Re: Re: Dividing authority between the Board and the Membership of a HOA
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Sun, 19 Feb 2006 09:26:13 -0800 (PST)

On Feb 19, 2006, at 7:24 AM, Evdavwes [at] wrote:

All corporations have some division of power between the board and the

If you have a legal setup where the Board is legally responsible for the rules and regulations, but the membership expects to participate (by consensus!) in the decision-making process, what process do various cohousing communities
 actually follow in making decisions?

Sociocratic organizations are set up both with clear decision-making authority AND with full participation so the issue of who makes what decisions becomes both well-defined and meaningless because everyone in the organization has the opportunity to raise objections.

A sociocratic organization is a "holarchy." This concept comes from Arthur Koestler and was further developed by Ken Wilbur and has only recently been used to describe what in sociocratic theory has been described poorly (in my opinion) as a "hierarchy". Koestler points out that a hierarchy has only one point of origin and thus we begin to think of life (and organizations) as having only one point of origin. In fact, the "one point" is only a point of view. Boards, as Jessie pointed out, are things we view as the top point of a hierachy from which all other things flow (or are blocked). A more comprehensive view is that the board is the point of connection between a multiplicity of interdependent entities or "holons."

Holarchies are composed of individually independent and self-sufficient entities ("holons") that function both independently and as a part of a larger whole. Like the book "The Power of 10" by Kees Boeke that begins with the view of a little girl sitting in a chair and moves 10x further out to view her whole neighborhood and finally her place in the whole universe, and then in again to view ultimately the cells of her body, what is the "top" of the hierarchy is highly variable. Thinking in terms of holarchies is much more helpful and accurate. when thinking of relationships between both physical entities and intellectual ideas.

A community is a set of holons with defined relationships and decision-making power that becomes a holarchy. Each holarchy is related to other holarchies that themselves form more holarchies. "Network" has been used to describe this phenomenon but in many cases it is not accurate since it does not allow you to define energy or decision making relationships. The Internet is the most frequently cited network and it is a good example. When email flows here and there, it travels via any open network. The beauty of this network is that energy flows where ever it can flow rather than being blocked when on hub is full or broken. But when we are making decisions about getting the elevator fixed, we need more control over where the decisions are made and who oversees the work, thus a network would not be efficient. A holarchy would.

I've been working on a sociocratic model specifically for cohousing communities that is not yet completely clear so it will have to wait but a few points about the function of the board. There are many possible configurations but I'll layout a possible simple model.

The Board has specific functions in sociocracy -- long term planning is the primary function-- meaning 1 year, 5 year, 10 years plans for example. The Board includes not only the President, Secretary, and Treasurer, but also other experts that are important to the community. For example, your lawyer, your accountant, your property manager, a local government representative, and a community development person like a facilitator. In a large business, these people would be paid and would meet 4 times a year, or as necessary, to discuss the future of the company. In a cohousing community, the outside experts may meet only twice a year but be consulted more often. Payment varies. A lawyer would be on retainer and this agreement would include a certain number of face to face meeting. Face to face meetings are Any member of the board has the right to object to any decisions before the board,

The Officers of the Board serve on the General Circle or Coordinating Circle and this is where most of the decisions are made. This circle functions according to ground rules set by the full community and most of its members are selected by consent of the full membership. Thus people here have the consent of the community. There are no volunteers in sociocracy. All people in roles and responsibilities are selected by the people they work. Circles leaders will be selected by the full membership and other people to both roles and responsibilities by consent of their circles.

But when I say that "who" makes decisions becomes "both well-defined and meaningless" its because the process of defining visions, missions, and aims in sociocracy involves the whole organization so thoroughly that it would be hard to determine "who" made what decision. The facilities team would make decisions within the defined domain of facilities but the process of defining aims for facilities as well as the selection by consent of the leader of the facilities team, the clear long term planning, and the short term strategic planning process, assures that the team will be functioning within the parameters desired by the membership.

I hope that is clear(er) and not too long.

Sharon Villines
Coauthor with John Buck of the forthcoming
Sociocracy: A New Power Structure for Ethical Governance (working title)

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