Re: Sociocracy
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Thu, 23 Jan 2003 22:11:44 -0700 (MST)

On Thursday, January 23, 2003, at 12:18  PM, Dahako [at] wrote:

I'm interested in sociocracy in cohousing - Eastern Village is probably going to be one of the largest North American cohousings and of all the governing structures I'm aware of, I'm most intrigued by sociocracy.

Yes, I do believe that with 60 units you will be huge and sociocracratic principles might be very helpful.

One of the issue is sorting out the basic principles from the structures in practice in corporations that are using sociocracy in all or part of their organizations. What is necessary and what is extra?

The 4 core concepts are Consent, Circles, Double-Links, Open Elections. These are all ways to maintain "equivalence" -- the equivalence of all members is a fundamental value, essential to ensuring a harmonious (and thus more successful) community organization.

Consent in sociocracy means "no objection". Silence means consent so as long as an agenda has been properly announced (due notice given), members do not have to show up to a meeting if the decisions to be made do not affect them or they trust the powers that be to make them.

Circles are the decision-making groups or teams or committees. The word "circle" is used because the concept relates to forming an arena or ring for discussion and argument. In the circle, various members may have different responsibilities but members are all equal in terms of decision-making.

Because sociocracy has developed in a corporate structure, the circle structure is hierarchical and I don't think we need in cohousing. In corporations there are two, overlapping structures -- a functional structure and a decisionmaking structure. Since the functional structures are hierarchical, the corporate circles are hierarchical. Cohousing doesn't have two structures and it doesn't have large functional areas that are independent of other areas. Cohousing members tend to be involved in or directly affected by all or many areas of the community.

Businesses have "general circles" composed of double-links (at least two representatives) from each of the other circles related to them -- these can go to many layers in a large organization. The "top circle" is like the President's cabinet and includes a double link from the general circle(s).

Many cohousers have objected to the "top circle", me amongst them. But I do think a group needs a "steering" or "coordinating" circle -- one that tends to long range planning, pays attention to legal and extra-community affairs, and is empowered to make emergency decisions. Perhaps a strategic circle that includes double links from other key circles (legal and finance, facilities, community affairs?). But this circle needs to be small enough that it can make quick decisions when necessary and not so large that takes on functions that are the province of other circles.

Does that make any sense?

Sharon Villines
Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC

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