Sociocracy: Dynamic Self-Organization
Bringing “All people are created equal…” to life.
Sociocracy is a model of organizational governance that helps us to improve the quality of our lives, communities, environment, and society. Studies have shown greater staff commitment, lower sick leave, greater creativity, fewer meetings, and so on.. The model is a win-win-win for investors or donors, management, staff.
What Is Sociocracy?
Sociocracy vests the power to rule in the “socios,” that is, in the people who regularly interact with one another and have a common aim. Each member of the “socios” has a voice that cannot be ignored in the managing of the organization. In contrast, democracy vests the power to rule in the “demos,” that is, a collection of people who may or may not know each other and have only general aims in common – such as the right running of a country. The majority of the “demos” can ignore the minority of the “demos” as they make their decisions. In an autocratically structured organization, the power to rule is vested in an “auto,” a single person. That executive can ignore the rest of the organization as he or she makes decisions. Businesses and nonprofit organizations, including residential care facilities, are typically autocratic. However, an organization can become sociocratic simply by overlaying a policy making “circle structure” over its existing autocratic structure. On the surface, there may seem to be little difference in day-to-day operations, but the organization quickly blossoms with energy and creativity.
In the sociocratic circle-organization model, the basis of decision-making is consent, which uses the principle of no objection. The consent principle has some subtle but important differences from the use of consensus, including the concepts of one’s “range of tolerance” and “reasoned objections.” Those differences make sociocratic processes practical in the context of day-to-day operations.
How Does Sociocracy Work?
The overlying sociocratic structure is built from four key concepts that let everyone, regardless of any hierarchical level, who is part of the organization make policy on an equivalent basis. People gather for circle meetings to make policy decisions. Making decisions by consent lets everyone, participate in the circle meeting. In addition to the basic strategies for decision-making businesses and organizations that run sociocratically use many dynamic concepts and forms. For example, they set up project aims and dynamic feedback mechanisms. However, many organizations report success just using the consent principle when selecting people for roles and responsibilities or when making important policy decisions. The method is derived from four key systems concepts.
Consent The principle of consent governs the decision-making process. (Consent means no argued and paramount objection.) This means that a policy decision can only be made if nobody has a reasoned and paramount objection to it.
Elections Persons are elected exclusively by consent, after open discussion.
Circles The organization consists of circles of semi-autonomous groups of individuals. Each circle has its own aim and performs the three functions of leading, doing, and measuring/feedback. A circle makes its own policy decisions and maintains its own memory system through integral evolution.
Double Link The connection between two circles consists of a double link. This means that at least two persons from one circle participate in the decision-making in the next higher circle: the circle’s leader and one or more elected representatives.
Sociocracy is a new, socially responsible system of governance that originated in The Netherlands. Originally envisioned in 1945 by Kees Boeke, a Dutch educator and pacifist, as a way to adapt Quaker egalitarian principles to secular organizations, sociocracy allows us to give and receive effective leadership while remaining peers. Gerard Endenburg, a pupil of Kees Boeke and a highly trained engineer, developed Boeke’s vision into a body of well-tested procedures and practical principles using his family’s electrical installation business as a living laboratory. The company, still highly successful after 50 years, no longer has a traditional owner. It is the first ever “free company.”
Today, a variety of organizations use sociocracy in The Netherlands, other European countries, Brazil, and the United States. They range from building and manufacturing companies, to health care organizations, to a public school system, and even a Buddhist monastery. It is part of the curriculum and practice of several Dutch universities and technical colleges.
See Sociocracy For All for videos, trainings and more content on sociocracy.