Running a sociocracy-based community or organization involves implementing a specific governance and decision-making framework that emphasizes collaboration, consent-based decision-making, and distributed authority.
Here’s how you could run a sociocracy-based community or organization:
- Understand Sociocracy Principles:
Ensure that all members of the community or organization understand the core principles of sociocracy, which include consent-based decision-making, circular structure, double-linking, and continuous improvement.
- Training and Education:
Provide training and education on sociocracy concepts and practices to all members to ensure a common understanding and language for effective communication. Start by educating all members about the principles, values, and practices of sociocracy. Training sessions or workshops ensure everyone understands the concepts and the benefits. Develop skilled facilitators who can guide meetings, ensure everyone’s voices are heard, maintain a constructive atmosphere and provide a psychological safe space for self expression and mutual understanding.
- Circle Structure:
Sociocracy uses a circle structure to manage different functions and aspects of the organization in different domains. Form circles (domains) based on various areas of responsibility such as administration, operations, finances, social media, outreach and so on. These form a nested circle structure. Each circle has a defined purpose and autonomy to make decisions related to its domain. Ensure each circle is clear about its aims and domain (responsibilities and decision making authority).
- Roles and Responsibilities:
Within each circle, define roles and responsibilities. Each role should have a clear purpose and expected outcomes, described by a clear role description. Roles are defined in a way that allows for effective coordination and collaboration in the circle (domain).
- Decision-Making Process:
Sociocracy uses a consent-based decision-making process. Proposals are made (synthesized), discussed, and refined until consent is achieved from all members involved. Consent doesn’t mean full agreement; it means no one has a reasoned objection and everyone can work with the decision. To reach consent and make decisions that work for all those involved, the proposal making process should be inclusive, taking into consideration as many voices as possible (including feedback), even if in the end the decision is taken by a few (those in the proper domain).
- Circles Meetings:
Governance is about decisions. Meetings are held to discuss and make decisions about the overall activity that pertains to a specific domain. Use a structured process that allows everyone to voice their opinions, share concerns, and propose solutions. Decisions involve updating roles, discussing proposals, addressing tensions or concerns, discuss tasks and coordination etc. Circle decisions should align with the overarching governance decisions.
- Policies and Transparency:
Develop and maintain policies that outline how decisions are made, roles and responsibilities, conflict resolution processes, and other important aspects of the organization. Maintain transparency in decision-making and operations. Share meeting minutes, decisions, and relevant information to keep everyone informed. Transparency is mandatory to build trust and a safe community/organizational environment.
Sociocracy promotes transparency and communication through a double-linking mechanism. Each circle has two representatives who have full membership and decision-making rights in both their own circle (the child circle) and the parent circle. This helps with information flow, communication, feedback and alignment between different levels of the community/organization. Double-linking is essential for providing mutual understanding and a balanced power between parent circle and child circle (“power with” instead of “power over”).
- Tension Processing:
Tensions are any concerns, challenges or ideas that emerge from the diversity of opinions and/or approaches. Encourage members to raise tensions during meetings. Tensions are discussed and decisions are made on whether and how to address them. Establish a clear process for resolving conflicts within circles and between circles. Mediation and dialogue should be encouraged to find resolutions that everyone can consent to.
- Consent Decision-Making Process:
Sociocracy uses a consent-based decision-making process. Instead of seeking full consensus, proposals are adopted if no one has a reasoned objection. This allows for faster decision-making while still considering everyone’s input. When a proposal is presented, the group engages in a facilitated discussion to refine the proposal based on feedback from all the members of the circle (domain). The facilitator then calls for objections. If there are no reasoned objections and concerns have been addressed, consent is assumed.
- Feedback Loops and Results Evaluation:
Regularly evaluate the effectiveness of the sociocratic structure and processes. Use feedback loops to identify areas for improvement and adjust the system accordingly. Implement mechanisms for regular feedback and continuous improvement. Encourage open communication and a culture of learning from both successes and failures.
- Continuous Learning:
Sociocracy is not a rigid system but is an evolving process; it evolves to fit the needs of the organization. Encourage a culture of continuous learning and adaptation. Review and adjust practices to better align with the organization’s goals and the needs of its members. Regularly assess the effectiveness of your sociocratic processes and make adjustments as needed. The success of a community/organization depends on the individual performances of each member. That’s why the commitment for continuous learning and practice is essential for overall progress.
- Cultural Shift:
Adopting a sociocracy-based approach requires a cultural shift toward collaboration, respect, and shared responsibility. Foster an environment where everyone’s contributions are valued and where power is distributed equitably. Honoring those around you is necessary for good communication and a mutual understanding. Create an environment where many voices could sing one song.
Remember that implementing sociocracy takes time and effort. It’s important to have skilled facilitators who can guide meetings, maintain a safe space for discussion, and ensure that the sociocratic principles are followed.
Transitioning to a sociocracy-based model requires a collective approach. It’s important to have buy-in from all members and a commitment to learning and adapting as you implement these principles and practices.
If you want to share your personal reflections on this topic, please feel free to do so in a comment below. Thank you.