Selected Works

Five virtues that dissolve conflict, restore good will, build common purpose and help people thrive--in business, government, volunteer organizations, faith communities, schools and families.
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Cooperative Wisdom

Why, despite their best efforts, do good people find themselves in conflict? Cooperative Wisdom: Bringing People Together When Things Fall Apart introduces a unique approach to ethics that consistently dissolves conflict, restores good will, builds common purpose and helps people thrive. Gleaned from years of scholarship, this insightful approach to conflict resolution is effective in boardrooms and family rooms, classrooms and committees, faith communities and government agencies.

Written as a spirited exchange between an acclaimed philosopher and an inquisitive journalist Cooperative Wisdom has the energetic, inviting feel of a great conversation. In his long and distinguished career as an environmental ethicist, Dr. Donald Scherer studied the human virtues that make sustainability more likely in natural and social environment. In their collaboration, award-winning journalist, Carolyn Jabs, asks the tough and pointed questions a smart reader would raise. The resulting book distills a lifetime of research and analysis into practical principles that crack open stubborn problems and reveal cooperative solutions to persistent conflicts.

Cooperative Wisdom starts with the observation that human beings flourish in settings where cooperation produces mutual benefits. That’s why people put so much effort into creating strong marriages, resilient families, robust associations, responsible companies, progressive communities and effective government. When change threatens these systems, people find themselves in conflict even though they sincerely tried to do the right thing.

Cooperative Wisdom explains three ways cooperation can unravel, especially in large, complex or highly technical settings: specialization creates gaps in responsibility, changes in scale introduce unanticipated problems, cooperative efforts that create genuine benefits for some create harms for others. All of these circumstances threaten the kinds of cooperation that are critical to human happiness.

The heart of Cooperative Wisdom introduces readers to five social virtues, habits of thought and action that sustain cooperation, despite change and conflict.

• Proactive compassion anticipates and responds to vulnerability.
• Deep discernment uncovers bedrock values.
• Intentional imagination expands our sense of what’s possible.
• Inclusive integrity reworks cooperative structures so everyone can thrive.
• Creative courage embraces the risks of engagement.

Over the years, Dr. Scherer has witnessed the power of these five social virtues. Both he and the students he has trained have found them to be effective in a wide range of personal, social, political and environmental settings.

Rooted in rigorous ethical thinking, Cooperative Wisdom is highly readable. For each of the social virtues, the book recommends three practical strategies that will help readers harness the power of the virtues. Readers gain insight into how these practices work through engaging examples drawn from history, current events, family life, and even scripture.

Cooperative Wisdom will appeal to anyone frustrated by disruptive change and disputes that seem to have no solution. The social virtues described in this book open up promising possibilities where there seemed to be nothing but dead ends. By providing clear and practical guidance that expands our understanding of what it means to be and do good in a complex world, Cooperative Wisdom equips readers to respond constructively to change, transcend intractable conflict and strengthen the communities on which our well-being depends.