Re Leadership & Consensus Decision-Making & Can We Live Without Hierarchy?
From: Diana Leafe Christian (
Date: Fri, 7 Aug 2015 07:04:47 -0700 (PDT)
        Re the issue that Stephenie of La Querencia brought up, of governance 
as being something different from and larger than decision-making, I love what 
David Heimann has written about the "committees and plenary-consensus approach" 
at Jamaica Plain. The method they use -- each committee having a mandate of why 
they can do and an annual budget and autonomy within those limits (and taking 
issues to the plenary when needed) -- is not only an excellent way for a 
community to govern itself, in my opinion, but also illustrates the difference 
between a governance/management method for a community and it's specific 
decision-making method. (A point I made in a post yesterday that hasn't arrived 
on the digest yet.)

        I'd also like to address the claim that Sociocracy's consent 
decision-making process is the same as consensus (either "classic" consensus, 
which I also call "consensus-with-unanimity," or any of the consensus 
modifications, including the wonderful N St. Method). 
        In my opinion, as a longtime consensus trainer and facilitator and now 
a Sociocracy advocate and trainer too, these are not similar decision-making 
methods at all. I cannot emphasize this enough. They appear to me to be in 
whole different paradigms, if you will -- with whole different sets of 
assumptions and expectations about living in an intentional community.
        I can explain more about this if anyone likes.
        And I'd like to address the claim that Sociocracy and Holacracy are the 
same. Egads, they're not! They only look the same at first glance, as both have 
a linked circles structure, a way to change implemented proposals later, a 
similar elections processes, and both use a bicycle analogy to explain feedback 
        I'm one of three Sociocracy trainers I know of -- each who has lived in 
community and each of whom has also taught Sociocracy to intentional 
communities -- who has also studied Holacracy. The others are Frands Frydendal 
in Denmark and Gina Price in Australia. 
        Frands, Gina, and I really like Holacracy too, but do not think it's 
the same as Sociocracy. The two methods have a superficial resemblance until 
you study them both more deeply.
        Re hierarchy, both Sociocracy and Holacracy have what you could call a 
"nested hierarchy" or "circular hierarchy." The "hierarchy" part in each method 
has so many checks and balances that it's not autocratic (which is how we think 
of "hierarchy"), so no boss can make anyone do what they don't want to do. Very 
cool systems, both.
        I recommend Sociocracy instead of Holacracy because Sociocracy is 
accessible and affordable to cohousers and members of other kinds of 
intentional communities. Whereas Holacracy was designed for, marketed to, and 
in terms of learning it, is priced for corporations -- about $4,500-$5,000 for 
a 4-day workshop.
        I made a chart comparing the similarities and differences of 
Sociocracy, Holacracy, and consensus. If you'd like to see it, please let me 
know - diana [at]
        Other workshop handouts I can email if you like: 
                (1) Brief overview of Sociocracy as used in intentional 
                (2) "What Can Go Wrong with Consensus in Intentional 
                (3) "The N St. Consensus Method"        
                (4) "Misconceptions about Sociocracy" (responses to Laird 
Schaub's criticisms of what he characterizes as Sociocracy). 
        Thank you for reading this post!


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