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Sociocracy: What Is Sociocracy?

Updated: Apr 6, 2023

Sociocracy is a dynamic system for organisations of all types from schools to businesses large and small to organise themselves efficiently, effectively and with minimal hierarchy. If you're pressed for time or prefer video learning, you might want to have a quick look at one of these videos. The first is 20 minutes and the second is a 4 minute micro presentation. Everyone else, read on to find out why we need it and how it works.

20 mins.

Why Sociocracy Is Essential for Community Engagement.

In today's world, community engagement has become more important than ever before. With diverse voices and differing opinions, we need effective ways to ensure everyone feels empowered and heard. This is where Sociocracy comes in - an innovative approach to decision-making that allows everyone's voice to be heard and valued equally. In this blog post, we'll explore why sociocracy is essential for community engagement, how it works, why we need it and the benefits it can bring to any organization or group looking for a more inclusive way of making decisions. So sit back, grab a cup of coffee (or tea!), and get ready to learn all about how Sociocracy can empower everyone's voice!

4 mins.

First, Do We Really Need A Governance System?

These days many of us have experienced a great diminishment of our trust in governMENT, a word meaning control of the “ment” or mind. Our growing lack of trust in these traditional structures comes in part from their “power over” people approach and has led some to want to ditch anything that even smells faintly like system of control.

We totally understand and in the NeighbourGood personal sovereignty is held as a high value priority. At the same time, we also value efficiency, effectiveness and being able to live and work together in harmony. Therefore, we have looked for a system that balances these priorities. Sociocracy is the best most adaptable fit we have found so far.

Nature’s Principles: New Governance Is Like A River

You may wonder why we need any kind of system. Isn’t freedom paramount? The answer is: yes. Think of the NeighbourGood or indeed the larger world as a river. The river is composed of banks, a bed and water flowing through it.

The riverbed and banks create the structure through which the water flows and determine its direction. That direction may change with the seasons based on rainfall and landscape. Regardless of the direction, the water continues to flow. But without the riverbanks, there is no flow. That means there is no river. It becomes a lake or nothing at all. It stagnates and dies.

In our communities the riverbanks are the governance structures we agree to and create according to our own sovereign choices. The water represents our wairua, our mission, our ideas, our to-dos, goals and ambitions. The water needs to be held and guided by our collective will and our collective will needs to be channeled towards its goals. The river needs to change course with the ever changing needs of the people.

Traditional Structures vs Sociocracy

In traditional models, the riverbanks didn’t get to change. The systems we created were and are too rigid. How often are we told we can’t do something completely logical because it isn’t “policy”? This is insane and creates internal dissonance and ongoing low level resentment for those delivering the message and those receiving it. It is part of what has given organisational structure its bad name.

Now people are waking up to the idea that we CAN change the policies and even go further and completely redesign the whole system and we don’t need anyone’s permission to do so.

Enter socicocracy - a way to make decisions by harnessing the wisdom of the crowd in ways that honor the need for the river to alter course and adjust the flow based on the needs of the moment. In other words, sociocracy honors people and place first not the system.

What Is The Difference Between Sociocracy and Democracy?

Sociocracy is a system of governance that allows for everyone's voices to be heard and respected equally. It is based on the principle of consent, and takes a more holistic and inclusive approach to decision-making than democracy where majority rules.

How Does Sociocracy Work?

Three basic principles underlying this system are:

Efficacy - Efficient flows of information and action.

Transparency - All actions and meeting notes are made available for everyone to access at any time.

Equivalence - All stakeholders hold equal status but not equal decision-making. See operations vs policy decisions for more on this.

Consent vs Consensus

Simply put, consensus requires all to come to agreement that the proposed solution is the best while consent has criteria that have a lower bar to be met and result in faster decisions and the ability to iterate faster.

Basics of Sociocratic Consent

In sociocracy, consent is given based on these criteria:

  1. Is it good enough for now?

    • A reasonable time for re-evaluating the proposed solution is set so that we can try out the solution and change it easily.

    • Iteration and forward momentum happen with ease.

  2. Is it safe enough to try?

    • To determine safety we ask if this solution might interfere with us achieving our aims or harm in some other way.

  3. Is it within my range of tolerance?

    • I may not get my ideal or even best preferred option, but can I live with this solution for the agreed time before we re-evaluate?

