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Sociocracy aka Dynamic Governance  RSS feed

 
Jocelyn Campbell
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Posts: 4145
Location: Missoula, MT
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Sustainable Ballard is sponsoring a workshop June 27-28 with John Buck, author of We the People: Consenting to a Deeper Democracy.

Unfortunately, I know little about intentional community, and even less about this new method - Sociocracy aka Dynamic Governance - which is supposed to be an improvement on the consensus model (or on many ic models, I suppose).

I'm wondering if anyone here on permies has some quick insight about this?
 
Jocelyn Campbell
master steward
Posts: 4145
Location: Missoula, MT
389
books food preservation forest garden hugelkultur toxin-ectomy
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Thanks Jan. I still have a lot to learn about ICs and alternative governance models.
 
Diana Leafe Christian
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Posts: 45
Location: Earthaven Ecovillage, North Carolina; Ecovillages newsletter http://wwwEcovillageNews.org
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Regarding Sociocracy, aka Dynamic Governance, I know a little about it — and would like to know a lot more. It's a governance system with interlocking committees as well as a decision-making method. (By interlocking committees I mean that one member of a committee participates on the next higher-up level of committees, so there's an excellent flow of information and ideasl through all the committees.)

I disagree though, that Sociocracy "an improvement on the consensus model." Actually, as I understand it, the "consent" method of making decisions in Sociocracy is the same as the decision-making method of consensus when consensus is working well and the people using it (and their facilitator) have been well-trained in how to use it.

What Sociocracy's "consent" decision-making model is an improvement on is pseudoconsensus! That's my term for when the group using consensus has not been trained, or only partially trained, or trained by someone who themselves doesn't really "get it" that consensus is not a religion or the Holy Grail which all need to worship, but rather a simple decision-making tool that is supposed to serve us, not the other way around!

I define pseudoconsensus as a deicison-making method in which the group members believe (and practice):
(1) If we use consensus each of us must all 100% love the proposal before we can approve it (as compared to "some of us love it, some of us like it, and all of us can live with it".
(2) "We're going to stay here in this room, no matter how long it takes, until we reach agreement!" (Which I call "ecision by Endurance." 
(3) Every matter we decide must be decided by the whole group.
(4) Every decision we make must be made by consensus.
(5) We can only have one decision-making method, and that's consensus.
(6) It's OK to block a proposal because of one's personal values, beliefs, lifestyle choices,  and so on (as compared to the group's explicitly stated and written down values, beliefs, and lifestyle choices.)

As I understand it, the "consent" ("I consent to this proposal." method of Sociocracy is similar if not identical to the way well-functioning consensus works, in which some of us love the proposal, some of us like it, some of us aren't sure yet but we trust the others in the group who advocate it, and some of us can live with it. In other words, we pass the proposal because we can all live with it.

The folks at Legacy Farm Cohousing in New York State use Sociocracy and love it. So do the folks at Ecovillage at Loudon County, a cohousing community in Virginia. So I'm surely not wanting to take anything away from this excellent self-governance and decision-making tool.

I just want to point out that comparing Sociocracy and how well it functions to the worst of the most mal-functioning pseudoconsensus and saying it functions better than consensus isn't comparing apples and apples.

Meanwhile, though I do a Consensus & Facilitation Training myself  (and am doing one in upstate New York next week), I'm eager to learn the Sociocracy method too. I don't think one can know too much about functional, practical methods of community self-governance and decision-making!

Diana Leafe Christian
 
Jocelyn Campbell
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Posts: 4145
Location: Missoula, MT
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books food preservation forest garden hugelkultur toxin-ectomy
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Wow. Now I've learned more about consensus models, pseudoconsensus models (or the pitfalls of dysfunctional concensus) and Sociocracy. Thank you all for your thoughtful descriptions--much appreciated.

Sociocracy reminds me of a unique, multi-level governance system for a HUGE homeowners association I worked with. Sometimes it just isn't feasible to have laaarge groups of people working or deciding on an issue, so an interlocking governance/information structure makes a ton of sense.

Thinking of all the crazy ways people can block, stonewall and sidetrack a rational issue at hand makes my head spin.

Now for a confession. I love volunteering and being part of a vibrant community, I love working in committees and partnerships, and I love the idea of a less isolated, more-than-just-nuclear-family home life. Yet, I balk at the idea of IC because I'm completely afraid of getting sucked into a life with dysfunctional people. My own dysfunctions loom large enough to hamstring me at times! 

I think I'm hearing (from Diana's comments here and in another thread) that it might not be so much the method that makes it work, but the people. That could be grossly over-simplified, but what do you think?
 
Diana Leafe Christian
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Posts: 45
Location: Earthaven Ecovillage, North Carolina; Ecovillages newsletter http://wwwEcovillageNews.org
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Responding to Jocelyn's 5/29 comment (re community in general but especially decision-making in community),  "Yet, I balk at the idea of IC because I'm completely afraid of getting sucked into a life with dysfunctional people."

