From permaculture - 8 forms of capital. And what form of capital is SoFA providing to you as a member?

In 8 Forms of Capital | AppleSeed Permaculture, there are 8 forms of capital described:

  • Material Capital – the raw and processed non-living resources, such as rock, lumber, buildings, tools, fuel, and so forth, as well as stored up goods that our activities generate.
  • Intellectual Capital – what we know and have learned; the stored knowledge and ideas that are available to us.
  • Experiential Capital – “street smarts” or the “school of hard knocks”, this is the difference between what a novice and a master knows. This is Grandma’s biscuit recipe, for which there is no recipe, only the feel of the dough in the hands.
  • Cultural Capital – the shared art, music, myths, stories, ideas, and worldviews of a community; collectively held as a holistic sum of individual beliefs, thoughts and actions.
  • Social Capital – the goodwill from others that your service to your community creates, the favors you owe and are owed, and the connections and network that you have.
  • Natural Capital – plants, animals, soil, and the collective properties of ecosystems, such as purifying and circulating water and storing nutrients.
  • Spiritual Capital – our capacity to live into the fullest, most authentic expression of ourselves, and our ability to connect with and receive guidance from something greater than ourselves.
  • Financial Capital – the money, currency and other financial assets we have acquired.

How does this apply to SoFA? I’ll give you my personal list.

  • Material Capital – well, that’s the zoom rooms, the forum, the website, all the different services we own together. In my case, it’s also my only source of income. All my teaching/consulting money goes into SofA, and SoFA pays me a part of that as my salary.
  • Intellectual Capital – SO much. I’ve learned so much, and I continue to learn at my personal maximum pace. Full score!
  • Experiential Capital – Even more so than intellectual capital maybe; I’ve acquired and mastered skills I didn’t have before, like facilitation.
  • Cultural Capital – Thinking about this, maybe this is even the biggest one for me. It’s a way of being together that relies on other people. We can only BE the way we are because we form a culture in which certain patterns are supported. Like vulnerability. But also how to have fun together. It’s working really well for me. My other big sources of cultural capital are my kids, @jerry.koch-gonzalez , and my living community. I’m sure @stephanie.nestlerode has something to say here?
  • Social Capital – SoFA people are my friends. To me, it doesn’t matter as much whether I’ve even met people in person. Some people I talk to on a daily or weekly basis, and I love them dearly.
  • Natural Capital – SoFA doesn’t necessarily meet that. But I often think about a post-collapse world and whether meeting facilitation would be a skill worth trading for food :slight_smile:
  • Spiritual Capital – I would have said there’s not much here for me, being a not very spiritual person myself. (Looking at you, @eric.tolson!) But then I noticed that’s not true AT ALL. Because what I connect to SoFA is my own theory of change, my own hope of things being better. And I realize I’m actually very attached to that.
  • Financial Capital – There isn’t much here but hey, we do have some shared resources and can make things happen!

I wonder what the list would look like for different profiles (aka personas, @cj.oreilly or @hanna.fischer and @duyoung.jeong). And @eric.tolson or @lea.shani, this list would be a great way to answer why/how it would make sense for a language community or a sector (@rhonda.baird) to join SoFA.

Huge thanks to @phouben and @andreas.jonsson who not only pointed me to this resource but also showed me how thinking about this will be useful for SoFA to refine membership, strategy, consultant relationships, and advanced training.


Thank you for this interesting exercise. It helped me to look at my relationship with SoFA from a different angle. I will share my list as one version of a persona :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes:

For me, 3 capitals that SoFA provides have been important to join as a member and participate up to now.

  1. Experiential capital : Being able to participate in an actual working sociocratic circle & organization is a very attractive and rare opportunity. And it was also a plus to be able to access SoFA’s internal documents. I got to experience how a sociocratic organization operates. It is a valuable learning. I’m really grateful that SoFA opened this opportunity to new members.
  2. Intellectual capital : In addition to knowledge about sociocracy that I can access through various contents that SoFA offers, there’s a lot of other knowledge, information, and intellectual stimulus that I get by being in touch with a working circle, conferences, forum, and internal newsletters.
  3. Cultural capital : I’m not sure how to explain this exactly. It’s the ‘fit’ that I feel. It feels good to know that it’s ok to talk about such things as awareness, emotions, trauma, social change, systemic perspective, redistribution of power, and many more in this community.

3 capitals that SoFA currently provides and could provide more in the future will become more important for me to stay and be an active member of SoFA.

  1. Spiritual capital : I really like SoFA’s mission and aim. I once heard Ted saying something like ‘making sociocracy a common sense’. I love it! The trust that SoFA’s mission and aims do lead every aspect of what decisions are made within SoFA will be very important for me.
  2. Social capital : In the context of SoFA, for me, working relationships come first, and ‘friendship’ or similar kind of relationships come second. So clearly defined working relationships among members that guide how the work gets done to achieve the mission and aims come first for me. And building interpersonal or community relationships for me matter only to the extent that it supports the working relationship.
  3. Material or Financial capital : I don’t expect to personally utilize financial capital of SoFA by being employed or filling a paid role. What I would certainly appreciate is the chance to play in a SoFA’s version of ‘3EO platform’ to develop and deliver great content products to SoFA’s audience, earn money for myself and share the profit with SoFA.
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It’s not completely clear to me whether the question is:
What are the forms that SoFA has?
What forms of capital does SoFA have that individuals value and how?

