What is Sociocracy?
Sociocracy is both:
- A social ideal that values equality and the rights of people to determine the conditions under which they live and work, and
- A practical method of organizing effective, harmonious, and collaborative organizations—businesses, and governments, large and small.
The uniqueness of sociocracy in an already democratic society is that it is not just a statement of values — freedom and equality — or the right to self-determination. Sociocracy goes deeper. It is a method of implementation. Unlike democracy, which has traditionally been based on majority rule, it has principles and practices that guide implementation to ensure those values.
Majority rule cannot be used in all organizations to make decisions or choose leaders. Voting on which product to manufacture or which service to provide or discontinue isn’t an effective way to manage organizations.
Sociocracy is a whole system approach to designing and governing an organization. It is both management and structure. It can be used in public, private, business, and social organizations. It emphasizes inclusiveness and coöperation to improve performance and increases harmony, effectiveness, and productivity.
Sociocracy is derived from sociology, the scientific study of societies or groups of people. It is based on the belief and experience that people who know and work together are more likely to make good decisions for themselves than a vast sea of voters or lawmakers.
Sociocracy guarantees a society in which freedom and equality are determined by the people who have an active role in creating a deeper democracy.
Consent Is Required for Policy Decisions
Policy decisions are agreements about how an organization’s resources will be used, who will fulfill roles, how work will be done, the standards of quality, etc. These decisions are delegated to the groups* they most directly affect. All groups in an organization make policy decisions. The principle of consent means each member’s concerns and objections about a policy that directly affects them must be must be resolved before it can be implemented.
Consent is defined as “no objections.” Giving consent does not require unanimity, agreement, or endorsement. It means one gives consent to move forward as proposed and to supporting the policy. Requiring consent ensures that a policy will be supported by everyone until there is reason to modify it based on experience or changing conditions. All policies are reviewed on a regular basis. Like budgets, they are not necessarily in force forever.
As a member of any sociocratically governed organization, you are guaranteed of your ability to collaboratively determine your living and working conditions as a citizen, as an employee, as a member, as a neighbor, as a student.
Coordination and Management
Policy decision-making is delegated deeply in to the organization with all work groups, chapters, departments, committees, etc., setting the policies for them selves within the policies of the larger organization.
When a policy affects more than one group, as in a corporation, a large government agency, or a city, leaders and elected representatives from each group form a coordinating or general management group to make these decisions. Policy decisions are designed so all the leaders and representatives consent to adopting them. Since each group is represented equally and each member of the coordinating group has to consent, this ensures that all groups can live or work effectively and harmoniously when the policy is adopted.
Instead of a Board of Directors the organization has a group of people that includes members of the coordinating circle and outside experts who provide financial and professional perspective to the organization. Their focus is on long term planning and financial decisions that affect the sustainability of the organization. They also make policy decisions by consent.
That is a broad outline of the basic policy decision-making structure. Operations are controlled by the policies established by the consent o f those they most directly affect but in other ways follow best practices in their respective domains.
*Because this may be the first entry people read, I have used groups to refer to what sociocracy generically calls circles because it is more familiar and descriptive. There is no mandate in sociocracy that any specific names be used but circle meetings used to be clear that these are specifically policy decision-making meetings in which the principle of consent applies.