Re: Moving Back from Consensus
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Mon, 14 Dec 2020 15:25:46 -0800 (PST)
> On Dec 14, 2020, at 1:12 PM, Mac Thomson via Cohousing-L <cohousing-l [at] 
>> wrote:
> I find it interesting that people distinguish between consensus and 
> sociocracy as if they are two different things. I admire the workings of 
> sociocracy and feel that if our community decided to adopt it, we would not 
> be departing from consensus. We’d just be moving to a certain well defined 
> and organized form of consensus. Not having worked within sociocracy and only 
> having studied it, maybe my understanding is wrong. Thoughts from others 
> working within sociocracy?

The difference is one of scope. Sociocracy is a method of organization that can 
be used to organize and govern all kinds of organizations — businesses, 
non-profits, membership associations, bakeries, schools,, etc — that uses 
consent/consensus as its fundamental decision-making method. It also uses other 
methods of decision-making when appropriate and chosen by consent. Examples: 
majority vote for the date of a holiday party, preference voting for the choice 
of new uniform colors, mediation for disputes with another organization or 
neighbor, autocratic decision-making by the department head, etc. 

Each designation of decision maker and method is first determined by 
consent/consensus. The bylaws or policies may do this for future decisions — 
not necessarily for each instance of a decision.

Consent/consensus is a decision-making method just as majority voting, 
autocratic by religious or team leader, preference ranking, solidarity, etc., 
are decision-making methods. 

What we refer to as a method is more specifically a decision-making threshold — 
the decision is made when a specified threshold is reached — consent by all, 
total commitment of all, the majority of votes — simple majority, super 
majority, etc.

Sharon Villines, Washington DC
Co-author of Sociocracy: Consenting to a Deeper Democracy. A Handbook for 
Understanding and Implementing Sociocratic Principles and Practices, Updated 
and Expalnded Edition

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