Circle work Eligability and Accountability: Traditions and norms for public acknolwedgment of one's place/role and one's responsibilities of being informed and contributing to the work

Like many cohousing groups, we experience people who contribute a lot and those who do not- for one reason or another. What traditions do you have in your community that provide public acknowledgement/celebration of an individual’s place or role in the circle? What tools or norms do you use to communicate and reinforce that this comes with responsibility to contribute? What traditions or norms do you have to ensure people are getting the background research and contextual knowledge to come to the circle with adequate eligibility to produce good products? Some people treat our community circle meetings as information sessions- then they give opinions to immediate information without contributing to the work and without doing background work on cohousing or the topic so that they can be more eligible to participate and contribute. This is a classic problem in cohousing and is to be expected with people’s busy lives, but there are things to do to improve the outcomes. What do you do?


I understand the situation. One problem that could arise, in my opinion, is that sometimes those who want to contribute (even voluntarily) become in one way or another sabotaged by those who, for various reasons, do not want to or simply cannot contribute in the same way for a long time … This creates unbalanced situations or even tensions … The question is what are the priorities that we should support and/or promote: presence, contribution, expertise, something else? You could find more about my perspective reading my posts es well. (Adrian, your friend)

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What we do at Youth Power Coalition:


  • Towards the end of every meeting we consent that our list of next steps from the meeting is correct
  • Each next step has one clear owner
  • At the beginning of each meeting the owner report on each next step to promote accountability. If a task isn’t done, we move it to this meeting’s next steps or problem-solve
  • Over time, we can clearly see the distribution of tasks and readjust as necessary


  • We clearly delineate between circle members (who are responsible for doing work) and supporting members (who attend as guests and are asked to give feedback but are not part of the consent process)
  • We host meetings for different purposes. Some are only for circle members, others are more informational. Consider separating the functions.
    @audree.morin, I think you told me your intentional community does something like this?


  • For more complex topics we send information out ahead of time for people to review AND
  • We provide time in the meeting itself to hear a report, then take a pause to review the material itself and generate their questions / reactions.
  • We may let topics “rest” so that people have time after the meeting for additional feedback via writing. If a decision must be made by consent by the whole community, this can be given asynchronously after the fact as well (with a clear deadline, of course!)


  • We use our feedback and close-out session to recognize people. I’ve been a part of groups that phrase their check-out as the 4As: What acknowledgements, apologies, asks, or announcements would you like to share?
  • We tried out a #kudos channel on our Slack where we posted every Friday to encourage people to give shout-outs but to be honest it never had a ton of activity. Maybe we could retry…
  • We just added a “level” of membership above “organizer”, our role for people who are members of circles that we call “weaver”. We haven’t implemented this, yet, but the idea is that it recognizes people who are the most trusted members of our network. One idea is maybe we make this level one that’s reached by nomination? Or by evaluation where we ask people who they most trust?

Hello, Deborah. Thank you for the feedback you provided for this topic. I would be interested to find out how long are your “Youth Power Coalition” meetings (on average). Thanks.

Our average meetings are 1 hour. Our typical circle meeting includes five people. Circles that meet less often like our general circle which meets once a month, have meetings that are 1.5 hours long.

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I’m new here, so hoping this is helpful:
Would it work to introduce a ‘terms of our engagement’ good practice policy or maybe conduct rounds on the question of the imbalance of contributions?

I like that! We do have a Participation policy, but folks seem to feel it will apply once we move in and it does not apply now (the policy is clear and apply a to both stages, but it is a bit of selective hearing). Formation of a major community construction project is an exhausting process once you get really moving, and I witness this problem in all communities —people cycle in and out of full participation. It is a shame to legislate everything with policy instead of dealing with the dynamic, but the problem is simple really- they are tired and busy and don’t want to do anything more, but most if all, they know people will do it for them without any disadvantage to them. There are no “Sociocracy role police”. :slight_smile: But there are feedback loops. How have people used feedback loops to tackle lack of contribution due to burnout? Burnout is normal at our super busy and intense time of formation right now. This is not pet policy stage. Our decisions cost millions, and our work is the foundational designs and budgets, etc. we can try more legislation, but I think the feedback is the heart of this problem lies. Any suggestions are welcome.

