|Inclusive Governance Structures||<– Date –> <– Thread –>|
|From: Sharon Villines (sharonsharonvillines.com)|
|Date: Sun, 16 Sep 2012 05:57:20 -0700 (PDT)|
(More from my study of Jo Freeman's "The Tyranny of Structurelessness." This section discusses the characteristics of inclusive formal structures for cohousing groups (and others) that help (at least) to avoid covert control of the group.) Inclusive Governance Structures Power always exists in groups. An inclusive governance structure builds and gives everyone equal access to power. Refusing to harness power does not abolish it. It just gives up the right to control it and to benefit from it. In cohousing that means the power to control your daily life—how you live and how your money is spent. For many cohousing groups, just like the Women's Movement, full-group consensus decision-making substitutes for a governance structure. The consensus process itself becomes the structure. The facilitator is the magician that makes it work. The other responsibilities and tasks of governance are ignored because consensus is the one what counts. All individual members have to do is to preserve their right to say no. Since there is no effective structure for saying yes, this creates the power of the "block," the veto. The focus on governance is then deflected to debating the acceptable basis for a veto rather than the aim of the community and how to achieve it. Consensus is a decision-making threshold; it isn't a leadership or decision-making structure. Used alone it neither harnesses nor builds power. Without a true governance structure, as communities grow in size they begin to avoid decisions, abdicating them to the elites. They become less inclusive and even undemocratic. Democratic Governance Freeman outlined the principles she felt were essential to structuring a group that could be both democratic and effective: 1. Delegation of specific authority to specific individuals for specific tasks by democratic procedures. 2. Requiring all those to whom authority has been delegated to be responsible to those who selected them. 3. Distribution of authority among as many people as is reasonably possible. 4. Rotation of tasks among individuals, not necessarily everyone but more than a group of friends. ("Those who work well together.") 5. Allocation of tasks along rational criteria. 6. Diffusion of information to everyone as frequently as possible. Information is power. Access to information enhances one’s power. 7. Equal access to group resources. Structured Equality During the same period that the Women's Movement developed, the late 1960s-early 1970s, Gerard Endenburg had assumed leadership of an electrical engineering company in The Netherlands. He was confronted with managers who functioned autocratically and ignored both the concerns and intelligence of workers. Workers resisted and behaved as if they were in conflict with the aims of the company, not in support of them. While the Women's Movement attempted to confront autocratic governance structures with structurelessness, this was never an option for Endenburg. The complex electrical engineering projects he was overseeing had to be highly organized. But as a Quaker, he had experienced the same personal commitment and harmony of a consensus community in both his church and his school. The women’s groups had the commitment and harmony but lacked a structure that would enable them to accomplish their goals. Endenburg had a structure but lacked commitment and harmony. Endenburg began studying and experimenting. He was an engineer and had studied cybernetics, the science of communications and control, which analyzed power. He knew how to create powerful systems, and that was his goal. He understood that power must flow and be distributed equally in order to keep a system at optimum functioning. He eventually developed socioccracy/dynamic governance. The principles he developed are now applied world-wide are strikingly similar to those Freeman defined as necessary for the women’s movement to survive and be effective as well as democratic. There may be other structures that meet these criteria as well but sociocracy/dynamic governance meets them all. 1. Tasks are assigned by teams after open discussion of the requirements of the job and of the abilities of those nominated to meet these requirements. 2. The team has full authority to remove anyone from a task if they are not meeting the requirements of the task or if the task changes. 3. All members of teams are expected to develop leadership abilities and to take equal responsibility for the success of the team. 4. The team controls task assignments and can rotate tasks if it believes that this will build a stronger team. 5. Task requirements and the means of measuring success are written and kept in the team logbook which is available to all members of the team. 6. Transparency is fundamental. All organization records are open. Since each member of a team is responsible for the teams success and participates as an equal member, it is essential that they have full information in order to make responsible decisions. 7. All resources are allocated by the team with the consent of all members. I believe that sociocracy/dynamic governance, the sociocratic circle-organization method, is the best decision-making structure for cohousing but any system that can put the principles of democratic functioning into place would build strong communities with less fuss than functioning without them. My full post on Freeman's article is at: http://www.adeeperdemocracy.org/governance/the-tyranny-of-structurelessness/
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