Sociocracy: Why All the Names?

When English-language speakers hear the word sociocracy, almost universally they say, “You have to find another name.” And almost everyone has tried. If you are having this reaction, you are certainly not alone. While many other names have been tried, in 2013 sociocracy and dynamic governance became the most widely used. Neither is satisfycing to everyone.

Arguments for Using Sociocracy

  • It retains the historical connection to sociology and the history of governing organizations and societies using scientific methods based on observable and measurable evidence.
  • It distinguishes the method as unique from others.
  • It identifies the aim: governance by those who associate together. Socius, in Latin, or socio in its combining form means companion or companions, and “cracy” means governance.
  • It has a broader social context than more narrowly focused names based on specific aspects of the method, which include consent governance and the Sociocratic Circle-Organization Method (SCM).

Arguments for Dynamic Governance

  • It is much easier for most people to say.
  • It sounds familiar even when people don’t understand the meaning.
  • It refers to an essential process of the method, the feedback loop and the ever changing, adaptive nature of a sociocratic organization and its environment.

Arguments for Almost Anything else:

  • Governance is not very exciting.

History of Sociocracy

Sociocracy was originally used in 1875 by French Philosopher Auguste Comte as the application of sociology to governance. It was used again in the same meaning in 1893 by American Sociologist Lester Frank Ward. In 1926, the Dutch Educator and Pacifist Kees Boeke and his wife English Educator and Pacifist started a residential school in The Netherlands in which they established the first sociocracy using consensus decision-making.

A student of Boeke’s, Gerard Endenburg used the principles of cybernetics to develop the current more structured and universally applicable principles and methods that have been well-tested in Endenburg’s business and many organizations around the world. He called his method the Sociocratic Circle-Organization Method (SCM).

In 2014, sociocracy is used universally in Europe, Australia, South America, and Canada, and interchangeably with dynamic governance in the United States.

History of Dynamic Governance

Dynamic Organization was proposed by Sharon Villines in 2004 during the writing of We the People with John Buck, but Gerard Endenburg believed that it was too general. Dynamic had too many meanings. Sociocracy was unique.

In 2006, in his work with the United Green Building Council, John Buck began using dynamic self-governance almost exclusively in his training workshops after a participant said, “In Idaho, it’s dynamic self-governance,” referring to the unlikelihood of sociocracy being acceptable there. John continued to use dynamic self-governance when he established a consulting firm, GovernanceAlive, in 2006.

In 2009, the self was dropped to become dynamic governance. In 2010, dynamic governance was used interchangeably with sociocracy and sociocracy is now more familiar. In 2013, the quest for a better name continues but dynamic governance is in wide use by sociocratic consultants, for example, The Sociocracy Consulting Group uses dynamic governance on their website and in their training materials. (2013)

Other Names

In the mid 2000’s, biodynamic governance was ised by Tena Meadows O’Rear and living organization was used by Mitch Henrion and Glenda Mattinson. Holacracy is used by Brian Robertson for the system he developed at Ternary Software for the “operating system” he developed based on the principles of sociocracy, the philosophy of Ken Wilbur, and others.

There are undoubtedly many other applications and organizations that are influenced by sociocratic principles without acknowledging or even recognizing that they are.

2014 New Options

Still in search of something that clicks with the public, John Buck and Tracy Kunkler hired a branding consultant who suggested Circle Forward. Nathaniel Whitestone is proposing The Way of the Circle.

Updated 5 May 2013
Updated 23 June  2014

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