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Monday, November 29, 2004

Taking Back Our Decision-Making Power: Sociocracy

Thanks to a message forwarded through the Participatory Society discussion group Cifranogy, I have just learned about a fascinating cooperative working model that brings together many of the traits we, freedom thinkers and independent agents feel so close to.

The_two_mules_cooperation_o4.jpg
Photo credit: Tom Coates

The system, originated by a Dutch thinker during the 20th century allows the realization of the many dreams that have fallen flat with the advent of many so-called democracies.

It is a system to run your social network and your community locally. On its own gas. It is a system that supersedes representative democracy with a cooperative participatory approach where everyone is a critical, active stakeholder.

It is a system that recognizes that the sustainable size of such communities is a critical issue and that acknowledges the need for many small interconnected networks of communities to replace traditional government-like centralized solutions.

To good to be true?

Read on what sociocracy is, and then tell me wat you think of it.

The contents that follow have been collected, prepared and published by Ted at Twin Oaks Community web site. Please visit the site to read more about this subject.


SOCIOCRACY

(sO"sE-ok'ru-sE) , ?n.
A theoretical system of government in which the interests of all members of society are served equally.

Gerard Endenburg, one of the developers of Sociocracy stated:

"On the road which we have taken as organizing beings, sociocracy follows
on from democracy."

Sometimes it seems like democracy is just an illusion that the powerful use
to fool people into thinking that they have self-determination.

Sociocracy was developed specifically to address human needs. It resembles
and is specifically designed to mimic living organisms. In a mechanical model
a mechanic runs a machine. This is analogous to managers running their
employees.

Living organisms run themselves. Not only does sociocracy address human needs, but it allows for the most responsive organization and uses a minimum number of levels of hierarchy.

Many of our large-scale problems are systemic. Especially relating to our decision-making methods.

A huge source of our trouble in this world is that we unwittingly give up our power to consent in decisions that affect us.




THE DEVELOPMENT OF SOCIOCRACY

Sociocracy 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.

Together with his English wife Beatrice Cadbury, who was also a teacher, Boeke introduced a method for teachers, pupils and their parents to work together for the best possible result. Gerard Endenburg, was one of the pupils in this "Workplace Children's Community", as the Boeke's school was called.

After World War II, Gerard Endenburg trained as an electrical engineer and concentrated on the then new science of cybernetics (the science of steering and control). He worked briefly for Phillips Electronics, designing a flat speaker that is still used in small electronic equipment today. Then his father challenged him to manage a small, failing business he had purchased. In less than a year Gerard had made the business profitable and merged it with his father's company. In the late 1960s Gerard's father retired and Gerard became manager of Endenburg Electrotechniek, Inc., with the mandate run it both as a profitable business and as a real time laboratory for testing innovative
management ideas.

Sociocracy is a product of that "laboratory."
Gerard Endenburg developed the Sociocratic Method into a body of well tested principles which is now used in more than a hundred different organizations: schools, businesses, various institutions, a local police department, a police academy and a number of businesses in the USA, Canada, Italy, Switzerland and Brazil.




WHAT SOCIOCRACY IS

Sociocracy is rule of an organization by the "socii," that is, people who regularly interact with each other and have a common aim. (The prefix socio- comes from "socius," the Latin term for companion or colleague.) Each socius has a voice that cannot be ignored in the managing of the organization.

In contrast, democracy is rule by 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 running of a country.

An autocracy is rule by an "auto" or single person.

The typical business in the U.S. is an autocracy The majority of the "demos" can ignore the minority of the "demos" as they make their decisions. An "auto" can choose to ignore the rest of the organization.

Sociocracy can be regarded as a fractal structure. That is why, once the basics are understood, the procedures at the highest level are as clear as the procedures at the grassroots level. It also doesn't require very many levels to include a great number of people.




HOW SOCIOCRACY WORKS

The sociocratic method can be applied to every kind of organization. It starts from the concept that people are unequal, unique persons who should be
equivalent in decision-making.

Gerard Endenburg has come up with these FOUR MAIN PRINCIPLES used to form a sociocratic organization:


  • Governance by Consent

  • Circle Organization

  • Double Linking and

  • Elections by Consent.

