Re: Formal Consensus vs Sociocracy
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Mon, 2 Apr 2007 05:07:36 -0700 (PDT)

On Apr 1, 2007, at 6:32 PM, eileen mccourt wrote:

I have trouble distinguishing Sociocracy from Consensus.

Consensus is a decision-making method just as majority vote is a decision-making method.

Sociocracy is a governance method based on consensus decision-making. It structures an organization so consensus can be used in complex organizations as well as simple ones in which the whole group makes all decisions. It also encourages self-organization and supports development. It provides methods for delegating functions and tasks so that people can function semi-autonomously and still be in line with the consensus. It allows groups to diversify without becoming fragmented and losing communications.

Sociocratic theorists have used "consent" instead of "consensus" to distinguish it from definitions of consensus that mean "agreement". If you want the truth, you don't ask for agreement. That skews the information you are likely to get.

In decision-making, sociocracy emphasizes the need for accurate and complete information in order to make the best decision possible at the time. It asks for objections and then seeks to resolve objections by amending the proposal to make it better. A good proposal is one that enables everyone to work toward the aim of the group as effectively and productively as possible.

Since we aren't creating widgets in cohousing, that "work toward the aim of the group" might mean "enables everyone to enjoy their community even more."

So sociocracy shouldn't be distinguished from consensus -- it includes consensus but it's not just a decision-making method. It offers a structure for implementing decisions and steering an organization along its chosen path. Until sociocracy, groups using consensus were cobbling together governance structures from autocratic, majority vote systems and planting consensus on top of it. Sociocracy works better.

Sharon Villines
Coauthor with John Buck of the forthcoming
We the People: Consenting to a Deeper Democracy
The Essential Guide to Sociocratic Principles and Methods

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