Aukje at the NE Cohousing Summit

What follows are Aukje’s notes on the session she attended at the Northeast Cohousing Summit in Amherst, Mass. on the weekend of September 21-21, 2018


I attended the all day session on Sociocracy. This session was run by Jerry Koch-Gonzales with some assistance from Ted Rau. The session was a very hands on session that helped us learn some of the basics of Sociocracy through lecture and practice.

Here is some of what I learned:

Sociocracy comes from the combination of the words ‘socio’ and ‘ocracy’ and is a combination of the social with government.

The 3 main Elements of Sociocracy are:
Decision by Consent. All decisions are made by consent, but most of the decisions are made in small groups (circles) rather than in the large group. If anyone in the circle objects to a decision, they must state why. And consent is based on the aim of the group, rather than personal preference. So any objection would need to be based on why this would not be good for the aim of the circle.
Linked Circles. The organization structure is one of circles linked to each other. Each circle is empowered to make decisions in their own domain so don’t need to always wait to get consent from others etc. And each circle is linked to the one ‘above’ it through both a leader and a delegate so that there are always 2 voices from each circle at the circle ‘above’ it,
Continual Evaluation by Feedback. Before decisions or policies are made, it is the circle’s responsibility to get as much input as possible from those who would be affected by this decision or policy. And once the decision or policy is made, it is evaluated again through feedback to see how it is working, what changes might need to be made etc.

Aims of the Circle
Each Circle needs to have a clear Aim = the purpose or thing that they are empowered to do. This Aim is based on the Mission Statement, which is based on the Vision of the group. The Aims are the doing part – the strategy for getting it done.

Power Dynamics
There is always power in groups and amongst people, so it is best to acknowledge it and create power with, rather than power over. And because every decision is made through consent, no one can have more power than the group gives them.

Within the circle most things are done in rounds. In a round, each person has an opportunity to speak on whatever the topic is. This ensures that everyone’s voice gets heard and no-one can dominate the discussion.

Generating a Proposal or Policy
Before a proposal is made, it’s important to understand the needs – what needs are we trying to meet with this proposal or what is the issue we are trying to address. It is important to have clarity about the issue before developing a proposal or policy to deal with it.

Once it is clear what issue we are trying to address, a proposal can be made. There are 3 phases to reach agreement on a proposal or policy.
Understand: Do a round where each person can ask clarifying questions.
Explore: A round where everyone has an opportunity to react to the proposal or policy
Decide: A consent round – asking each person if they consent. People can object, but there are no abstentions. If there is an objection, go through the same process again (with the objection) – Understand, Explore, Decide. The group may then decide to amend, drop or consent to the proposal.

Sociocracy Slogans:
“Good enough for now” and “Safe enough to fail”

Rather than looking for the absolute best solutions, things keep moving forward by making decisions that are “Good enough for now” and “Safe enough to fail”

Guiding Principles
Equivalence: Everyone in the organization matters and no one is ignored or disregarded.
Decentralized leadership
Always look for the win-win rather than one wins and the other loses
Considering everyone’s input is key as no one person has access to the absolute truth
Feedback and evaluations based on real data are how an organization can learn
Decisions by few, input from many
Omni-directional flow of information. Try to get information from as many sources as possible
Transparency is important therefore all have the same access to information
“Good enough for now” and ‘Safe enough to try” are the 2 key slogans
Intentionality – everyone has choice about what they do
Tensions point to lack of clarity (on domains, about roles, or about someone’s needs). Tensions are an invitation to explore.
Effectiveness – want to know that what we are doing works, is useful and matters