What do you think of this Social Justice Statement proposed for SoFA?

What’s here:

  1. Here is the link if you want to comment on the draft itself.
    Draft Social Justice Statement
  2. the draft statement itself
  3. the invitation to give feedback

SoFA Social Justice Statement Proposal

(consented to by the Social Justice Helping Circle June 16, 2021)

Intro:

SoFA dreams of a world where people are organized to meet (their ?)needs by sharing power. In order to realize that vision, our mission is to make resources for learning and implementing sociocracy accessible to everyone.

Part 1:

SoFA’s Stance on Social Justice

Sociocracy for All is for everything that supports our capacity and freedom to to add engage as equals in meeting our individual and collective needs. We aim to bring sociocracy to the world because sociocracy establishes power with and creates the conditions where power within can flourish. This is in contrast to governance based on power over, such as tyranny of the majority by win-lose democracy or tyranny of the minority by poorly defined consensus processes. Sociocracy is an approach to governance where everyone’s voice matters.

Sociocracy for All objects to all systems of oppression resulting from power over. This includes militarism, imperialism, colonialism, extractive capitalism, classism, racism, sexism and every kind of system of oppression that is based on the idea that one kind of people is inherently worth more than another kind.

Sociocracy for All is for a just world in which power with results in everyone having what they need to thrive. We seek to work with others who share our vision of a world based on cooperation among equals in support of contributing to everyone’s needs and the well-being of the planet.

Sociocracy for All recognizes that the capacity to practice power with comes from individual capacity for power within. Even within a sociocratic organization, we are not the same. We all have our history and contexts that contributed to privileging or diminishing our voices. To bring equity to our voices, Sociocracy For All commits to the ongoing learning and development of all our members towards their full potential.

Part 2:

The Gifts and Challenges of Sociocracy in Relationship to Social Justice

The gifts: How is sociocracy non-oppressive?

Sociocracy provides a framework for shared power in organizational settings. It allows us to relate as equals by giving everyone a voice. It can help reconfigure power by distributing it more horizontally, and also healing our relationship to it by giving us a different experience with it.

The Challenges: How is sociocracy not emancipatory enough?

There’s an important difference between sociocracy’s potential for being non-oppressive and it actually functioning as actively anti-oppressive or emancipatory. Sociocracy faces these challenges in reaching its full liberatory potential:

  • It’s typically not framed as anti-oppressive.
    • An organization may want to manage themselves sociocratically for efficiency purposes, but have no strong intentions of using sociocracy as a tool for transformation. Shared power may be part of their governance structure, but not really a part of their vision, mission, aims, and everyday operations. In order for sociocracy to serve as a liberation tool, its use must be intentional.
  • Even if it is framed as such, it’s a challenge.
    • We have a long, hurtful relationship with power. We have a lot of familiarity with the harmful patterns we want to transform. It’s easy to fall back into them because they’re so well known to us. If we want to break those patterns and learn more harmonious ones, we need to practice shared power and the skills necessary for it. In order to change we need intentioned rehearsal and repetition, as well as compassion for ourselves and each other in that learning path.
  • Even with well-intentioned practice and commitment to change, sociocracy is one piece of a much bigger puzzle.
    • Sociocracy is a governance system designed for particular organizations that want to practice shared power among members. The organizational aspect of our lives is just one dimension of our complex reality. The most harmful systems of oppression tend to manifest themselves transversally; at individual, interpersonal, and systemic levels. Focusing only on the organizational dimension leaves out the societal context that our organizations are set in. Thus, sociocracy should be complemented with additional strategies that are aimed at changing society as a whole.

Conclusion: In the long run, sociocracy as a practice can contribute to healing our relationship with power. In the short run, we all have work to do to ensure that every voice matters.

Part 3:

In light of this social justice statement, what does SoFA commit to do?