1) Governance by Consent
The consent principle says that a decision can only be made when none of the circle members present has a reasoned and substantial ("paramount" in the
lingo I learned) objection to making the decision.

The consent principle is different than "consensus" and "veto." With consensus the participants must be "for" the decision. With consent decision-making they must be not against. With consensus a veto blocks the decision without an
argument. With consent decision-making, opposition must always be supported
with an argument.

Every decision doesn't require consent, but consent must exist concerning an agreement to make decisions through another method. Thus, many decisions are not made by consent. Rather, with consent, persons or groups can be given the authority to make independent decisions.

When people start learning about Sociocracy their first questions usually are:
"can people with vastly differing viewpoints actually make decisions this
way without getting bogged down?
"

and,

"How do people decide what a reasoned and substantial objection is?"

The answer to the first question is an unequivocal yes. When you amend a proposal based on everyone's input, you can come up with something that no one has an objection to. The only way to really understand, of course, is to gain experience with this method.

The members of the circle decide if an objection fits the criteria or not. Usually the matter can be cleared up by the facilitator asking how the objector would amend the proposal.

Endenburg: "The consent principle employs chaos to come to clarity on policy directions that people will accept in their particular circumstances, but it makes it possible to resist sometimes sudden and arbitrary actions by power holders and systemic coercion by majority parties or other voting blocks."

2)Circle Organization
Every circle formulates its own vision, "mission statement," and aim/objective, which must fit in with the vision, mission and aim of the organization as a whole and with the vision, mission and aim of all the other circles in the organization.

Each circle performs the three functions of directing, operating and measuring
(feedback), and maintains its own memory system by means of integral education.

3)Double-Linking
Coupling a circle with the next higher circle is handled through a double link.
That is, at least two persons, (usually) the supervisor of the circle and at least one representative of the circle, belong to the next higher circle.

Sociocratic organizations are connected to outside organizations by external double links. The top circle has outside "experts" as members. These experts sometimes come from other circles within the organization.

4) Sociocratic Elections
Choosing people for functions and/or responsibilities is done by consent after an open discussion. The discussion is very important because it uncovers pertinent information about the members of the circle.

Sociocratic elections are like nothing you may have experienced before. Everyone votes on paper first putting their own name on it as well. Then, after collection, the facilitator says, "Ted, you voted for Mabel. Why?" A reason is always given. "Because she already seems to understand this stuff and I think she'd present the material clearly." You end up saying nice stuff about each other! People feel good and get positive feedback. The facilitator puts the votes in piles for each person and asks if anyone wants to change their vote.

Usually people do. If there's not a clear majority for someone, the facilitator can choose any of the ones most voted for (or even not if they think they can get a 'no objection') and go for a 'no objection' round. The candidate
asked about is asked last. Elections are interesting and fun, but most importantly nobody feels like they lost!

Besides the four main principles Endenburg has come up with some agreements
that help "maintain equivalence" between participating members:


  • Everyone has a right to be part of a decision that affects them.
  • Every decision may be reexamined at any time.
  • No secrets may be kept.
  • Everything is open to discussion.

Sociocracy is a form of governance. It models an organization that can function and function well with the least levels of hierarchy possible. It cannot be owned because ownership indicates who has the ultimate decision-making power. As power is shared, ownership is shared too.


Two more traits make Sociocracy uniquely identifiable:
Organomorphism and strong support for Diversity.




1) Organopomorphic

Sociocracy resembles organic systems? In their pamphlet Sustainability Tom Heuerman, Ph.D. and Diane Olson, Ph.D. write:

"Fritjof Capra wrote that the wisdom of nature is sustainability. Ecologies
andorganizations are living systems and share the same principles of
organization.
"

"In most organizations these dynamics are driven underground by efforts to
control." "Both [ecologies and organizations] are networks, their histories determine their structures, and they are intelligent and capable of learning. Ecological literacy means using the principles of organization of ecosystems (a community of organisms and their physical environment interacting as an
ecological unit) to create sustainable human communities. We can learn much
from nature about sustainability.
"

Here is a list of qualities of organic systems:

1. Cooperative mutual dependence (networks)

2. Any holon (a whole made of it's own parts, yet itself part of a larger whole) is never completely independent (hierarchy)

3. Changes constantly

4. Expresses Diversity

5. Cannot be controlled and dominated

6. Is self-maintaining and self-renewing (Autopoietic)

Some people think that Darwin's 'Survival of the Fittest' means that
competition is the way everything in the world operates. If we look at nature, though, we find that it is much more cooperation than that.