I’ll go with the first :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

  • Material Capital – Mostly somewhat abstracted assets like web domain names and virtual servers, and services as Ted mentioned. SoFA has few material assets.
  • Intellectual Capital – This is a huge facet of what SoFA has and the primary capital asset SoFA leverages, and seeks to grow and develop! The interesting thing is that the value of this asset will diminish to the degree SoFA’s mission is completed :stuck_out_tongue: I dream of the day when SoFA’s worked itself out of a job :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye: However, we don’t just have sociocracy as intellectual capital, but a host of associated ‘social technologies’ from NVC to agile and beyond. They have varying degrees of formalization and adoption within SoFA though.
  • Experiential Capital – Perhaps this will continue to be the capital that SoFA can never quite loose (provided it keeps it up!) even as other learn the intellectual elements of socicoracy. SoFA also has growing capital in the way of nonprofit and business management, not to mention an wealth of experiences through case studies both published and un-published.
  • Cultural Capital – It seems there’s great overlap between intellectual capital and cultural capital for SoFA - I think there’s much that could be said about the overlap and difference between the two, however for me it comes down to praxis. The culture of what we do and how we do it. The individuals of SoFA bring so much in the details, such as the words we say as we close meetings, how we present concepts, and the many ways we embody the practice of sociocracy.
  • Social Capital – It’s clear that SoFA has a huge amount of social capital via the relationships that specific individuals have, especially in the intentional communities sector. I look forward to seeing how Ecosystems Circle and Sector Circles can really cultivate that! Excited about that vision for sector circles in particular @rhonda.baird (Ecosystem Circle’s recently selected leader!) Intentional Communities circle was recently talking about having a Pacific Northwest Ambassador (@marilyn.kakudo ). It’s also an International circle thing! (@lea.shani ) I really appreciate the ways polyglot-ism and supports social capital across national and cultural boundaries, and I think there can never really too much of that!
  • Natural Capital – SoFA does not have any natural capital as it has no rights to any natural properites or assets.
  • Spiritual Capital – To me, sociocracy is radical - as in fundamental, from the ‘roots’ - and this is a spiritual shift. It cannot be untangled from the deepest philosophies. For me, it is a practice of the balancing of yin and yang in Daosim, the profound respect for autonomy seen in Anarchy, the deep acknowledgement of the complex mutualistic relationships and perspectives that are embodied in folk cultures the world over. These things are spirituality. For me, the praxis is spirituality. The bi-directional practice of bridging the gap between our experience and our understanding, and bringing our understanding into reality. This is a practice of doing that together.
    It seems clear that for others as well there is spiritual benefit. Most recently this came up in a performance review. The significant, profound and ongoing personal growth individuals have spoken to from their experiences working with SoFA is apparent, but highly personal.
    To me, this again is a synthesis… of the intellectual, cultural, social, and experiential capital all being shared.
  • Financial Capital – SoFA has some financial assets, you can check out our budget here! It doesn’t describe all of them, but it might be interesting to know that some folks donated stocks with last year’s year end fundraiser - did you see the “magic is where people get together” song?!

What’s interesting about many of these capital elements is that many are generative.

Perhaps it depends on how each are used, but it seems clear that things like intellectual, social, spiritual can’t exactly be spent. Rather, the more they are given and shared, the more they grow.

This is interesting when looking at conventional capital models and management techniques which tend toward a model of capital which is scarce.
Natural capital is an extra interesting example, where in this modern world regenerative management techniques are rarely used (when we could be! - see permaculture…).
Also true for regenerative currency modules and different economic frameworks than are most endemic in this age.
It reminds me of the book Sacred Economics. Perhaps a book club possibility :stuck_out_tongue:

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Great input from all so far!

Personally, I use 8 forms of capital as a way of clarifying needs (and discerning needs from wants), and reflecting on, and balancing my well being. And I use it to tweak my personal path. With students and apprentices I use it during courses and trainings. We also apply it in the school organizational setting where I spend a lot of time. Just a couple of weeks ago, me and my partner did an “audit”, and we agreed upon being too low on Spiritual Capital at the moment. So that agreement will tweak our decisions in the year to come.

For me, it is very much connected to the Idea of Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs, which I think of more as a tree, rather than in a hierarchical fashion. See bottom image.

This is my personal view 8 forms of capital, through a Sociocracy/SoFA lens:

Material Capital – well, this is Hardware. Training facilities, zoom rooms, web, forums. MVOS. Being able to give back to SoFA through this resource, could mean that you have connections and discounts in web/hostings services or trading MVOS for Financial Capital.