We commit to “walking our talk” by:

  • Externally: Distributing sociocracy and shared power where it’s most needed:

    • Making sociocracy affordable and accessible with diverse strategies such as sliding scales, replicable materials, creative commons license, translations, etc.
    • Intentionally prioritize our allies: working with and for people and organizations that are focused on the redistribution of power, particularly those currently most negatively impacted by systems of oppression
  • Internally: Cultivating our ability to share power among members

  • Including a liberation perspective in Membership Circle’s program of member development

  • Addressing potential barriers that would discourage anyone from fully participating as members

  • Centering the quality of connection among our members as our source of creativity and power with/power within

  • Supporting members to address and transcend internalized oppression

  • Asking for help: looking beyond our organization for support and challenge in strengthening our social justice commitment

We commit to “talking our walk” by:

  • Externally: Framing sociocracy practice and training as a tool for liberation

    • Inviting and creating more content on sociocracy and its relationship to power/social change
    • Giving clear, visible and bold voice to our social justice philosophy and approach
  • Internally: Making power an issue to address and explore

    • Addressing power dynamics in circles, such as noticing who’s in the room or whose voices were not heard, as specific agenda items
    • Hosting member gatherings to continue reflecting on our relations to power (study groups, workshops, conferences, caucus spaces, etc.)
    • Evaluating and measuring SoFA’s impact towards accomplishing our vision of shared power, being compassionately self-critical

Next Steps consented to by the SJHC:

  • Jerry and Deborah bring the statement to General Circle (our parent circle) as proposal for consent.
  • Request the document be discussed and implications for their domains be considered in Mission circle, General Circle and the four department circles.
  • Invite people to contribute particularly to the forums that address social justice.
  • Jerry will convene the SJHC to meet again in 6 months to evaluate the impact of our work.
  • If the General Circle makes changes, the SJHC will review the changes via email and decide if it needs a meeting of the SJHC to formulate a response.

Here is the invitation to give feedback:

Moved by the Black Lives Matter movement and discussions that took place in several SoFA Circles, the General Circle initiated a Helping Circle to draft a statement on social justice for SoFA. The Helping Circle worked hard for several months and what is below is the result of our work.

The General Circle’s reaction to the whole statement was positive. The General Circle decided to share the whole document with all SoFA members and invite all to join in discussion and exploration before the General Circle revises/consents to the document. Once the General Circle has consented to a draft it will be passed on to the our Mission Circle. It is the Mission Circle that has the final say on this document. (Note: three of the members of the Helping Circle also sit on the Mission Circle). The General Circle will meet again on July 6. We do not want the feedback process to drag on for a long time.

The General Circle explored its reactions to Part 1.There were a number of questions about language.

  • Ease of understanding the language - don’t want to have to look things up in a dictionary
  • How easy is it to translate? Phrases that have meaning in the US may not translate easily (power over, power with, power within)
  • Tone and naming things like extractive capitalism. On the one hand if we are not specific, we weaken our stance. On the other hand we want to invite those “in the system” to explore, not to push them away. It may be hard to relate to anti-statements when they are part of the world that we live in and are attached to.
  • In the first sentence, do we talk about equity or equality?

Please, write your thoughts now. To the questions above or to anything that arises for you in reading all three parts. Remember that we are doing this in the spirit of joint exploration, not right and wrong debate. So take care in how you write to your colleagues.

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I think this is wonderful!

I am really liking the framing of the different parts. I agree with the basic premise that one cannot talk about shared power without factoring in social justice.

I am curious about

because that’s so optimistic! I just hope it’s true. It certainly needs a lot of work… which leads me to praising Part 3 of the document where it is so full of excellent ideas of what’s needed!

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Thank you for sharing this with the entire group. I think that it is a very strong and powerful statement in that it doesn’t presume that sociocracy is a panacea, but one tool for people to use to help create societies focused on human dignity and solidarity.

I question the use of the term “extractive capitalism” as it suggests that there is a form of capitalism that isn’t “extractive”. Capitalism is, in essence, classist and by defining power of the amount of wealth (shares) instead of participation (humans), already exists in opposition to the sentiment of equality, equity, and social justice.

I look forward to implementation and how the different public-facing communities engage this statement. I hope that some guidance will be provided to circles on implementation into their own structure and process as well.

To reiterate: the helping circle did a wonderful job and the statement is not just about the importance of anti-oppression work, but an example of the sociocractic process at its best.

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Hi! This is amazing, thank you so much for working on this. I’ve been thinking a lot about the part about how we frame sociocracy. Recently, there was a Peruvian oil or mining company (i don’t remember exactly, but it was something not fun) that came to SoPra to learn sociocracy. And I was thinking, how are we sharing what we do that these types of companies that have no intention to challenge hierarchy thought sociocracy was good for them haha. So I’m glad to see that part.

Here are other comments:

  1. I would like to see more emphasis on “self-organizing” in the intro. "self-organized to meet their needs…. But maybe it is redundant.

