers.  There’s always someone trying to help.”  That’s the advice Fred Rogers got from his mother many years before he became a beloved figure on children’s television. It’s comforting to children,... Read More

Getting Beyond Blame
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Most people sincerely try to be good. They work hard. They make themselves trustworthy by honoring commitments and keeping promises. They try to uphold their bargains. And yet problems, often serious problems, still occur. Think... Read More

“The Dumbest Kid in the World”
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A boy walks into a barber shop. “This is the dumbest kid in the world,” whispers the barber to the customer in his chair. “Watch. I’ll prove it to you.” The barber holds a dollar... Read More

When Referees Won’t Help
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People often see conflict as something that requires a referee, someone who can reliably decide what’s right and what’s wrong. That may be true in sports. But, in other settings, picking winners and losers doesn’t... Read More

Over Countless Cups of Coffee
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Cooperative Wisdom began with a conversation. A “mature learner” found herself in a seminar being taught by an emeritus professor. He had developed an interesting approach to conflict resolution. She wanted to know more. When... Read More