Core design principles for nurturing organization-level selection

Dynamic relationships between individuals and groups have been a focus for evolutionary theorists and modelers for decades. Among evolutionists, selfish gene theory promotes reductionist approaches while multilevel selection theory encourages a context-sensitive approach that appreciates that individuals and groups can both matter. Among economists, a comparable contrast is found wherein the reductionist shareholder primacy theory most associated with Nobel laureate Milton Friedman is very different from the context-sensitive focus on managing common resources that Nobel laureate Elinor Ostrom pioneered. In this article, we examine whether the core design principles that Ostrom advanced can cultivate selection at supra-individual levels across different domains. We show that Ostrom’s design principles that were forged in the context of managing natural resources are associated with positive outcomes for human social groups across a variety of functional domains.

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