Sociocracy/Dynamic Governance Clarification
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Mon, 19 Jul 2010 16:07:37 -0700 (PDT)
I've working on a proposed structure for cohousing for using sociocratic/dynamic governance that some have misinterpreted.

The standard structure is for a Top Circle that fills some of the functions of a board without the power over the organization than boards of corporations normally do. It is a relatively small group that includes outside experts.

The structure of a sociocratic or dynamically governed organization is:

Top Circle/Board
General Management Circle

Each level makes a different kind of decision, more abstract and long range at the top (five year plans), and more immediate at the bottom (day to day). Within the policies of the whole organization, each team and sub-team makes its own policies. It isn't a power over structure. It's a "circular hierarchy" like rock-paper-scissors where there is control and feedback at all levels of the organization.

Since in cohousing communities every one is used to making decisions as a group, I proposed that everyone serve on the board. Then the major decisions like budget approval would be made by everyone as most groups do now. This is not the typical or recommended structure in sociocratic/dynamically governed organizations.

A major function of the Top Circle/Board is to connect the organization to the community. This done by having external experts on the board with full consensus participation. Such experts would be your lawyer, accountant, a cohousing expert, someone from the local neighborhood association or government, and possibly someone related so a special interest.

If you were an ecovillage, you would want one or more experts in ecology. These experts could change from year to year. If one year you want to work on your meal program, you might have a local chef on the board. The next when you are starting a garden, a horticulture expert.

The board would meet 3-4 times a year. The importance of having them all in the same room at the same time is the synergy of discussion. Each person will have a different point of view to share with the others and will think of different things than if you were asking for advice from them. The General Manager/President/Chief Coordinator and one or more elected representatives would meet with the board

This kind of discussion would be hard with the whole board if it included all the members. There is also the danger of reverting to whole group decisions and bogging down the system again.

An alternative, and perhaps a better one is to have the recommended top circle/board structure and have "full circle" meetings when desired or necessary. A full circle meeting would include members of all the circles. Everyone should be attached to at least one circle in order to be contributing work to the community so it would include everyone. Most condominium laws require at least one annual meeting of the owners.

A specific domain of decision-making would have to be defined for full circle meetings that did not overlap with the decisions delegated to one of the circles, or perhaps the domain would include decisions that the circles weren't able to make and that is inappropriate to send to an outside authority.

So everyone on the board (as some communities do now) or full circle meetings, which are probably preferred if communities will accept that structure.


Sharon Villines
"Let us make a special effort to stop communicating with each other, so we can have some conversation." Judith Martin

  • (no other messages in thread)

Results generated by Tiger Technologies Web hosting using MHonArc.