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I am curious what you mean by sabotage? Are you referring to the experience of “poisoning the well”? One person contributes next to nothing, others see that person having no real consequences, and they relialize they can also contribute very little and still get the benefits of other’s labor- I think one aspect of this problem it may be called the prisoner’s dilemma?-- you choose what is selfishly best for you (more time to work out and enjoy your life at others expense) and this is noticed and emulated. How does better defining priorities help with that? Whether the articulated priority is presence or contribution, a self interested act will still win out for some and eventually affect others if the benefit is still flowing from others…

Hello @pare.gerou-4132,

We often use the same words but give them different meanings. Thank you for asking me about the word “sabotage” I previously used.

Nonviolent Communication (NVC) reminds us that we, as humans, have the same fundamental needs and that needs are not good or wrong. They are just needs and we all have them even the needs priorities are different in different circumstances.

I will answer your question through a very short story:

Somewhere there was a contest to have the tallest building in the city. People split into three groups. One group was formed by observers. They didn’t do anything, but just look, and comment. The other two groups really wanted to finally have the tallest building in the city. Each group met separately to make their strategy. After a while, the group that already has a building in the city, adopted the strategy to demolish any other building that is taller than theirs and so they will have the tallest building in the city. The other group decided to build a new building from scratch and made a project for this building to be the tallest in the city.

Thank you for asking this clarifying question. I hope my answer helps.

Here you have some resources about sociocracy that could be used by those interested:

or Start Here

SoFA site offers many learning and practice opportunities.

p.s. Don’t forget to adopt a sociocracy governance agreement …

Quote (from MVOS):

Governance is tricky to teach. The biggest challenge is that one has to know everything at the same time. Practitioners have to know the meeting format, all processes, understand consent, know what a helping circle is, how to do a round, be aware of feedback, have emotional literacy and needs consciousness and more at once – oh, and be aware of operational roles! Sociocratic governance works best if practitioners master it all. How can we achieve that?

One step forward are the trainings:

Meeting Facilitation in Sociocracy
Nonviolent Communication Workshops & Training
Sociocracy Leadership Training (SoLT)
Sociocracy Academy

Best wishes!

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Hi Pare!
Thanks for this topic! It’s alive for me too.
I find Deborah’s answer really complete, and I agree that feedback is a key factor there.

I think performance reviews can play a big role for “stoaways”. When everybody does a round of things to improve for them, it must become really clear that they’re not doing enough! And, if it’s because of burnout, which I agree is very present those days, then it can be addresed with care, and maybe the improvement plan can include stepping out of the circle to have the real rest that they need. At least, this way, their non involvement is clear, and so accountability is reached. I’ll do nothing - I have done nothing. Good job. You’re accountable.

Pare, I think you might enjoy our Community of practice for Intentionnal Communities! We address that kind of topics, specifically for intentional communities context! :slight_smile:
Here is the link to sign up:
More info here: Sociocracy in Intentional Community - Sociocracy For All.

Mmmm I’m not sure what I said about what we do, but I completely agree with you, and that’s what we’ve recommended many times in our community of practice for intentional communities. It saves tons of time! To have clarity that one meeting is to inform and get FEEDBACK, vs MAKING A DECISION. And having really clearly defined who makes decisions, and who can only give feedback.
You’re part of a circle = you do work for the circle = responsibility = you decide.
You live in the community but you don’t do work for the circle = you give feedback, and those who have deeper understanding of the issue can consider your feedback, all other feedback, and all other context, and make a decision.

So, @pare.gerou-4132 , I’m wondering what you mean by “community circle meetings”. Is this a meeting where the whole community participates? If yes, it should definitely be a consultative meeting, not to make decisions! Or almost no decisions.