Tag Archives: harmony

Sociocracy FAQ

What Is Sociocracy.info?

Sociocracy.info is the first comprehensive website on Sociocracy. It is maintained by me, Sharon Villines, coauthor with John Buck of We the People: Consenting to a Deeper Democracy. It contains information on the history, principles, and practices of Sociocracy and a blog to answer questions from readers.

The sister site is A Deeper Democracy where I explore  sociocracy in as a method for better achieving the values and purposes of democracy

Harmony?

Gerard Endenburg developed the modern implementation of sociocratic values. His purpose was  to create a harmonious workplace. He believed that in order to do this members of his company had to be able to consent to their working conditions and to be able to self-organize, to take responsibility for planning and evaluating their work.

The dictionary definitions of harmony are  agreement, accord, harmonious relations, and a consistent, orderly, or pleasing arrangement of parts; congruity.

In addition to Endenburg’s experience as a student in a sociocratic school noted for being a harmonious environment, he knew that research had shown  groups that work together in harmony are the most productive.

What is governance?

Governance means the way we steer ourselves. The way a boat is governed by the crew to keep the boat afloat and their own needs met as they move toward shore. It’s how we guide ourselves individually and in groups toward a common purpose.

In sociocracy, each person has a place in which they are equally respected and expected to assume leadership and governance responsibilities. They are in charge of fulfilling their roles and responsibilities—of steering themselves in harmony with the whole organization.

What is sociocracy?

Sociocracy is both a social ideal and a governance method. The ideal, developed along with the science of sociology, is an effective society that ensures freedom and equality for all. Unlike democracy, sociocracy is based in science and scientific method as well as social justice.

A “sociocracy” was first defined by French philosopher and sociologist Auguste Comte in 1850 and later popularized by American sociologist Frank Ward in the late 19th century. In 1926, Beatrice “Betty Cadbury Boeke and Cornelius “Kees” Boeke, both Quakers, pacifists, and educators, combined Quaker teachings  with the theories of Comte and Ward to create the first sociocracy in their residential-school community of 400 students and staff in the Netherlands. The school still exists and is still governed sociocratically.

It was a graduate of the Boeke’s school mentioned earlier, Gerard Endenburg who combined the Boekes’ principles with the modern science of cybernetics and best practices in business to create a sociocracy that worked in a highly competitive and complex business,

Endenburg’s purpose was to create in his electrical engineering company, Endenburg Electric, the harmony he had experienced as a student.

Why sociocracy and not democracy?

Sociocracy implements the knowledge of the sciences and the use of scientific method to guide decisions that result in the best solutions for everyone, not just the majority. Its objectives are the same as those of democracy: freedom and equality for all, but its methods ensure that these freedoms will be guaranteed.

In most democratic countries, majority vote is used to elect officials and make laws. In fact, voting is most often cited as proof that a government is democratic. Sociocracy has a set of principles and practices that ensure the effectiveness, Inclusiveness, and accountability that are required to fully implement democratic values.

What is particular to sociocracy?

Sociocracy is based on:

1. The ideal of a society that values equality and freedom for all. It practices transparency, accountability, and inclusiveness. It uses “no objections” as the ideal standard for governance decisions.

2.  Scientific discoveries and methods—measurement and evaluation are used to decide effectiveness and guide corrections. The organizational structure is designed to produce self-organization, resilience, and coherence—the characteristics  of harmonious systems.

Sociocratic principles and practices can be used to organize and govern the day-to-day operations of all organizations, including governments and businesses.

Does anyone do this?

Yes. Sociocracy is used world-wide in multiple kinds of organizations, large and small, business and nonprofit, religious and educational. There are centers in several countries and many consultants teaching and implementing the methods in organizations. Offshoots combining sociocracy with other governance and social  methods and techniques have been developed and taught.

The last frontier is national and local governance.

 

Doing Rounds Takes Too Long

In our monthly community meeting we discuss and make decisions. We are a circle consisting of all residents, often 20-30 people are present. This means that the rounds often take more time than a lot have the patience for.

Possibly we could break down into smaller groups, just as it is presented on the courses and workshop as some of us have attended. But it gives some other challenges regarded the dual link and the number of meetings.

As you have probably discovered, doing rounds is a very important activity. Doing rounds ensures that everyone is able to function as an equal, has an opportunity to state any concerns or objections, and to contribute information. Rounds also focus members on their purpose as a group, on their shared vision, mission, and aim.

Rounds Form and Re-Form

Each time the group meets, whether a policy setting circle, a team, or a committee, each member will be a different person. They will have had more and different experiences. Knowing what is foremost at the moment brings individuals together and prepares them for collaborative planning and decision-making.

To make decisions as a group, individuals must form a group. If the group has been working together for a long time, doing rounds will be faster and more focused. The group will be skilled in establishing harmony quickly.  While it may take time to reach this stage, harmony will allow the group work in collaboration and fulfill their purpose. Harmony requires understanding.

Focusing Rounds

If rounds are too impersonal or unfocused, attention can wander and the purpose of the round lost. Before beginning a round, state the purpose. You might remind people to

  • offer what is uppermost in their minds in relation to the meeting,
  • speak in terms of what they are anticipating or need from the meeting. and
  • speak personally, not give speeches or announcements, or respond to what others have said.

Avoid stating the focus of the round too restrictively. If people are unsure if what they want to say is the right thing, it will inhibit speaking  Sometimes people have had a major event in their lives and need to speak longer or off-topic. This will probably be of concern to the group, and sharing it will enable the person to  participate in the rest of the meeting more attentively.

Listening

Listening is half the round. Speaking brings out information, but it means nothing if others are not listening. The facilitator should be modeling listening, not leading the round by calling on people and trying to explain or interpret what they have said.

The facilitator is not the focus of a round. Unless the round is being conducted specifically to identify issues to be added to a written list, the facilitator should disappear as much as possible, just giving a nod if it is unclear who should speak next.

Not listening, assuming you know what someone is going to say, is probably the number one reason for boredom and impatience when doing rounds.

A Round of 300 People

Size is not necessarily the cause of inattention and impatience in rounds. Rounds can certainly be too long if they are unfocused and not achieving their purpose. Or the room is too hot or no one can hear.  Or the group is so large it doesn’t share a common purpose.

If the purpose of the round is clear and compelling, the size unless obviously physically impractical, can be quite large.

I once read an account of a community meeting conducted on a highly contentious subject. The neighborhood had been in serious conflict for a long time with no resolution in sight, A mediator was called in to seek a resolution and an open meeting was arranged. The first thing the mediator said was that each person in the meeting would have a chance to speak. The conditions were that

  • each person had to listen to all the others, and
  • no one could leave until everyone had spoken.

There were 300 people in the room. Everyone who wanted to speak, spoke. Everyone listened quietly without interruptions. No one left. It took hours. In the end, because everyone had been listened to and had listened to others, resolution was possible. They had come together as a group in a shared experience.

I have lost the reference for this story because I read about it many years ago and before I had heard the word “rounds.” I would love to have the reference if anyone recognizes the story. It was probably in the mediation literature because I was doing work with an AFL-CIO-affiliated union at the time.