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13.06 Sustainable cooperation for resilient societies: synthesis of social mechanisms

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SCOOP post doc project

Department of Sociology, University of Groningen

Resilient societies are able to maintain high levels of care, work, and inclusion, despite the challenges posed by changing circumstances. In the ten year long transdisciplinary research program SCOOP we depart from the idea that a key component in the potential of societies to achieve this resilience is their ability to sustain cooperation within and between families, organizations, and communities.

However, cooperation is difficult to sustain over time. Cooperation in one area (in organizations) can undermine it in another (the family). There can be undesirable consequences, for instance for individuals not involved. Also, the conditions on which cooperation was established can change. Whereas much is known about what helps cooperation to get started, so far much less is known about what makes cooperation sustainable.

SCOOP aims to identify the secrets of sustainable cooperation and to elucidate its effects on care, work, and inclusion. Currently, almost 80 PhD and postdoc projects have been started or finished that address the puzzle of sustainable cooperation and resilient societies. Now the first projects have ended, the challenge of theoretical synthesis arises. Through the proposed post doctoral project, we aim to contribute to this synthesis challenge by extracting from the finished and ongoing research shared social mechanisms that explain sustainable cooperation and its relation to resilient societies. 

SCOOP’s analytical framework is informed by a social mechanism approach, which stresses the importance of explicating the processes through which collective level phenomena affect and are affected by individual level processes  (Coleman 1994, Hedström & Swedberg 1998, Hedström & Ylikoski 2010). The SCOOP program centers around - though is not limited to - three important cooperation mechanisms as they have been developed by social identity, social network, and goal framing theories. SCOOP scholars and others have applied these mechanisms to model the sustainability and decay of cooperation and value creation in the institutional domains of care, inclusion and work. Particular attention is paid to cooperation processes within and between organizations, communities and families (the “meso level” of society), and how value creation may be undermined by exogenous and endogenous threats.

The main objective of the proposed postdoc project is to contribute to SCOOP’s ambition for theoretical synthesis. In order to realize this objective, the project proceeds in three steps. In a first step, per dissertation, it builds an inventory of proposed explanations of sustainable cooperation and value creation. In a second step, it systematically reconstructs each explanation by explicating the situational, action generating and transformation mechanisms and the related assumptions. In a third step, the social mechanism explanations of the selected studies are compared in order to detect regularities and differences across institutional domains, meso-level entities, and sustainability threats. Qualitative meta-analysis seems to be a valuable approach (Habersang et al. 2019) but the project coordinators are open to other approaches to achieve theoretical synthesis. 

Examples of finished SCOOP dissertations 

Piet Groot

Kasper Otten

Carlos de Matos Fernandes

Francisca Wals

Marlou Raemakers


Coleman, J. S. (1994). Foundations of social theory. Harvard university press.

Habersang, S., Küberling-Jost, J., Reihlen, M., & Seckler, C. (2019). A Process Perspective on Organizational Failure: A Qualitative Meta-Analysis. Journal of Management Studies, 56(1), 19–56.

Hedström, P., & Swedberg, R. (Eds.). (1998). Social mechanisms: An analytical approach to social theory. Cambridge University Press.

Hedström, P., & Ylikoski, P. (2010). Causal mechanisms in the social sciences. Annual review of sociology, 36, 49-67.

Wittek, R. (2022). Reputation Traps: Social Evaluation and Governance Failures. Sociologica, 16(2), 75-102.

Ylikoski, P. (2021). Understanding the Coleman boat. Research handbook on analytical sociology, 49-63.