What is sociocracy?
Sociocracy is a system of various methods to guide a group of individuals towards a common aim.
it’s been in existence and devoping over the past 40 years, and originated in the Netherlands
4 governing principles
1. Decision-Making by Consent
Each person has a voice that cannot be ignored in the decision-making process.
1. The Election Process
2. Consent to a Proposal
3. “Long Format” – Consent when starting without a proposal.
2. Election of People to Fulfill Roles
This principle is a specialized type of consent decision-making.
3. Circles and Circle Processes
as the means of organizing and guiding work.
4. Double-Linking between circles
to ensure effective information flow both up and down as well as across the organization and that no voice is ignored.
- vision – mission – aims
- range of tolerance
- doing more with more or less
- paramount objections
Download the DSG CHEAT SHEET here
Circle Meetings and Consent Decision Making
Gregory W. Rouillard 1 v.3 02/19/2008
Circle meetings provide a format that helps the facilitator balance the tension between creative chaos and organization, in order to produce effective results. Characteristics include:
Assignment of roles to help keep the meeting on track.
The use of rounds to provide a structured opportunity for each circle member to provide input.
Selection of people for tasks through consent-based elections rather than appointment or volunteering.
Roles. Roles are clearly defined, with specific responsibilities and expectations. Roles may be assigned long term, or meeting by meeting. Roles include:
Facilitator: works with Recorder/Meeting Manager to develop agenda for upcoming meeting, reviews previous closing round comments to learn from any suggestions for improvement, and guides (facilitates) the meeting and keeps the group on track.
Recorder/Meeting Manager: records decisions made and applicable discussion for future reference, circulates record in a timely manner, retains records for easy access by all members, solicits and collects agenda items from members for next meeting, works with facilitator to develop agenda, sends out agenda several days before the meeting, and ensures room arrangements are in order for next meeting.
Rounds. A round is used to get input from each circle member. The facilitator calls for a round, selects the starting point in the circle (a person), and defines the direction and time limit for each person, if applicable. Types of rounds:
Opening (check-in): align the group members with each other and the aim or purpose of the meeting through sharing and connection.
Closing: provide feedback on the meeting process and outcome and share what’s alive for the members.
Clarification: is the proposal, question, or idea clear? What needs to be added for clarity?
Quick Reaction: what is each member’s initial reaction to an idea or proposal?
Consent: is each member willing to go along with this decision? What needs to change for an objection to be withdrawn? See section on Consent Decision Making for more detail.
Elections. A special kind of election, using consent, is used to select people to tasks and for positions such as facilitator and recorder. Rounds are used to collect nominations, offer reasoning (arguments) for candidates, and make the selection.
Facilitator describes function or task, to include job qualifications and time limit.
Each circle member writes down her nomination (could be herself – or nobody) on a slip of paper and submits to facilitator. Facilitator reads them and asks “why” for each candidate.
Change round: anyone can change her nomination based on arguments.
Facilitator proposes strongest candidate (based on arguments, not number of nominations received).
Consent round to select job holder.
Consent Decision Making
Consent decision making produces high quality, mutual decisions with the input of all group members, without the use of majority voting and the related possibility of a disgruntled minority. Some characteristics of consent decision making are:
Each group member is equivalent, and must have no paramount objection (consent) to a proposal for it to become a decision.
Each group member may withhold consent to a proposed decision by presenting a paramount and reasoned (argued) objection.
Given one or more objections to a proposed decision, there is a process for refining the proposal to address the objections and make a decision.
Equivalence. Each group member has an equal voice in each decision, and each member’s input is required when considering a proposal. The circle meeting format and use of rounds (see section on Circle Meetings) help a group achieve equivalence.
Consent. In consenting to a proposal, each member is saying that he can live with it. A proposal need not be perfect in order for consent, but it must be “good enough.” We assume that no decision can be perfect and “good enough” improves with time.
Objection. An objection must be reasoned (argued) and paramount in order to be valid. A reasoned objection is clearly stated, has characteristics that are observable by others, and relates to the aim or purpose of the group (“if we decide to only have one workshop slot, we will only be able to train twenty people, so we will not be able to meet our aim of training fifty people during this weekend.”). An objection is paramount if the proposed decision takes the member or the group outside any personal limits or agreements (“We are unable to provide three workshops because we only have two trainers.”). Objections are ignored at the risk of damage to the group. A “niggle” or preference may be the starting point for a discussion resulting in an objection.
