Number of people in circles, if a delegate of a sub-circle gets added

A sociocracy practitioner submitted the following question after reading Who Decides Who Decides:

Here’s the situation, and a few areas of confusion that emerge for me -
A circle decides to establish a sub-circle. They select a leader from within their circle (now parent circle), for that sub-circle, among a few other people for that sub-circle, who may or may not be part of the parent circle. Among these, they also select a delegate, who now also serves on the parent circle.
What if that parent circle had governing agreements that identified a max # of people, and they were already maxed out before the delegate was sent to that circle? Should they a) have thought of/addressed that before they made a sub-circle, or b) is this related to the ‘inversion step’ and essentially just tolerate a little messiness until the inversion makes sense and the group is ready? or both?
Ok, now at some point let’s say that sub circle has grown to 5-6 people and they select a different operational leader than the person who was sent “down” from the parent circle in the beginning. Does that mean that the new sub-circle leader is ALSO now a full participating member of the parent circle? Otherwise, where would the second link in the double-link principle function? So if that’s true, then the parent circle now grew by two people (delegate and the new leader), right? I’m just thinking that if all the sub circle of the general circle did this, then the general/parent circle might unintentionally grow to a less than desirable size because they could conceivably have all their original members, plus two additional people for each sub circle.
Do you see where I’m getting a little mixed up here? Maybe one thing that is further confusing all this is my concept and use of terms. We have governing agreements that our mission circle (our board of directors) serves 3-year terms, and you can serve up to 3 terms (9 years) before having to step down for at least a year.
Yeah, I’m stuck somehow. Any clarity or support here would be hugely helpful! I can only imagine you’ve come up against this predicament already!

I guess the parent circle would have to figure out what’s most important to them - full flow of information or a manageable group size.
The keyword for me here is intentionality. In a way, yes, they should have thought about it before/when forming the circle but it isn’t too late now.

I guess a good question is, why are so many people on the circle? Maybe another sub-circle should be formed to get people out of that parent circle? It could be what you’re describing around the inversion. If others are still just lingering there, maybe it’s just a messy and incremental transformation.

Another question to ask is whether double-linking is the only way to get flow of information and healthy balance between the new circle and its parent circle. Maybe single linking is enough. Or maybe the delegate gets selected but only shows up in the parent circle if their circle is bringing a main item to the agenda, so the delegate is “on call”.

If a new leader is selected, yes, then you’re right. But I keep wanting to hear why the previous leader is in that circle. Are they needed there? I mean, circle membership is by roles/operations, not by legacy. Just because you used to be on the circle doesn’t mean you’re still on the circle when someone else is doing your former role, you know? And that’s, at least that my guess, what’s tripping you up. I am guessing you’re attaching people and circle somewhat permanently. I know that’s often the case in organizations, and I wish people adopted a more lean, fluid and less ego-driven way around that. Ask yourself, do I have to be in this circle? Why am I in this circle?

Let me know what you do with my answers!

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Thank you for this response, Ted! You make some great points. In our case, when someone serves on a circle for a long time I don’t feel like it is so much about legacy or ego, as it is about the value of continuity. We still do a variation of a selection process at the end of their three-year term. I think what I’m more hung up on is the concept of circle member terms in general. I realize sociocracy uses policy terms as a tool for making policies more palatable for a group and to track the effectiveness of such policies. But what about policies for member role terms, circle member role terms specifically? I suppose it’s too hypothetical a question right now and I should just see what happens in practice, and address any challenge with the group in that particular context.

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Terms for member role terms are totally possible. In theory, everyone should do that but most don’t. But there’s nothing that keeps you from defining the terms the way you want to.

Yes, and circle membership is a consent decision after all, at least in my reading. Making someone a circle member is a “bulk” decision for people to be in a circle for long term.

Right, ok. And after a delegate is Selected, by a sub-circle, does the parent circle still have a consent round to welcome/agree to work with that person? And in the rare event that for some reason there is an objection to that person serving on the parent circle, then the sub circle would have to select a new delegate I assume.

I think I better understand the issue of the term now. Before I think I was relating the term with the person, as opposed to the circle membership role. In other words, when a person is selected for a new role on a different circle, a new term would apply for that new role.

Yes, and yes.
“People” don’t really exist; they’re always circle members, either just like that, or in operational roles, or as linking roles.

The great thing about sociocracy is that it’s kinda like a vanilla distribution of linux - you can always modify it and use it a bit differently!

Another name for sociocracy is “Dynamic Governance”, which really emphasizes the flexibility element.

Designing - and evolving! - the circle structure is something for circles to consider. SoFA has a free little ‘design your own circle structure’ course to help think about it. But certainly, as Ted suggestion:
The there is a balance of information flow and size.

One of the reasons traditional full group concensus is so challenging is because large meetings (I would say even upwards of 8-10 people) are rather difficult on many levels (and some orgs are trying to have over 100 people). Sociocracy works with this tension by creating clear domains and more socially accessible circle sizes, but it’s not a “set it and forget it" solution. Sociocracy takes engagement - it’s an alive system of relationships!