How Are Objections Managed In Sociocracy

Objections are based on being able to show that the organisation’s aims would be adversely affected by actioning a specific proposal. An objection cannot be simply a person’s preference. If a circle member is strongly opposed to an idea there is gold in their objection.

The circle and the proposal may be able to glean information and new insights from listening and processing the objections and adjusting the proposal.

Lady giving proposal to group of people

Organisational Structure: Circles and Roles

Circles are formed with clear roles, aims and domains. The roles are filled by an open, heart-filled election process lead by circle members rather than being appointed by someone "higher up". Basic roles are: operational leader, facilitator, secretary and delegates. The aims are the goals of the circle, what the circle produces. The domains are the actions needing to be undertaken in order to achieve the goals and they are comprise the areas the circle has autonomous management over.

Delegates are circle members tasked with attending meetings in other related circles where a flow of information back and forth is needed. Delegate flows and relationships between circles are represented by double lines in the diagram which is meant as an example only of how we might organise in our NeighbourGood.

Operations vs Policy Decision-Making

In a sociocratic system, all voices are considered and no one person has more power than another. This makes it an ideal system for community engagement, as it ensures that all members of the community have a say in decisions that affect them.

At the same time, in sociocracy we differentiate between day to day operational decisions which need to happen quickly and be made by the most qualified person, the circle elected operational leader, vs policy decisions which need deeper consideration and a group process to create, as well as consent of the members.

Each circle creates its own basic policies that are reported back to the general circle. General circle is tasked with the overview of the organisation and making policies that affect the whole organisation. Circle meetings can be attended by any member.

How To Make Decisions In Sociocracy

Policy decisions are made using two main processes: proposal generation and the consent process. More on these anothe time. They are powerful and effective at creating meaningful, well thought out policies. Initially it might take time, but it's worth it.

Operational decisions feel more like a traditional power structure with the difference that the operational leader is elected by the circle members rather than appointed from above. The operational leader does not have power over others; instead she is trusted by her circle members to make good decisions.

Sociocracy: Benefits of Sociocracy in Communities

Sociocracy is a system of governance that gives everyone an equal say in decision-making. It is based on the principle of collective intelligence, which posits that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. This means that decisions made through sociocracy are more likely to be successful because they reflect the will of the entire community.

There are many benefits to implementing sociocracy in communities. Perhaps most importantly, it encourages engagement and participation from all members of the community. This ensures that everyone feels like they have a stake in the decisions being made, which can help to build consensus and avoid conflict. Additionally, sociocracy fosters transparency and accountability, as all decisions are made openly and with input from everyone involved. Finally, since sociocracy relies on collective intelligence, it tends to produce better results than traditional hierarchical systems of governance.

Challenges of Implementing Sociocracy: Strategies for Overcoming Them

When implementing sociocracy, one of the challenges is that some people may be resistant to change. The way we've always done things may not seem broken to them, so why fix it? Also, some people may feel like they are losing power or control under a sociocratic system. They may not be used to having an equal say in decisions, and may not be comfortable with that.

To overcome these challenges, it is important to educate those involved about the benefits of sociocracy and how it can help everyone have a voice in decisions. It is also important to be patient and understand that change takes time. Implementing sociocracy will require a commitment from everyone involved, but the results will be worth it!

Communities Who Have Successfully Used the Sociocratic model

The Sociocratic method has been used with great success by a variety of communities, including schools, businesses, and governments. Here are a few examples of how this model has helped empower everyone's voice within these different types of organizations:

1. The town of pioneers in the Netherlands transitioned to sociocracy in order to give everyone an equal say in decisions that affect the community. This change has resulted in more openness and communication between residents, leading to a more cohesive society overall.

2. A group of parents in Massachusetts started using sociocracy when they realized that traditional methods of school governance were not meeting the needs of all stakeholders. Through this new system, they were able to create a more inclusive environment where all voices could be heard and valued equally.

3. The state government of Ohio implemented sociocracy in order to increase citizen engagement and participation in the democratic process. This type of community-based participatory governance has led to greater transparency and accountability from elected officials, and has helped build a stronger sense of community among Ohioans.

Closing Thoughts and Conclusion

Sociocracy is a governance system that emphasizes equality, inclusivity, and consent. It aims to empower everyone's voice by ensuring that everyone has an equal say in decision-making. It is essential for community engagement because it ensures that all voices are heard and that all stakeholders have a stake in the outcome of decisions. Sociocracy also encourages transparency and accountability, which are key principles of good governance.

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