Ecosystems evolve to dance/flow/proceed in balance. If one part of an ecosystem disappears it severely directly affects other parts and severely indirectly affects all parts.

Cooperation is the exception rather than the rule within most businesses today.

Since a sociocratic organization's purpose is to serve community and participants in the company, competition outside the organization is also reduced, which, of course, isn't the rule today at all.

Sociocratic organizations link up with other sociocratic organizations and become reliant on each other.

For those of you, like me, who strongly oppose centralization and hopes of a world government, there is a different way to look at things.

Through the sociocratic lens you can have one world government without being controlled by one power center. All of it could be achieved with cooperative networks.

A sociocratic organization is always connected to other sociocratic organizations. Ideally there would be a lot of them. Each community network would be connected to a top circle of other similar communities. Then there would be a circle of community top circles. This would go on, hopefully indefinitely.


2) Diversity

With Consent the more people that make a decision, the better the decision will be. People with vastly different ideas can craft a decision that is win-win for everybody. A group makes better decisions when ten people are present than when five people are present.

The more people involved in a decision, the more checks and balances there
are that will bring the proposal closer to heeding what the little-angel-on-our-shoulder says. If there is only one person making the decision, there is too much temptation from the little-devil-on-our-shoulder, and as Gerard wrote, people certainly can be "uncaring, idle, and unreliable egotists."




Are Corporations Slaves?

John Buck, who found out about sociocracy in the Netherlands, studied it,
and brought the idea to North America, has an analogy for you to think about.

A corporation is a legal person.

If that corporation is owned, then that 'legal person' is owned and is a slave.

If the owners make the decisions that affect everyone in the corporation, then we see here that there is a master/slave relationship.

In a sociocratic organization a person must be included in a decision that affects them.

They also get total veto power - as do all members of the decision-making body (circles in sociocratic parlance).

In other words, if the owners make a decision that affects an employee, then the employee is due a say in the decision. The owners would also be included in
any decision that affects them, but they wouldn't make the decision exclusively. In a non-sociocratic organization the owners could decide to move a
manufacturing plant to Mexico.

In a sociocratic organization, that couldn't happen unless every single employee who is affected by the potential move doesn't object to it happening. Is this the difference between a slave and a free person?

This brings up an interesting thought. If the organization cannot just be told what to do by owners or a separate management class, then it cannot really be "owned."

It exists to serve community and participants in the company. A participant is everyone who wishes to share in the interest of the company.

There can be stockholders, there can be investors, but if they sell their interest in the organization, the new owners cannot change anything without the consent of every employee who is affected by the changes. Hostile takeovers and buyouts become meaningless.




All of the material excerpted on this page has been collected, edited and originally published by Ted at the Twin Oaks Community website.

I have only moderately edited the original content to make it more legible without changing in any significant way the actual content or ideas expressed in it.

I highly recommend you pay a visit to this site to learn more about Sociocracy and its implications.


More info:

John Buck recently received a master's degree in quantitative sociology, including a thesis about sociocracy. Presently he works as a computer systems project manager for a Virginia-based consulting firm. He trained under Endenburg and offers training workshops and support for groups learning sociocracy. He has recently started an online discussion board at http://www.sociocracyusa.atfreeweb.com.

The main sociocratic center, Sociocratic Center Netherlands, has a some additional information and short publications in English.

The Ecovillage of Loudoun County Virginia, a new co-housing community, has a nice web page that includes some discussion about their use of sociocracy.

You can find a case study by Prof. Georges Romme in the British professional journal published by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., Knowledge and Process Management, "Toward the Learning Organization: The Case of Circular Re-engineering," Vol. 5, No. 3, (1998) p. 158-164.