Intellectual Capital - Knowledge, which all of SoFA gathers through studying stuff. The underlying theoretical framework, the classical idea behind the “regular” schooling system. Understanding organizational theories, SCM, S3, Holocracy, Theory U, ProSocial, Permaculture, NVC and so on. The more intellectual capital we gather, the broader the scope from different fields or domains, the more dots are connectable. I often think of it as potential. We need material capital to be able to share Intellectual Capital. Like here in this forum post. But it is still mostly in theory, until we connect it to…

Experiential Capital - Our tried methods, strategies, techniques and theories that gives us Know-How. Functional learning, learning-by-doing, DIY. Experiential capital is different from the “regular” schooling system, in that Experential learning brings us feedback and paths forward. In order to share and regenerate Experiential Capital we need thriving…

Cultural capital - The way we interact, our language (glossary) builds our stories, so we can express why we speak in rounds. It is the way in which we pull off workshops, Co-working sessions, cross pollination meetings, open meetings, Good Enough for Now intentions. It is why and how we sing and celebrate. I see cultures as built on an ethical frameworks (social justice?), and it is grounded by principles that gives us direction and intention (e.g. decentralization, roles & functions, consent, circular learning, listening, small and slow solutions…) If you are interested in Principles as a driver for Culture, Permaculture probably has a whole bunch, and they are easily applicable into a sociocratic setting. The more diverse ways we have to understand Sociocracy, the more inclusive our culture becomes. When we have Cultural capital we can build stronger…

Social Capital - Connections. Social power moves and changes Cultures. Cultural narratives enhances social connection. And we need to move with it. So we move from a branching pattern (decentralizing to roles/cirlces), to a net-weaving pattern (cross pollination/contracts). Where Intellectual Capital is connected to potential, I see Social Capital more as actively influential. In sociocracy, social capital is utilized and brought to function through decentralized power, where those who are concerned, are the ones making the decision. The more lasting connections we build, the stronger the social bonds (culture.) And without the Intellectual Capital of how to work with consent and circle structure we can’t harvest social capital. Without the a cultural narrative and ethical positioning, we can’t explain why we need each other. Ethics can be a very personal approach, so we can also enter it thorugh…

Spiritual Capital - For me, it is meaning and aesthetics. The underlying essence of belonging. Even though we have an ethical framework that is being developed, we find different meanings and different personal, or even private approaches, to why we want to belong to SoFA. I find that SoFA is a good way to fill my need to try and create a better place. SoFA is making the world more beautiful. When I have this feeling of opportunity and belonging, all my other Capitals are better utilized.

Financial Capital - Monetary. In a globalized world where everything is interchangeable, money is devoid of Ethics and Spirit. With the enough amount of Fanta soft drinks, I can exchange it for ANYTHING. With Financial Capital, all I need is the right scale. And Scale is the total opposite of generating the Intellectual Capital of “Scope”. Since it is the universal exchanger, it is the tool for everything. What everyone thinks the wants more of. And when we want more, we create a cultural narrative that says “we don’t have enough, resources are scarce”. So we enter the road of scarcity and we find our society creating policies of austerity. When we use Financial Capital to exchange it with other types of capital, we instead enter abundance thinking. Taking money and by decentralized budgeting, turning it to social action, an improved cultural narrative, more MVOS-lik books, more trainings. Spend all you can locally, to build the other capitals. Decentralized budgeting once again! I’m convinced we need to work with Economy of Scope, rather than Economy of Scale.

Living/Natural capital - In a SoFA setting, I don’t see it applicable at the moment. In permaculture, this is how we survive, the food, the trees, the animals, the living ecosystem services. If we don’t take this into consideration, we’re creating waste somewhere else by just going to the regular supermarket. Migrations of underpaid peoples, social uprooting, landgrabbing, devestation of land and water. Most likely, all of these in a combination.

Another way of looking at it would be to see in which domains/circles these capitals are generated or prioritized.
Mission Circles usually work a lot around Experiential, Spritual and Intellectual Capital.
General Circle work a bit more around Financial Capital.
Content Circle is a bit more about Experiental Capital.

However we look at it, we can strive to balance the different capitals, and also to give back to SoFA through many different perspectives. 8 forms of capital, is a framework which can make connections and agreements between circles, people and roles, more clear and transparent.


If there’s a SoFA bookclub for Sacred Economics, I’m in.


Anything to rope you in Eric! :stuck_out_tongue:

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I’ll try not to avoid duplication but I resonate with a lot of what has been said. SoFA provides me with Cultural, Intelectual, Experential and Spiritual Capital, virtually all in the same way: through the lived organizational experiences with fellow members. Social Capital is particularly interesting to me since it’s closely related to concepts like power or influence. I think of it similarly as I do with the Ultimate Frisbee community: if I were to travel to any part of the world in a low budget, frisbee players would be my first option for where to crash. If a given SoFA member were in trouble of some sort, how much can we rely on each other for support? I can definitely say that if any SoFA member ever comes to Mexico City, you definitely have a place to stay.
Lastly, I think SoFA barely counts with any Living or Material capital (lots of the material capital listed in some comments is not really material in the strict sense, eg the zoom rooms and other digital assets, which I think is interesting. The hardware used for those is also not owned by SoFA). However, SoFA provides me with some financial capital that allows me to access some material/living capital. I guess that’s what’s so special about financial capital, its fluidity to become value/capital of another sort relatively easily.