Lexicon of cooperation

Systems thinking

I’ve just been revising a contract we use for websites we build and so having to deal with one of my pet annoyances. I don’t like contracts. They’re boring, stop me doing the fun stuff of work, and seem to spend more time building walls than bridges. The point is that you’re working together, surely?

Of course I know why we have contracts. It’s for when it something goes wrong, or there’s something new, or one party gets over-excited and asks for more than was understood at the beginning, and so on.

But they always seem to be written in such a way that doesn’t embrace and work with the fact that you’re working together for mutual benefit. There may be differences along the way, but the key point is that you’re both going to be better of working together.

(I suspect mankind may be in a more civil position had Darwin highlighted symbiosis and cooperation as equally vital aspects of life, and given us a working vocabulary with which to discuss and use the concepts, as well as bequeathing us the contagious, yet brutal, meme of “survival of the fittest”.)

Maybe I’m just contractophobic, and others have a far more civil and welcoming approach to contracts, but I’d like a contract which:

  • Makes it clear we’re starting from a position of trust
  • Deliberate does not try to pre-empt all eventualities (and is therefore shorter)
  • Provides a framework for getting things back on track
  • Provides a framework for wrapping things up as amicably as possible, should it come to that stage
  • Is written in clear, straightforward, English of largely Anglo-Saxon (not Latin) origin
  • Uses a lexicon of cooperation and advancement in place of limitations and thresholds

I’ll drop the Creative Commons folk a line to see if they have any ideas. Meantime, please comment!

Ed Dowding

Ed Dowding

Founder, strategist, writer, gadfly, TED talker, world-record holder, and (foolishly) reality-TV farmer. DOES: Innovation, Product, Advocacy THINKS: Regenerative Systems, Institution design, 300 year horizons


  1. I remembered a TED talk by Barry Schwartz. He put it well. Much of our arrangements in life are dealt with by ‘rules’ or ‘incentives’. These leave no room for exercise of moral will or moral skill, and whilst preventing disaster they instead encourage mediocrity.

    People want to be virtuous.

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