Fortunately there are things communities can do to maximize their effectiveness and well-being in decision-making (and in community life in general), and minimize any negative effects of other people's and one's own dysfunctional aspects.

So first, I'd say that communities definitely do have people who have, to various degrees, various kinds of dysfunctional behaviors at times. Seems like the human condition, and no different inside community than out.

When a group uses consensus decision-making, they can minimize problems if first, they get well-trained in the process before they use it. And further, if they require that any new members go through a consensus training before they have the right to block a proposal. (At my community, Earthaven in North Carolina, we offer a training once or twice a year for Provisional Members — taking the training is a requirement for Full Membership.)

Second, one of the most difficult and demoralizing aspects of using consensus in an intentional community is if one or more people block proposals inappropriately, or too often, or frivolously, or for personal reasons. Sometimes it's the dysfunctional aspects of people which come up in this kind of block.

But this can be addressed by the group's having an agreed-upon criteria for what constitutes a principled block (also known as a valid block or a legitimate block), and a process for how the group tests a block against this criteria when someone does block. For example, criteria for a principled block might be that passing the proposal would violate the group's mission and purpose (and the blocking person can demonstrate why), and/or that passing the proposal would constitute a grave and catastrophic danger to the community legally, or financially, or in terms of its reputation or physical safety, and the person blocking can demonstrate why.

Another way a group can address this potential problem is to require that anyone blocking a proposal become involved in finding a solution, along with a super-majority voting fallback. One method I really like is used by N Street Cohousing in Davis, California. Anyone who blocks a proposal at N Street Cohousing  must organize a series of small-group meetings with various advocates of the proposal in order to co-create a new proposal that meets everyone's concerns. If this happens, the group considers the new proposal. If it doesn't, the original proposal comes back to the group for a 75% super-majority vote. In 20 years of community life at N Street Cohousing this has only happened twice, and with only 2 meetings each. Four solution-seeking meetings in 20 years is not bad! 

For more information about this, please see the article, "Is Consensus Right for Your Group?" on my free online Ecovillages newsletter: http://www.ecovillagenews.org/wiki/index.php/Is_Consensus_Right_for_Your_Group%3F_Part_I

Lastly, regarding community members with more than their share of dysfunction, please know that in  communities with a well-organized membership process new members are screened for their compatibility with the rest of the group; for their understanding and support of the community's mission, values, and lifestyle;  for their willingness to abide by the group's agreements; and for their ability to meet the group's labor and financial requirements.

This usually involves meeting criteria for membership, going through an at-least 6-month Provisional Membership period with an orientation process, and meeting the requirements for full membership (sitting in on meetings, participating in work parties, etc.), and being reviewed, screened, and being accepted, asked to try again later, or not accepted by the existing members. Thus community members have some degree of control over who joins them, and someone who seems to have fairly obvious patterns of dysfunction would most likely not be accepted by the group.

Exceptions to this are communities in which the members are tenants who rent space in a house  (in which case there isn't usually much opportunity for a Provisional Membership period and the landlord probably couldn't afford it anyway), or when incoming members buy a lot,  house, or housing unit and receive a deed to their specific piece of the property, as in cohousing communities. In cohousing communities usually the existing members let the person who wants to buy a cohousing unit know what community life is like, and hope that interested potential buyers will "self-select" themselves for compatibility with cohousing life or not.

I hope this is helpful, Jocelyn.

Diana
 
Jocelyn Campbell
master steward
Posts: 4145
Location: Missoula, MT
389
books food preservation forest garden hugelkultur toxin-ectomy
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Very helpful, Diana, thank you! I think the example criteria for a principled block was the most compelling.
 
David Livingston
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Location: Anjou ,France
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I have had some experiance with this sociocracy system with a local large group here in France .
A nightmere, meetings took up so much time and the cost of paying the "consultants " was huge , it allowed highly paid people not to make desisions or take the responcibility they were paid to do .

David
 
Coralee Palmer
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I am not familiar with Sociocracy, aka Dynamic Governance. We have taken totally different approach by focus on the relationships of each member of the community. We have been developing this model for the last 12 years and have been testing in our community for the last 2 years. It appears to work, but the community is only 2 years old.

The concept is that the members with the highest EQ (emotional intelligence) make the decisions for the community. BUT this is only happens after everybody in the community KNOWS and APPREICATES each members survival instincts, temperaments and Talents, Attributes, and Gifts (TAGs). If I understand how you think, feel and work and I have to make a decision that affects you, It is believed if I have a high EQ, I will make the right decision, at the right time, with the right person, and to the right degree.

One may argue that is not possible, but we are prepare to demonstrate during a free one week workshop November 11 -18, 2013 in Depoe Bay Oregon.

For more details:
http://www.permies.com/t/28324/community/Free-Ninergy-Workshop-Secret-Successful
 
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