  2. Power over, power within, etc. will definitely be difficult to translate to Spanish. But I also would not worry too much about this. I think language communities can have the freedom to change the translation a little bit so it makes sense in our context.

  3. “organizations” is mentioned a lot. What about communities or grassroots movements that do not consider themselves organizations and that also use sociocracy? I think we don’t want to give the impression that it is only for “formal” organizations.

  4. I just feel we are missing something about reaching out to different communities that we might not be super close to. In general, just be mindful of working outside the US and Europe. There are experiences of young people using sociocracy in rural communities in Colombia for example. But also, how do we share sociocracy in the global south without replicating colonizing patterns? I know these might be too complex to describe in a few lines but I just wanted to put it out there :stuck_out_tongue:

  5. Finally, there is a mention about the “well-being of the planet” and while it might be obvious to us, I dont think the connection between using sociocracy and the well-being of the planet is very clear.

Thank you so much for your work on this!

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Wow, this is inspiring. I’m glad we’re saying anything at all about social justice; to have such a cogent and practical statement is a bonus.

In SoFA, I have thought of this as a gap while at the same time I have appreciated the need for nuance and clarity.

The working group did a good job indicating how ignoring social justice might impede the practice of sociocracy. I worried that by remaining mute on the topic we were turning people off and perpetuating harm. Silence can be complicity.

Thank you all for wrestling with and ultimately consenting to this initial statement, even if imperfect. It gives all of us something to chew on and digest.

One of my favorite sayings about social justice comes from Dr. Cornel West, “Justice is what love looks like in public.” In our statement, I’m listening for the theme of loving-kindness. It’s in there, right?

I’m curious why we don’t speak of love outright? Is it too charged, too religious, too confusing, not for everybody? Perhaps the phrase ‘trust and connection’ would get at the same thing.

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Ohhh thank you! well done! Kuddos helping Circle, @deborah.chang and jerry.koch-gonzalez !

I like it, and I like the very fact that it exists. Some reactions (I have no clarification questions and I followed the thing for a while now)

  • Addressing power dynamics in circles, such as noticing who’s in the room or whose voices were not heard, as specific agenda items & * Evaluating and measuring SoFA’s impact towards accomplishing our vision of shared power, being compassionately self-critical

=> Great. And this means that Circle leaders will be sensitized to this? perhaps even training on ways to do this ( creatively and meaningfully, not just a checklist type of thing). this would also feed into “sociocracy should be complemented with additional strategies”.

  • Hosting member gatherings to continue reflecting on our relations to power (study groups, workshops, conferences, caucus spaces, etc.)

=> Yes! And I think you’ve started: I would put the convo on leadership (fishbowl) in this category.

  • prioritize our allies: working with and for people and organizations that are focused on the redistribution of power,

=> Hmmm, easier said than done? Your consultants/alumni will do what they wish… But yes SoFA can have a handle on this, even in terms of recruitment of trainees :slight_smile: (???)

and to your questions:

  • Ease of understanding the language - don’t want to have to look things up in a dictionary
    => that is very relative… It actually reminds me that in most (all?) of my sociocratic meetings I’ find myself with people of more or less the same social class, progressive types like me :wink: so language of that category comes out in the convesation. If other people were there, other words would be used. Language is culture (actually language is the only hard cultural trait, others being highly subjective and soft).
  • How easy is it to translate? Phrases that have meaning in the US may not translate easily (power over, power with, power within)
    => translation will have to ‘reculturalise’ the text as is always the case. In my exprience of international co-writing groups, often times when complexity of language is mentionned in critical feedback, it actually implicitly refers to something else: such as complexity of life, and challenges that are hard to tackle. Complaining about tough language becomes a way to deal with our fear of the challenges the complex words represent. Ok that was for my psychoanalytical moment :wink: But yes avoiding too many tough words makes a text more inclusive to all sorts of readers (equity).
  • Tone and naming things like extractive capitalism. On the one hand if we are not specific, we weaken our stance. On the other hand we want to invite those “in the system” to explore, not to push them away. It may be hard to relate to anti-statements when they are part of the world that we live in and are attached to.
    => this is our common double bind… I have no comments here, except I agree with @john.mcnamara because I hear some kids these days, student in high level marketing and management schools, are talking a lot about ‘conscious capitalism’ as a ‘solution’ to our woes… So paying attention to this makes sense. IMO All capitalisms spell trauma and violence.
  • In the first sentence, do we talk about equity or equality?
    => EQUITY. I dont believe in equality except in law. Socially, there can be no equality without measures of equity (of all sorts).

