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.
(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
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
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?"
"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."
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.
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.
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
"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.
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.
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
Originally written by Robin Good and first published on MasterNewMedia. [ Read more ]