Circle of Last Resort

Circle of Last Resort

In the cohousing community where I live, some of us are grappling with the question: What if we have an important decision that we can’t resolve? What if circles try but can’t reach consent? Of course, they can refer a question to a linked circle, but what if they can’t decide either?

This dilemma is sometimes called ‘The Top Circle Problem,’ a known issue in sociocracy. However, in our discussion we realized that ‘Top Circle’ is problematic because it indicates a top-down approach.

So I am suggesting ‘Circle of Last Resort’ as a name for that circle in an organization — and it’s attendant policies — designed to ultimately decide, to break a stalemate. I imagine there are many ways to set this up and an array of policies that could be developed. However, it seems important for any sociocratic organization to have a plan.

‘Circle of Last Resort’ seems more compatible with a circular hierarchy where everyone is accountable to everyone else in a linked circle structure.

What are your thoughts about what to call this dilemma and what to do about it?

I also disagree with the term “Top Circle” but I don’t see how giving is a different name makes it any less power-over if they can break a stalemate and therefore do have the power. What am I missing?

It might be a good idea to play more with the concept of a resolution group that’s formed around an issue instead of a standing circle with that role. Of course, then the issue is who has authority to form that circle.

As far as I know, By-law Circle spent almost a year discussing this very thing. Might be useful to check in with @jerry.koch-gonzalez because that circle reviewed all the options they knew.