Conflict Resolution Policy in an Intentional Community, and Lack of Clarity as Foundation of Conflict

Our Greek Village Cohousing group is beginning our initial discussions and beginning to shape our conflict resolution policy. As homework, I’ve provided snippets of discussions over the decades from other cohousing groups about their own policies as well as their policies, and I am contemplating how to start the conversation around understanding and dimensions. The policies are fairly generically the same- talk to each other first and try to resolve, get a mediator, etc. However, none of the policies talk about getting those in conflict to see a broader resolution or redefine what they see as the conflict. I see many of our conflicts, as well as those of my old and other cohousing groups, as a function of lack of clarity or differing views about roles, about policies, about scope of authority, about priorities, etc. The conflicting expectations are a function of the system sometimes, or perhaps the individual’s ability to understand the system. This, of course, is one of the many purposes of sociocracy. However, like all forming groups (and nonforming) we are in the process of evolving into sociocracy, so the full and more clarified systems are not yet fully in place. It cannot be done in a day and still have ownership and understanding from all, so we evolve sections over time as everyone contributes. And we have a major 13 million dollar physical design to manage as well as our social design during this early formation stage. Thus, we suffer this period of lack of clarity as we tackle one sociocratic and policy area at a time to clarify. The conflict resolution policy in my mind would ideally include some tool that those who feel frustrated or upset can use to identify systemtic misunderstandings or lack of clarity. Perhaps a questtionnaire or something…? Are there tools that other groups have used to help groups get at the area that is the core of the misunderstanding or conflict in their community— instead of simply accepting it’s articulated form? In the last conflict for instance, one member accused another of not having good communication skills and usurping power when in fact it was a differing set of expectations about roles and scope of authority.

Hi @pare.gerou,

I carefully read your post and I guess it could have more audience if you select to place the post into another section of the discussion forum, for example in “Sociocracy Discussion”.

There are trainers and consultants in SoFA to give you more elaborate responses or even make an implementation plan for sociocracy in your community, after they will understand your community’s circumstances.

Please understand that my short response is limited to my experience from the level of SoFA certified practitioner and the sociocracy training I participated in.

First of all, I appreciate your desire to make a transition to sociocracy for your organization. How many people are in your Village Cohousing and how many of them like the idea to adopt sociocracy?

As I know, people find it difficult to do different things at the same time, so usually it’s better to do all of them in turn, in the right order and at the right time.

First of all, I have some clarifying questions. Did you already adopt sociocracy for governing in your community?

For inspiration I recommend the book “Who Decide Who Decide?” by Ted Rau and the sociocratic manual “Many Voices One Song” by Ted Rau and Jerry Cokh-Gonzales. Anybody could find the books here: Books in printed or electronic format. It’s also necessary to define your Mission, Vision and Aims.

Who facilitates your meetings? Was that person selected? What are the qualifications you considered that a facilitator should have? An experienced facilitator could help the meetings run smoothly by having the skills to run the facilitation process, to talk in rounds, to ask for consent, to integrate objections and so one. All these are skills that could be acquired by learning in training and courses and by practice.

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

Here you can read a post about the SoFA Conflict Engagement Policy

Thank you Adrian!
It is nice to meet you. I know Ted and Jerry and have taken their course 2 times and have had Jerry come into the group twice, and we are in a few months planning the “Empowered Learning Circles” using the SOFA tapes/ video series. We also use Laird Schaub.

We began with a decision making policy that included both consensus and sociocracy-- becasue we are a forming group and all decisions are too foundational to be delegated. However, we have used many sociocratic structures and practices for 2 years, and I find the group is surprisingly comfortable with delegation of foundational decisions.

I have never used the forum as you can tell and am attempting to get into the Communities of Practice section so I can ask my question to other cohousing communities and intentional communities- like Treehouse. Any advice about how to get there is welcome. I have signed up for the one hour SOFA consultation this week, but again I have talked to Jerry and Ted and know them, so my goal is to figure out the best way to click into SOFA’s offerings in order to ask and answer questions regularly.

I really appreciate your thoughtful responses and will read your response. I look forward to talking to you one day. Do you live in an intentional community?

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Hello @pare.gerou-4132,

I’m glad you are so interested in sociocracy and to step in by talking with Ted and Jerry is really a good choice.

Books, courses and training are very useful and inspiring for learning sociocracy. The next step I guess would be useful as well is to join one or more of the SoFA communities of practice.

The official SoFA site offers plenty of opportunities to learn, practice sharing real life experiences or be inspired by other people’s knowledge and experience. Community → The Sociocracy Ecosystem is very rich in information and opportunities.

Sociocracy is used in many sectors including but not limited in Ecovillages, cohousing, intentional communities, schools and cooperatives. I am on the same continuous sociocracy learning journey as you.

At this moment I do not belong to any intentional community at this moment, but I am very interested to find out more about this topic. I am also interested in applying / implementing sociocracy in communities to bring my contribution in (re)shaping the social, civic, economic and political environment in my own country.

I am also interested to learn more from your experiences. I guess this would prepare me better for my own challenges in teaching and implementing sociocracy in my native language.

Right now I’m happy to be a student in SoFA Academy and I enjoy all the activities, my colleagues and our trainers / mentors. As I realized, sociocracy is not only about learning theory, but also about practice in small groups and implementing sociocracy in the real world.

I congratulate you and your team for being teachable and because do what is necessary to implement sociocracy in your community. Maybe you didn’t think about it, but by what you do, you are an example for many others who may still be limited to observing, and you are definitely a source of inspiration.

Sociocracy is possible and I am dedicated to spreading it everywhere, where people need it and want to use it.

Best wishes and keep in touch. I would be glad to talk to you.