What is Cooperation? You may find different definitions, like pursuing the same goal, helping each other or following rules and requests by others. Feel free to believe in the one that resonate with you most. We compared many of them and the one we chose was based on the idea that cooperation is an action and a feeling of mutual enjoyment: "Cooperation is acting together neutrally with mutual enjoyment."

Cooperation is not linear and simple as it seems. It needs special contexts: social ecosystems in which, according to our scientific model, seven conditions are met.


Equivalence is the first, most simple condition of cooperation. Everyone of us is different, and the idea of being equal seems right but in reality it is not. If I am short, I shouldn’t eat the same meal as people that are half meter taller than me. I wouldn’t need that much food and they would need more than mine.
A bigger meal for a tall individual is equivalent to a standard meal for a shorter individual. Kids may eat more sweets than adults, but should eat a lot less wine. Diabetics may want the same sweets as their kids, but alas, they know it wouldn't be a good choice. And so on: individuals and their differences should be considered for equivalent benefits, not equal ones, in order to live equivalent lives.


Cooperation is different from altruism, solidarity and donation where we see a “recipient” that simply “gets” in a one-way action. It is easy to say that if you follow only your personal benefit, you are in the world of egoism. Sometimes, instead, you are only focused on giving and you forget about yourself. Cooperation is an equilibrium of the two, a situation in which you're selfish while being altruist -and feel happy about it.
As described in the proportions page, a simple selfish or altruistic attitude is linear, it goes directly to the point, not being aware of the ecosystem (people, environment, space). Cooperative behavior is complex: it is way more than the simple idea of giving or getting.


You may enjoy food, a new car, and also a good friendship. There are two main balances to be respected: an equivalence of benefits, that happens when you get equivalent goods, services or valuables as the other participants, and an equivalence of relations, in which you are as averagely happy as the other participants are.
Cooperation happens therefore when both equivalences are met, the first one is good, it is called a win-win, but it is not enough. Cooperation is not a mere goods and services exchange, but a relational exchange too.


Trust is part of our evolution. In neuroscience, trust is represented by the probability, based on similar or past events, that an interaction will be pleasurable or give pleasurable results, called rewards. Rewards can be intrinsic, like something you personally like to do, or extrinsic, like when you like money because then you will do something you like with it. When your rewards are mainly extrinsic, you start to lose your native personality. You may even build up two contrasting personalities.
Trust is similar. We may trust people or events, and in the specific our trust in people may be intrinsic, when we like them, and extrinsic, when we trust them according to the functionality they have for us and the advantages they provide. The difference is well known: sometimes we trust people we don't like just because they usually give us specific benefits.


In the common language, and according to the different cultures, the word indicates both emotive trust and reliability. If I trust your values, your emotions, your personality, I trust in you. If you are reliable, I can count on you. So I can "emotively trust" you even if you are unreliable, because you are a person I "resonate with". And I can count on you even if you’re not a friend of mine, or even someone I don't like: you are a reliable person. These two kinds of trust are probably connected with the real and relational benefits we discussed in the equivalence page.


What is the opposite of trust? When we are betrayed we tend to feel anger and a desire of damaging the person we thought was worth of trust. But why? Because the opposite of trust is fear, and fear brings to anger or terror.
In punitive social systems, like dictatorship and totalitarianism, or those based on benefits and performance, like extreme capitalism and money-making-based social systems, the high risks damage intrinsic trust and generate high levels of extrinsic trust. We look for friends who can give us benefits, not happiness, because without benefits we may be excluded from the system. Systemic thinking approach is highly needed to evaluate trust in a group, a community or in a nation. Trust is very important, because when people are afraid or mistrust others, conflicts may arise quite often. We need to feel safe while doing things together!


The condition of "care" is related to coordination and ecosystems. When we receive services, like when we take a bus or a taxi, when our nations give us healthcare or educational facilities, when our families fulfill some of our needs or desires, we receive care. That is coordinating something needed by you and something needed by others.


Caring for others is a form of complex thinking that is able to generate mutual enjoyment. Usually care is not perceived as something fun or productive, but everyone of us needs and likes to receive attention. When respect and esteem are shared amongst everyone, productivity levels raise and even fun is better.


Those interactions where there are common benefits but there is lack of respect or care can not be considered a cooperation: there are negative services that cut down the benefits and tend towards progressive damage or long-term loss.
Unhealthy workplaces and local or global environment, psychological dependencies, absence of meritocracy, mobbing or in the worst cases violence can’t lead to a mutual enjoyment.
This reflects into environmental approaches that take care of the whole ecosystem: humans, animals, plants, the whole planet and far beyond.


Honesty is regarded as one of the most important values in many cultural contexts. Nevertheless, truth is difficult to say and difficult to receive: it should be communicated with the right words and the right attitude.


When transparency ends, frauds, hoaxes or reticence are a good example of apparent reliable collaboration that in reality is driven only by selfishness. If you have nothing to hide, why not being transparent?


Do we want to know the truth to learn and take account of it or we want to know it in order to punish others? Behind the exchange of truth there’s a great deal of acceptance. Most of us don’t say what they think just because they are afraid of the consequences. Only accepting the diversity of others we can know the reality behind the appearances. Being honest and transparent seems hard, but it is one of the ways in which you can change the world and your same personal life.


We can say there’s collaboration even in slavery, imposition or manipulation, as people effectively do something together. Lack of personal freedom, and absence of a personal choice in the collaborative interaction make it impossible to transform it into a cooperation: there won’t be enjoyment for every participant.


It is natural to find high levels of aggression and competition in contexts where there’s imposition or forced behaviour. On the other side, in contexts where cooperation is prevalent, the freedom of choice is wide, and the enjoyment is high.


One of the most important expressions of freedom isn’t the possibility to enact anything we have in mind, but an adequate, equivalent personal space and access to services for everyone.
The idea of a Design Democracy, for example, coordinates diversity giving to everyone’s idea the right space to be expressed and funded. The same idea is at the base of Cooperacy. Are you ready to give everyone their right space and enjoy your own?


When - due to diversity - the linguistic, behavioural, and cultural codes are different or unknown by the individuals, with no presence of common background that can act as a bridge, the possible and desired cooperation collapses into conflict.


Conflictual collaboration is a form of collaboration highly distributed in groups with a lack of transparency, very low information flow, or simply social and cultural diversity which is not accepted or even worse that is forced into orthodoxy or uniformity.


How do we create bridges then? Integrating and explaining the different cultures, personalities and habits. Learning the beauty of a different way to interpret the reality and enjoying the pleasure of the difference. While religions, traditions and languages may be different, values like love, respect, safety or concepts like friendship, children, motherhood can be strong common codes upon which we can build cross-diversity understanding. Enhancing empathy, the special common code of feelings, we can generate deep comprehension, leading everyone feel accepted and part of the community.


Cooperation is different from fanaticism and homologation, where every individual must conform to a unique idea, lifestyle, cult, imagery or human mechanisation, with standardised jobs and life dynamics like workers in the industrial revolution factories or peasants in feudal times or under large landowners control.


Anthropologically mankind reached high levels of survival and wealth also thanks to the natural tendency to pursue and develop different personal skills, generating the possibility to have more roles and functions for every participant of the community. Probably we are the most diverse and role-differentiated creatures on earth.


The acknowledgement of different personalities and roles in the community is needed to create a good climate: when individuals have their identity respected by the group they accomplish great common results leading to community-wide advantages.