Resolution. Objections are resolved by modifying the proposal such that consent can be reached. This can be accomplished by beginning with a proposed modification from the member raising the objection, then using rounds to see if it meets the needs of the other members. In the end, a final consent round is required to approve the decision.
Example. The concepts of equivalence, consent, and objections can be illustrated using the example of an auto with a missing wheel, faced with the decision of whether to continue driving down the road.
Equivalence: each part of the auto has an equal voice in whether the auto will continue driving.
Consent: a missing wheel has withdrawn its consent to continue driving.
Objection: the missing wheel’s objection is paramount (“I can’t continue driving because I’m not attached to the axle”) and reasoned (“if we decide to continue driving, we will damage ourselves”).
Resolution: repairing the missing wheel removes the objection, and results in consent by all members of the system (the car’s parts) to continue driving.
Consider this: if the car were to make this decision by majority vote, 75% of the wheels vote to continue driving. With a clear majority, the car’s decision is to attempt to drive despite the missing wheel, which would probably result in severe damage to the system (the car). Likewise, majority voting in groups can result in damage to the system (the group and its relationships) when paramount and reasoned objections are ignored.
Why nextGEN uses DSG
by Elliott Saxby
As a sustainable community DSG has allowed us to honor each voice bringing in an emotional, human aspect to our decision-making. DSG allows us to understand each other more deeply and remove some of the hierarchy and separation that can be experienced in organizations and meetings. It has increased transparency in our organization and helped us to gain insight into the reasons behind the decisions that we make, i.e. it has built trust within the organization. DSG has contributed towards us being able to make decisions with both efficiently and genuine care and compassion.
As the leaders of tomorrow living in the ‘now’ this dynamic process is incredibly empowering. We are able to guide each other whilst not being addicted to power, thereby living and growing with an attitude of ‘power with’ rather than ‘power over’. DSG allows us to live together in harmony with the changes we want to see in the world. We are able to organically co-create and co-own this important organization demonstrating to the world just what is possible.
DSG removes the “power over” element found in traditional hierarchical structures. Individuals have relatively equal power in decisions made by consent, thus responsibility is shared equally. This gives leadership a different dynamic not present in autocratic structures. DSG empowers the individual and provides creativity!
The dynamic processes of DSG allow us to learn from our mistakes and correct them efficiently and meaningfully. By experiencing the joy and depth of connection available within this form of decision-making and hierarchy is an essential step in fulfilling our Mission.
It allows NextGEN circles to manage their own projects. NextGEN members, circles, and other DSG organizations keep their freedom and personal agendas while working for the shared Vision. It allows an individual to meet their own needs while working with others. Each circle is able to be unique. The DSG structure acts as a networking tool ensuring not only knowledge is shared but also organizations that work for common aims can take decisions together in a way that serves the individual organizations and the greater whole.
DSG allows all circles within NextGEN to have their own autonomy and culture while being part of the interconnected whole. As NextGEN grows we are creating an accessible and effective global representation of sustainability minded youth: facilitating the first example of ‘the global evolution of democracy’.
“DSG optimizes organic systems by using the wisdom of nature (sustianability) and humanity (compassion) to allow consciousness to emerge”
4 reasons why I’m personally passionate:
1. The power of consent
2. Personal development
This method is both efficient and honors people. It allows me to be aware of the different voices and roles I play in life without being too attached to my own point of view. The perspective shifts DSG offers aids my own personal development and my relationships to others. It allows a holistic view to emerge that expresses our interconnectedness. This model is compatible with Spiral Dynamics on different levels, which means we can use it to support cultural evolution.
3. Systems theory
This approach is systemic and sustainable (two things paramount in my work). If you look deep enough you will find Buddhist philosophy, Permaculture principles and cybernetics meaning we are following natures blue print and optimizing the essence of human nature: love and compassion.
If we use DSG to organize ourselves it is far easier to achieve the results we want. I feel this is essential for the health of the planet when we are working on changes that are needed in the world now. Another benefit of this model is when working in communities the boundaries between for profit and not for profit can merge in a way that allows societies needs to be met so they can grow healthy instead of getting entangled in fear driven power struggles.
4. My intention
I have a clear intention of seeing this model work in new areas. Through NextGEN it is operating globally and locally. I’m working towards the Findhorn Ecovillage becoming the first model of a Dynamically Self-Governed town to demonstrate further methods that support peaceful transition in the world.