How might we unlearn hierarchical "power over" and exercise "power with" in sociocracy?

Unlearning hierarchical “power over” and embracing “power with” in the context of sociocracy involves a shift in mindset, communication, and organizational structure.

Here are some steps and strategies to help facilitate this transition:

  1. Educate and Raise Awareness:

Start by educating members about the principles and benefits of sociocracy. Help them understand the difference between “power over” and “power with” and how these concepts relate to the organization’s goals and values.

  1. Promote Shared Vision, Mission and Aims (VMA):

Emphasize the shared Vision, Mission and Aims (VMA) of the organization. When everyone understands and connects with the broader goals, they are more likely to collaborate and exercise power in ways that align with the common well being.

  1. Foster Open Communication:

Create an environment where open and honest communication is encouraged. This means providing platforms for expressing ideas, concerns, and feedback. Active listening and respect for diverse perspectives are key components of “power with.”

  1. Develop Emotional Intelligence:

Encourage the development of “emotional intelligence” among members. This helps in understanding needs, managing emotions, resolving conflicts constructively and building empathetic relationships that support collaborative decision-making. Communicating with compassion helps the general well being of the groups, communities or organisations. NVC practice could facilitate the transition from “power over” to “power with” relationship.

  1. Training and Skill Development:

Provide training on facilitation skills, consent decision-making, conflict resolution, and sociocracy presentations that could increase the overall awareness about sociocracy as a governance alternative. These skills are essential for navigating decision-making processes in a way that emphasizes collaboration and shared power in work teams, communities and organizations.

  1. Consent-Based Decision-Making:

Implement sociocracy’s consent-based decision-making process. This process ensures that decisions move forward if there are no reasoned objections, encouraging collaboration and participation from all members involved.

  1. Circle Structure and Role Definition:

In sociocracy, an organization is organized into circles, which are semi-autonomous groups responsible for specific functions or domains. Within each circle, roles are defined to carry out specific functions or tasks. This separation of responsibilities into roles helps prevent role confusion and ensures that everyone knows their specific contributions to the organization’s objectives. Implement sociocracy’s circle structure, with defined roles and responsibilities within the nested circles. This helps distribute authority and encourage members to take ownership of their areas of responsibility.

  1. Transparent Processes:

Ensure that decision-making processes are transparent and well-understood by all members. Transparency builds trust and helps prevent feelings of exclusion or manipulation. It also fosters a psychological-safety community / organizational environment. Transparent processes are a fundamental aspect of sociocracy because they contribute to the effectiveness, fairness, and trustworthiness of the decision-making and governance system.

  1. Rotate Roles:

In sociocracy, role rotation is a practice that involves periodically changing the individuals who hold specific roles within circles. This practice serves several purposes, including promoting shared leadership, preventing power concentration, fostering skill development, and maintaining a dynamic and adaptable organization. Consider rotating roles and responsibilities regularly.

  1. Conflict Transformation:

Encourage a shift from adversarial conflict to collaborative problem-solving. Train members in conflict transformation techniques that focus on finding win-win solutions and preserving relationships. Conflict transformation tools are techniques and approaches that help turn conflicts into opportunities for growth, understanding, and positive change. These tools go beyond traditional conflict resolution methods by focusing on addressing the underlying causes of conflict and transforming relationships and dynamics.

  1. Feedback and Continuous Improvement:

Create mechanisms for regular feedback and reflection on the community’s / organization’s practices. This helps identify areas for improvement and ensures that the organization remains adaptive and responsive. Continuous improvement is difficult to imagine in the absence of gathering, synthesizing and using a collective intelligence at group, community or organization level.

  1. Lead by Example:

Leaders, facilitators and all the other members within the community / organization should model “power with” behaviors. Demonstrate active listening, compassion, and a willingness to understand and learn from others. In this world, intelligence is distributed and gathering it from as many as possible it’s a “smart move”. On the other hand, losing intelligence gradually leads to unsatisfactory results and finally to organizational failure. A culture shift from “power over” to “power with” could become effective leading by example. Sometimes it’s not easy but for sure it’s possible.

Remember that the transition from “power over” to “power with” is a gradual process that requires patience and commitment from all members.

It involves not only changing structures and processes but also nurturing a culture of collaboration, respect, and shared responsibility.

Over time, these efforts can lead to a more inclusive and effective sociocracy governance system.

If you want to share your personal reflections on this topic, please feel free to do so in a comment below. Thank you.

Best wishes!


  1. Start here:

  2. Sociocracy – basic concepts and principles:

  3. Why Sociocracy For All (SoFA)?

  4. Social Justice Statement of Sociocracy For All:

  5. Sociocracy For All in the news

  6. Sociocracy basic resources

  7. SoFA Membership - Why join Sociocracy For All?

  8. Sociocracy Training

  9. More sociocracy resources: articles and videos

  10. SoFA events

  11. Many Voices One Song – A sociocracy manual

  12. Who Decides Who Decides? - How to start a group so everyone can have a voice!

  13. Let’s decide together - The definitive guidebook for practicing decision-making with children

  14. Meeting Evaluation Cards - This is the Meeting Evaluation Cards product by Sociocracy For All

  15. Case studies

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