Thanks for the opportunity to discuss this! Love this CoP forum!

(sorry Jerry I had to untag you since I’m only allowed to tag 2 people per post)

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I also most of all liked that statement.
Maybe I would like to see an even more clear statement that power is not a bad thing in itself. We should really embrace power in order to create social change.

I like the game theoretical distinction of power over from power with where you go from looking at power as a zero sum game - he more power I have, the less you have - to a collaborative game - the more power I have and you have, the more we have together.

I see the postmodern branch of the social justice movement often falling in the Foucault trap of viewing power as something that we should transfer from the powerful to the powerless - which means taking power from someone in order to gain it ourselves. I.e. zero sum game.

Instead I feel sociocracy let’s us empower ourselves and thereby helping steering this enormous ship that is society in a better direction without necessarily fighting anyone, but instead simply outcompete power over with the superior technology of power with.

But even if you don’t delve more into that, I definitivt like the entire statement very much! Really great work! :smiley:

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Ruth Tsu
Wow! I appreciate the various parts of this social justice statement - very thorough and challenging - and all that it calls us to do and to become. I have nothing to add except in a response to a question about whether to use the word equity or equality. I think it depends on the context because giving equal amounts to everyone maintains the inequality. Keeping a commitment to equity in focus is critical. Thanks for the good work on creating the draft!

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I suggest that in section 3, ‘talking the walk’ comes before ‘walking the talk’. To implement transparency, and to know what we are actually doing instead of what we say we are doing or say we want to do, we need to ‘talk the walk’ first.
That is, to make explicit and examine what we actually do, and what consequences come of what we do, before imagining we will magically do something different just by talking about it. Especially when we don’t know what all we are actually doing yet.

My other contribution at the moment is about the jargon of ‘-isms’, and also the redundancy of the word “oppression,” in light of what is already being said here:
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Sociocracy for All objects to all systems of oppression resulting from power over . This includes militarism, imperialism, colonialism, extractive capitalism, classism, racism, sexism and every kind of system of oppression that is based on the idea that one kind of people is inherently worth more than another kind.
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“systems of oppression resulting from power over” seems redundant, as does “system of oppression that is based on the idea that one kind of people is inherently worth more than another kind.”

How could oppression not happen under those conditions? All such systems are inherently oppressive. To hammer on that word may actually reduce the power of a statement about oppressive systems.

I suggest it may be both sufficient, and more effective, to focus on power relatings, leave out ‘-ism’ jargon, and leave out “of oppression” as redundant. For example:
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Sociocracy for All objects to all systems in which some people have arbitrary and/or non-consensual power over other people . This includes every system based on any idea that some person or kind of people is inherently worth more than another.
-----------

The power here is in the simplicity, as well as reducing likelihood of all the triggers and implicits and guaranteed misunderstandings that arise from ‘-isms’ and ‘oppression’ jargon. That jargon leads too often to arguments about what the word means than to agreement that some people having power over others without consent is not OK.

If someone is going to disagree with “… objects to all systems in which some people have arbitrary and/or non-consensual power over other people,” then their position is clear - they support arbitrary and/or non-consensual power over some people by other people. There is little opportunity to redirect or obfuscate around definitions of ‘-isms’ and “repression” and “oppression” and the like.

Anyone’s discomfort around leaving out the ‘-isms’ and ‘oppression’/‘oppressive’ - and there will be plenty - is well worth examining.

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This may warrant a separate thread altogether, but… I struggle a little bit with the dialogue around economic systems because it’s often not very specific, nor nuanced, and is generally just highly charged.

I found specifying a type of capitalism helpful because it was more specific about something which people often throw around without a lot of specificity.

So yeah… I would love to talk more specifically about the critique of capitalism, but I think it’s a bit off topic for this thread as a whole. Would you (and anyone else interested), be up for picking that conversation up here:

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It’s helpful for me to hear some of the perspectives about translation. Also, about word choice.

I think no matter what the statement says, it will demand an amount of supplementary material.

However, I would invite that we make it as simple and clear as possible as a statement, but simply add supplementary material too.

When it comes to translation, I think the English word choice is probably secondary, because really, these are some significant concepts to convey to begin with. For instance, this power-over/with English word choice is something new to most English speakers anyhow.

In a way, it’s another inevitable case of needing additional materials to understand significantly fundamental concepts.

