Re: scenarios to work out what are "routine", "significant", and "major" decisions
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Tue, 31 Jan 2012 17:38:31 -0800 (PST)
On 31 Jan 2012, at 4:52 PM, peterpiper [at] wrote:

> On Saturday I'm facilitating a workshop to flesh out what actions and
> decisions different task teams can make without being discussed by the
> Board or General Members Meeting. To do this I'm going to run a role play
> where our 8 task teams have to catagorise decisions as routine,
> significant, major, or emergency. NB. This is taken from

Being from Takoma Village, i must say that policy its categorization has served 
us well. And as often as people have made fun of it or complained about it, 
after about 8 years of using it, the only changes the membership made was to 
clarify the wording and examples.

Sociocracy makes a different distinction, however. Circles can make decisions 

(1) that are delegated to them by the General Management Circle and 
(2) those that involve only their circle and its operations. 

The Landscaping Circle would be delegated a budget and a scope of 
responsibility. Within that they make decisions. They also make decisions about 
how they do their work — do they want to work every Saturday morning or each 
person work at convenient times. They can decide to form a vegetable garden 
circle and delegate a range of decisions to them.

The General Management Circle would include two or more members of the 
Landscaping Circle so any issues that involve the Landscaping Circle and other 
Circles would be discussed and decided in the General Management Circle.

I most cohousing communities the functions of a Board or Coordinating Team do 
the job of a Board and a General Management Circle. But they do it pretty badly 
because it isn't clear what their job is because no one wants to delegate any 
responsibility. The advantage of having a General Management Circle is that it 
includes members of all the large circles — people who are both informed and 
able to take action. They have an overview.

The Board focuses on long term planning, larger community relationships, 
consultation with experts, etc. It also includes members from the General 

The difficulty for most of us in cohousing is that our government is us. The 
customer is us. The staff is us. And we live here! That makes it difficult to 
delegate responsibility because no one wants to live under rules they have no 
part in deciding. Delegation of what kind of flowers will planted outside my 
window is tough. It's a fine line between micromanaging and personal control 
over one's living conditions in a community setting.

While Takoma Village doesn't use all the elements of sociocracy, the 
Decision-Making Authority and Responsibility Policy both tells circles what 
they can decide and ensures consultation. It specifies which decision are 
routine, significant, and major; how each of them has to be announced; and how 
objections should be raised. 

This way teams can make decisions, announce them, and proceed if there are no 
objections. Only the issues that we can't agree on, the annual budget, spending 
funds of a certain amount, etc., have  to come to a membership meeting. 

Teams have been known to slip decisions by under the radar or pretend an action 
isn't really a decision but it catches up to them if anyone objects down the 

In the end, however, how well the community makes and executes decisions 
depends on the skills and energy of the residents. One responsibility of 
sociocratic circles is to engage in self-development. The Circle is expected to 
have a development plan so they are improving in their ability to strengthen 
the community. A part of their budget should be set aside for educational 

Sharon Villines
Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC

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