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"Cooperation can thrive in an uncertain world"

Cooperation increases in an environment where the risk of disasters and setbacks is substantial shows the research of Marijane Luistro Jonsson. 

Interview by Emilie Eliasson Hövmöller, published March 2016.

Misum researcher Marijane Luistro Jonsson explores different angles within the area of cooperation in her dissertation “Cooperating for Sustainability – Experiments on Uncertainty, Conditional Cooperation and Inequality”. The dissertation focuses on the behavioral dimension of collaborations for sustainability.

-  I conduct research in the field of cooperation as it is a critical aspect when addressing the challenges of sustainable development. A deeper understanding of human behavior is critical for the successful implementation of solutions for sustainability, says Marijane Luistro Jonsson.

In the dissertation, Marijane Luistro Jonsson uses experiments to examine cooperation. In the experiments one pays a cost for others to receive a benefit. The results show that contributions are always greater under uncertain conditions. Cooperation tends to increase when we do not know when a disaster will occur, if we do not know how much we will lose, and if we do not know what level of cooperation is needed to avoid disaster. Contributions are also greater if some members of the group have more to contribute than others.

- The results are encouraging because they show that when the risk of being exposed to disasters is high, this is a driving force for cooperation. However, the experiment shows that receiving information on the degree of probability of a disaster is important in order for cooperation to increase, no matter how meagre that information is, says Marijane Luistro Jonsson.

Marijane Luistro Jonssonbelieves that sustainability is a lifestyle and mindset that considers long-term sustenance and the inter-relatedness of environmental, social and economic systems.

Sustainable markets refer to systems of production and consumption that promote and consider sustainability. Examples include markets that are based on business models to reduce waste or markets that support the marginalized and voiceless.

However, Marijane emphasizes some key challenges in achieving sustainable markets.

It is hard to change the mindset and behavior of people in general, regardless of their background. There is little understanding on how we can transform behavior in the long-term. Awareness and willingness does not automatically lead to action.

In this respect, effective cooperation between key institutions in society can be an important driver of behavioral change.  

I believe that the conclusions of my research also apply to the world in general, that cooperation will indeed thrive in times of uncertainty and disasters. In times of climate change and migration crises, cooperation between organizations within the public, private and civil sector will be more important than ever, says Marijane Luistro Jonsson.