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Sociocracy is a visionary and practical approach to participatory decision making based on equivalence of power of all participants. It is based on creating self-optimizing systems that are effective and productive. The principles and practices were developed by Gerard Endenburg based on:

  • Modern management theory and practices
  • Quaker traditions of peace education and the valuing of each person
  • Cybernetics, the science of communications and control

Some are drawn to the sociocratic circle method or dynamic governance simply because it is based on the best science available and others because it implements the values of the Quaker tradition: integrity, equality, community, simplicity, and peace.

The term Sociocracy means governance by the “socios” – those who work together. Sociocracy is an effective alternative, on the one hand, to organizational control by investors, boards of directors and top management, and on the other hand, to the size limitations often found in collectives and cooperatives.

What follows is a description of Sociocracy by Perri Ardman and John Buck found at http://legacyfarmcohousing.com/sociocracy.html. Sociocracy is frequently used in the cohousing movement.

Sociocracy is a method of organization and decision-making that has reached our shores from Holland. It adapts Quaker egalitarian principles to the operation of secular organizations. Sociocracy provides a way to give and receive leadership while remaining peers. It gives a voice to everyone involved in a decision, creating social equality even in a hierarchical structure. Full transparency is another attractive aspect of Sociocracy. Sociocracy is an organic process, mimicking nature in its reliance on the circle form and continuous feedback loop.

In the US, Sociocracy is being used in the cohousing movement as a way of self-governance and decision-making. It is based on four organizing principles:

A circle is a group of people who have a common aim or function and who interact with one another to achieve their common goal. Each person in the circle has a voice that cannot be ignored in the decision-making process.

In an organization, a circle might be a department or a group of people who all share a function – such as managers of a certain type. In a Sociocratic support circle for individuals, those in the circle aim to assist one another in achieving personal or professional goals, overcoming challenges, or solving problems.

Majority rule is a frequently used method for making group decisions. With majority rule, you can get a group decision pretty quickly, and you end up with winners and losers.

Autocratic rule means that one person makes decisions for the group. It’s efficient (a good thing) and vulnerable to manipulation and exploitation (not a good thing).

Consensus is another method often used, especially in non-profits or community groups, and it builds commitment and buy-in. However, in practice, anyone in the group can block, effectively giving just one person veto power.

In the consent process, anyone can voice a reasoned and paramount objection to a proposal. This provides an opportunity to rework proposals in an organic way until a proposal is within everyone’s range of acceptability. It is both a natural process (you can even make a consent decision with your car) and one that requires training.

Other decision-making methods are acceptable in Sociocracy, with the consent of the circle. Consent makes it easier to take advantage of the positive aspects of other methods.

The circle decides what, if any, roles need to be filled, and describes the jobs. Each member then nominates someone to fill the position, and gives the reasons for the nomination. After hearing all of the nominations, members may revise their nominations. This process continues until someone is elected with the consent of all.

In a Sociocratic organization, two people from a circle — the functional leader and an elected representative — represent that circle to the next highest circle.

In a Sociocratic support circle whose aim is to help individuals achieve their own goals, the individual is considered the smallest circle. The next highest circle would vary according to the individual. It might be the “Growing Me” group, your family, colleagues, employer, health care providers, fitness instructors, teachers, landlord, or even your own calendar. The double link might be activated by means of support buddies elected by the circle.

The book We the People: Consenting to a Deeper Democracy, by John Buck and Sharon Villines, is the first comprehensive presentation of the history and theoretical foundations of sociocracy by English-speaking authors. It includes personal narratives by the authors of their discovery of sociocracy, a history of its development as a practical application by Gerard Endenburg, extensive discussion of how the principles and methods are used in organizations, and “how to” chapters.

Resource Link: www.sociocracy.info

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