To me… these are the things that make Sociocracy so radical - but it is very hard to really get to the bottom of the roots… and there are all sorts of social things in the way, and those social things come out in language and culture of course :slight_smile: that’s why Part 1 is kinda tricky I guess.

I also really appreciated @pascale.mompoint-gai 's way of relating to this statement:
What does it mean in practice!?!

To me this is really the most important thing. The tangibility of it.
I’m most excited about statements which are actionable.

I really appreciate the 3 part structure because it works toward this end and starts getting really concrete. I’m excited about those concrete elements. Especially where they can be worked into our existing processes. Extra things to do are very difficult because there’s already not enough energy to do the things that need to be done. But doing things differently… that feels more manageable! :stuck_out_tongue:

I think Part 2 does a good job of acknowledging the context sociocracy is in, which sets the stage for what’s feasible. I really appreciate that!

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Since SoFA currently runs 3 SoLT cohorts a year, maybe one cohort could be open only for leaders and members of organizations that are focused on some sort of social change or redistribution of power (more clarity needed :wink:).

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Below is feedback from Talya Sogoba, an inclusive engagement specialist with an organization where I am contracted to provide sociocracy training and support. Recently, Talya and a colleague interviewed me as part of their “Redesigning Power Structures” initiative. In the course of that conversation, I mentioned our new social justice statement. Talya read the statement and wrote these remarks for me to share with you here:

Overall, the social justice statement really resonated with me. I really appreciated the 3 part breakdown that answered some of the questions I had in the intro. I also REALLy resonated with your comment about the lack of “love” or blatantly naming “love” as an important influence in SoFA’s mission. That was probably my biggest critique actually. I could tell there was a lot of intentionality behind the language, but also it comes off a bit cold/more structured (Kind of like what we were talking about sociocracy feeling less fluid and structured more similarly to whiteness and white supremacy). I feel like there’s room to add in some passion, to talk about the importance of love in redefining who has power because ultimately that’s why you’re doing the work and invested in uplifting community members.

I also wonder if there should be some mention of similar frameworks that exist in sociocracy. I think it’s good to remind folks that sociocracy didn’t come out of nowhere, it’s been influenced (presumably) by other POC and indigenous cultures and naming that is important.

I know some other folks brought this up, but I do think accessible language is also key. I suggest even adding a glossary of terms so that there’s common understanding/agreement of what the terms mean. Defining them is important for everyone to understand the base level that folks are coming from and also provide people who don’t normally have access to that language a chance for a teachable moment…

“It is our duty to fight for our freedom, it is our duty to win. We must love each other & support each other. We have nothing to lose, but our chains.” - Assata Shakur

Thanks for sharing @talya-sagoba’s thoughts @Andy.Grant :slight_smile:

I also wonder if there should be some mention of similar frameworks that exist in sociocracy. I think it’s good to remind folks that sociocracy didn’t come out of nowhere, it’s been influenced (presumably) by other POC and indigenous cultures and naming that is important.

There was some discussion about this in the thread on how the ‘origin story’ of sociocracy is told, but it seems like more research is needed to determine definitive influences.

Here are some pertinent posts:

I wonder how much it makes sense to talk about sociocracy’s origins in the mission statement or not. Perhaps just a line about acknowledging what this thing is that we’re doing - or perhaps in the suggested appendix where sociocracy would presumably be defined…

Andy thanks for sharing Tayla’s feedback. For me, one of the biggest challenges is needing to stay in a place of love, even as we are defending ourselves from people who are dedicated to taking away each person’s simple right to be. From an Apache point of view, every being has a right to be. And yet if a being refuses you the right to be, they give up their own right to be. That was Geronimo’s world view. After broken treaties, he concluded that whites would never give him the right to be Apache and he said he’d rather be dead. He was not a chief, but young braves followed him. A more recent story comes from the pipeline protest at Standing Rock. It was young people who provided the spark. It was elders who counseled them that the key to success was staying in the power of prayer … for protecting the water … not being in the energy of anger that sparked the protest. That required special attention and was part of their onboarding process when visitors came to the camp. As part of the helping circle, I see this document as simply a jumpstart to a larger conversation. Encouraging to see so much interest!

I just want to give a shout out to Ted and Jerry for Many Voices One Song. Chapter One focuses on power dynamics and was an amazing resources for the Social Justice helping circle. It’s like a relay race. Every leg of the journey brings us closer to a future that works for all beings.

Thanks for connecting with these comments. Their name is Talya, by the way.

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