Road to Solutions — Cooperation Science

Active Research


Researchers at the Mitchell Center use cooperation science to improve the search for sustainable solutions. Cooperation is a core component of all human societies, and understanding cooperation dynamics can help us build sustainable societies and just institutions. We use cooperation science to help make effective teams, beneficial collaborations, and durable solutions to social and environmental problems. This research is led by Tim Waring, Associate Professor in the School of Economics and Faculty Fellow at the Mitchell Center.

Cooperation and Sustainability
Dr. Waring leads a national network to applying the science of cooperation to the study of social-ecological sustainability. This research effort seeks to improve understanding of human cooperation, and to apply cooperation science to solve pressing social and environmental problems. Mitchell Center researchers have developed a framework for apply cooperation science to sustainability challenges. Theoretical tests of the framework show that sustainable and cooperative societies can emerge via group cultural evolution. Sustainability case studies around the world are revealing how cooperation science gives us a deeper understanding of how solutions emerge.


Mitchell Center Articles



Sustainability Science recently published a Special Feature on using cultural evolution to improve sustainability science. Waring co-authored several of the papers included in the special feature. Access it at:

Past Projects

Knowledge – Action
Knowledge – Action Collaborative
Maine’s universities and colleges produce knowledge that can help communities solve sustainability challenges, but oftentimes, this knowledge isn’t used. The Knowledge to Action (K-A) Collaborative at the University of Maine is studying ways to better align university research with community needs and improve collaboration between researchers and stakeholders on key sustainability challenges throughout the state…

Socio-Ecological Systems
SES Synergy: Finding and Applying Best Practices in Socio-ecological Systems Modeling and Outreach
SSI research studies coupled socio-ecological systems (SES) to advance knowledge about sustainability and action toward it. However, because teams and study systems vary across the portfolio, SES modeling approaches also vary significantly.  This methodological diversity provides a rare opportunity to gather lessons on how to best employ SES models within a solutions-driven sustainability science program…

Organizational Innovation
System Analysis of SSI: Navigating Perspectives, Paradigms and Problemscapes
SSI aims to bring together faculty members in interdisciplinary teams to solve sustainability problems with stakeholders. This complex system is both embedded within other institutional, geographic, social, ecological, and economic systems, and encompasses many other complex systems including stakeholder, scientific, social, other institutional systems…