Source of above links: http://tinyurl.com/5sx8d

[ Read more ]
 
 
 
Readers' Comments    
2004-12-13 02:45:19

Cielja Kieft

I was happily surprised by the article over sociocray on your site; knowing that spreading this wonderful (open) system by the internet is a direct way to have more people know about it. The way you explained it is clear, informative and makes curious. I was glad you had all kind of links for people to read more about it, because only describing the method is a very technical approach, as are the books about sociocracy.
My first encounter with sociocracy was a ‘live’ one. We had a meeting with some 80 trainers. And we had hired a person from the Sociocratic Center to lead the meeting. Already after the openings round, the first ever for me, I was ‘sold’: I wanted to know more about this! It felt good, it felt right, it felt supportive, it generated enthusiasm. The aggressive complaints that the people in the meeting started with, just melted away, to never come back! All of a sudden we knew again what we wanted and that we wanted to do it together.
After I took the sociocratic management training I started an elementary school parliament. I discovered that sociocracy is very quick adapted by children. In fact it reflects the way they want to interact and have conflict resolutions. After they had experienced the voting system they never wanted the ‘unfair democratic way’ again.
So back to basics! I recommend every one to look for ‘life’ opportunities to experience sociocracy!



2004-12-01 17:28:02

rwild

"The role of cooperation has been largely unmapped... Now is the time to finally build this map...". Here is a map http://www.1-900-870-6235.com/PeaceMap.htm of a whole new approach to dispute settlement / resolution; one that does not require either black or white party to compromise to "grey". It maps the way to new forms of cooperation, that still honour conflicting opinions and objectives.



2004-12-01 09:37:23

Sepp Hasslberger

Cooperation vs. Competition

Toward a Literacy of Cooperation - A course at Stanford University, open to the public.

Darwin had a blind spot. It wasn't that he didn't see the role of cooperation in evolution. He just didn't see how important it is. So for two centuries -- a time during which the world passed from an agrarian landscape into a global post-industrial culture of unprecedented scale and complexity --science, society, public policy and commerce have attended almost exclusively to the role of competition. The stories people tell themselves about what is possible, the mythical narratives that organizations and societies depend upon, have been variations of "survival of the fittest." The role of cooperation has been largely unmapped.



2004-11-30 16:20:21

Sepp Hasslberger

Not only are corporations slaves, as John Buck eloquently shows, but it appears that corporations own more of the United States than we normally would believe. Many of the nominally government entities are actually corporations, and even the United States itself seems to be a corporate entity.

The following is a summary of information that clearly shows that the USA and its "folk" are owned, lock, stock and barrel.

Here is the last paragraph first:

"The few who understand the system, will either be so interested in its profits, or so dependent on its favors that there will be no opposition from that class, while on the other hand, the great body of people, mentally incapable of comprehending the tremendous advantages...will bear its burden without complaint, and perhaps without suspecting that the system is inimical to their best interests." - Rothschild Brothers of London communiqué to associates in New York June 25, 1863

Corporate Takeover Of Government Well Underway
Urban Survival.com
11-28-4

"Still think you're free? Still think all you have to do is vote the incumbent out of office and everything will automatically return to 'normal.' It's too late. Protesting, voting, or - laughably - letters to the editor won't change anything.

Look at the corporate info I found at the Delaware Secretary of State website:

INTERNAL REVENUE TAX AND AUDIT SERVICE (IRS) For Profit General Delaware Corporation Incorporation date 7/12/33 File No. 0325720

FEDERAL RESERVE ASSOCIATION (Federal Reserve) Non-profit Delaware Corporation Incorporation date 9/13/14 File No. 0042817

CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AUTHORITY INC. (CIA) For Profit General Delaware Corporation Incorporation Date 3/9/83 File No. 2004409

background info: Transfers: With the National Security Council to the Executive Office of the President by Reorganization Plan No. 4 of 1949, effective August 20, 1949; to independent agency status by EO 12333, December 4, 1981.

