Could an "evil" organization run sociocratically? [discussion]

Here’s an interesting discussion I’d like to have.

The question is, could an “evil” organization run sociocratically? For example, let’s imagine an organization that has an aim to, let’s say publishing books. So the aims and mission and values and whatever are all related to that. As it happens, however, someone has a proposal that supports the aim in all the ways but also risks the lives of 100 people. No one would ever find out so there are no legal or financial repercussions. Protecting people’s lives is not mentioned in the aim, i.e. it doesn’t say publishing books without killing people.
If we define “objection” strictly as “doesn’t violate the circle’s or organization’s aim” then that means you can’t object against a proposal that kills people, in that scenario.

Lots of more thoughts so let me stop here.

@shala.massey-0626 @russell.baldwin @amelia.dreyer @julia.thayer @rhonda.baird @ahmed.avais And several others who started having the discussion with me. Any new thoughts?

1 Like

To me, it seems totally possible for an evil organization to run using sociocracy. I think someone might still object on moral grounds, but if the organization doesn’t have any sort of values statement then it does seem like it could go forward like you say in the example.

I’m slightly more worried about organizations that, while not “evil” strictly speaking, go against my values personally. Not that I am the arbiter of all things moral! But for example, if an oil and gas company started using sociocracy to more efficiently get drilling projects done, or if an extremist group uses sociocracy, those are things I would have qualms about.

I am already in contact with one group whose mission I absolutely disagree with (don’t want to get too divisive here so won’t name it) which started using sociocracy after meeting with me and I still feel weird about it.

Sorry to hear that experience is still lingering for you.

I mean, “evil” is really a vague statement. Given the complexities of the world, we’re all part of exploitive and extractive things somewhere. Almost impossible to avoid.

Yeah, good and evil are different to different people depending on your worldview, beliefs etc.
In the same way a brilliant leader (in terms of mobilising a group to collective vision) can be deemed evil, so too could a high functioning sociocratic organisation be deemed evil too. Sociocracy is a tool/methodology.

Regarding the objection question I think can be that the aim itself should adapt over time. Of course, you would not want it to be changed weekly to accommodation every new scenario. But an encapsulating aim as in “Publishing books without doing harm.”. The word aim speaks about “intention” or for me, intentionality. It is hard to capture an aim, or intentionality in one or two sentences.
I’ve seen some institutions go at length to explicitly define what that intentionality is through an organisation handbook/manifesto/culture deck. It seems that the reason the aim is simple is so that quick decision making. But if the decision is out-side of one’s range of tolerance, whether in line with the aim or not, objections should be raised. It would be a similar experience in line with NVC self-expression.

1 Like

Although I agree that ‘good / evil’ may be relative, it is also true that there may be parameters to measure the level of positive or negative impact that an organization has (SistemaB for example).

I suppose everyone could use sociocracy (as a tool) regardless of their level of ‘good / evil’, and to some extent it should be promoted (since sociocracy also invites active listening and caring for people), but I also believe that it should ‘cost’ more for an organization (with malicious practices) to hire our support than for an organization (which, because it does not extract value), does not have the resources to hire us.
So at least we channel resources (in the hope that talent will migrate on their own). :dove:

1 Like

Although in theory it is conceivable that sociocracy would work as a governance system within an “evil” organization, in practice the distribution of power would, at a minimum, cause fractiousness among those exercising it. This because at the heart of true “evil” is the need to hold all the power. Distributing it among those who equally want all the power seems anathema to anything that might be described as “governance”.

Equally, the distribution of power would risk its exercise by those who are “less evil” and perhaps unlikely to wholeheartedly support the evil aims of the organization.

I agree with this, @kathleen.livingston
Yes, it’s probably too much to say “it can’t happen” but effectiveness is certainly up when everyone is aligned and in integrity.