Re: Consider Sociocracy
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Wed, 28 Jun 2006 06:02:46 -0700 (PDT)

On Jun 27, 2006, at 7:45 PM, maggiedutton wrote:

With decision making done by Consent instead of
Consensus, meeting times would be greatly reduced and much more effective. Dealing with folks who are not being "reasonable" would also be easier since
objections to proposals need to be reasoned and paramount.

Thanks to Maggie for starting up the sociocracy discussion again. She has been a real champion. I'm so busy trying to get the book finished, I don't have much effort-space left to actually talk about it. What Maggie means by "consent" is the basis for decision-making in sociocracy is "no objections" instead of what some people define as consensus as "everyone agrees."

Since there are a million definitions of consensus and they have changed over time, its hard to say what definition your group uses. The use of consent (no objections) also allows a group to decide by consent to use any other decision-making method it chooses for specific issues, like making some decisions by consensus/solidarity. In other words the group could still require a high level of commitment on some decisions.

One reason you ask for objections is that in sociocracy you really want to hear objections. You can only craft good proposals if you hear all the objections against one. When you ask for agreement, two things happen:

1. You open all sorts of questions that are really preferences and even unrelated to anything you could ever achieve. 2. You short circuit the critical faculties -- the brain leaves the content of the proposal and goes off to "do I agree"?

The third question often asked in consensus decision-making is "is this in the best interests of the group." This is likely to be really a request to go along with the majority. Sociocracy does not ask people to leave their individual sensibilities at the door. A group is a group of individuals and if the group is to be strong, it must have the commitment of each of those individuals. Only an individual can take action or exercise good judgment. A group is only as strong as its individual members. Those individuals can be stronger working together, but not if they put their brains on hiatus.

Sociocracy also
provides a structure, principals and processes that support a governance system where everyone doesn't have to be involved in every decision to have
their perspective included.

This is where I find that sociocracy makes so much sense. It has a structure that is designed not just to encourage inclusive decision-making but to require inclusive decision-making. It comes with processes that ensure inclusion when inclusion is important but it enables clear functioning without requiring everyone to be present. The group doesn't have to re-create order. It can get on with life knowing that a governance structure is in place that protects their voice in major decisions.

A major deficiency of consensus is that it has no structure other than we all come together in a room and decide. It has to be all or nothing. Consensus is usually grafted onto a form of governance that is only designed to support majority vote. This doesn't work as well as it could with a structure designed to _avoid_ majority vote.

The fundamental standard that sociocracy sets is participation. The meaning of "socio" is "companions, associates". The people who associate, who are companions, govern themselves. Sociocracy is built on participation. If you don't participate in governance, you don't have the right to object to decisions. The standard for decision-making is the argument, the content, the facts. The process of discussion is sorting out the facts.

The book is getting closer to completion -- like 2 months, I hope. The current title is "We the People: Organizing Ourselves Sociocratically."

John Buck is currently working with the Center for NonViolent Communication (CNVC, international) and the United States Green Building Association (USGB, national) as well as with many smaller organizations and businesses. He is also doing teleclasses.

So far as I know there are no workshops at the cohousing conference. The cohousing groups that are using sociocracy are the Vermont group, The EcoVillage of Loudoun County in VA, and Ulster County Cohousing in NY. Eastern Village in Silver Spring MD uses the "selection of people in open discussion" process for choosing their board.

What I see is that the principles and understandings are slowly changing the way people think about governance and consensus, even when they don't adopt the whole structure.

Sharon Villines

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