Central Intelligence Group established under the National Intelligence Authority by Presidential directive, January 22, 1946, to plan and coordinate foreign intelligence activities. By National Intelligence Authority Directive 4, April 2, 1946, NIA assumed supervision of the SSU dissolution during spring and summer 1946, assigning some components to Central Intelligence Group at request of Director of Central Intelligence, and effecting incorporation of the remaining units into other War Department organizations. SSU officially abolished by General Order 16, SSU, October 19, 1946. Central Intelligence Group and National Intelligence Authority abolished by National Security Act, which created the CIA, 1947. SEE 263.1.

FEDERAL LAND ACQUISITION CORP. For-profit General Delaware Corporation Incorporation Date 8/22/80 File No. 0897960

RTC COMMERCIAL ASSETS TRUST 1995-NP3-2 For-profit Delaware Statutory Trust Incorporation Date 10/24/95 File No. 2554768

SOCIAL SECURITY CORP, DEPART. OF HEALTH, EDUCATION AND WELF For-Profit General Delaware Corporation Incorporation date: 11/13/89 File No. 2213135

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, INC. Non-profit Delaware Corporation Incorporation Date 4/19/89 File No. 2193946

http://www.state.de.us/corp/directweb.shtml (Please look at #1 at the end of the paragraph it states "click here for status on the web." From there, at the end of the first paragraph "receive a status inquiry on line, CLICK HERE." That takes you to 'General Information Name Search.')

Keep in mind - these are just the listings I could find. For example, I tracked down the Bureau of Engraving and Printing - in the state of Texas (foreign corp from the District of Columbia).

This means, as 'citizens,' we are assets of the corporation. It doesn't matter who is in office, the board of directors and the shareholders own and run the country - just as in any other corporation.

Roosevelt's quote has an entirely different meaning now:

"The real truth of the matter is, as you and I know, that a financial element in the large centers has owned the government of the U.S. since the days of Andrew Jackson." -- Franklin D. Roosevelt in a letter written Nov. 21, 1933 to Colonel E. Mandell House

The thing to find out, and I'm hoping the corporate records will show, is who are the shareholders? Who profits - for example - from the 'private, for-profit, corporate CIA' or the 'private, for-profit, corporate IRS' or the 'private, for-profit Social Security' - that those in charge are now telling us is 'broke.' Who is on the board of directors of 'UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, INC.'

Ask anyone you know if they are aware of this. Call your congressman's office and ask them. Why doesn't anyone know? Why isn't this casually mentioned in the news? 'The Board of Directors of the United States of America, Inc., today ruled........' 'The Board of Directors of the Social Security........' 'Today, the Central Intelligence Authority filed as a private for-profit corporation.' Why do those in charge never mention this? Why, searching on any search engine, doesn't this information come up?

Because we're being lied to. Ever wonder why those who fight the IRS are not allowed to bring up their Constitutional Rights in tax court? Constitutional Rights do not apply in an equity court. Contract law supersedes individual and Constitutional Rights. Corporate law is a totally different animal from common law. Ask any corporate attorney. You've inadvertently signed contracts with this bastard entity posing as the 'free' United States of America - when you registered to vote, when you applied for a checking account (at a Federal Reserve corp bank - look at your signature card, it states you will comply with all rulings from the Secretary of the Treasury), when you applied for a social security card.....

Ever look at the trust corporations (such as the RESOLUTION TRUST CORP (RTC) associated with the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, INC.? Trust - a fiduciary relationship in which one party holds legal title to another's property for the benefit of a party who holds equitable title to the property. Who holds the equitable title? Ever notice property deeds state 'tenant' when referring to the supposed owner?

We are ruled by fictitious entities - corporations are fictions. We have been lied to, our entire lives, that we are free. The United States is owned, lock, stock, and barrel, each of us as citizens of the United States is owned. The question to which I want the answer is: Who owns us?

"The few who understand the system, will either be so interested in its profits, or so dependent on its favors that there will be no opposition from that class, while on the other hand, the great body of people, mentally incapable of comprehending the tremendous advantages...will bear its burden without complaint, and perhaps without suspecting that the system is inimical to their best interests." - Rothschild Brothers of London communiqué to associates in New York June 25, 1863



 
posted by Robin Good on Monday, November 29 2004, updated on Saturday, January 21 2006


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