Tag Archives: Sociocratisch Centrum

Sociocracy Today

Sociocratisch Centrum

In 1978 Endenburg established the Sociocratisch Centrum in Utrecht, later moved to Rotterdam and renamed The Sociocracy Group,  and began consulting with many organizations to implement the Sociocratic Circle-Organization Method. He also joined the faculty of the school of business at the University of Maastricht and began training business leaders.

In 2014, Endenburg has partially retired but still influences decisions related to the growth of sociocratic organizations world-wide. Students he has trained are now training other consultants internationally. Sociocracy Group centers , organizations, and training programs now exist in the Americas, Europe, and Australia.

Organizations Using Sociocracy

There is no comprehensive list of sociocratic organizations. Most prefer to be known for their work, not how they make decisions. The now include national and international associations, building and manufacturing companies, health care services, public school systems, villages, private schools, Buddhist monasteries, software companies, residential communities, colleges, a wholesale florist company, veterinary offices, and consulting firms.

They are spread over North and South America, all the countries of Europe, Scandinavia, Australia, New Zealand, and developing in Africa and Asia.

In addition to consultants working internationally to help organizations implement the method there are a growing number of websites with resources, guides to training and consultants, and social connections. A network of sociocratic organizations and individuals is being formed to increase general awareness of sociocratic principles and methods.

Consensus: Community or Decision-Making

Q: Discussions of consensus on cohousing discussion lists seem to be focused on or limited to facilitated, time-bound, decision-making events rather than building a culture of relationships in a community. Is this intentional?

Questions about consensus generally do focus on the technicalities and problems of using consensus to make decisions in meetings. And building community is one objective of using consensus because it ensures that the interests of everyone will be taken into consideration. However, cohousing communities, as opposed to other kinds of intentional communities, try to avoid ideologies or anything that might appear to be an ideology. Cohousing groups also vary widely on the degree of community that is expected of members and members vary widely on how they participate in the community. Diversity is welcomed even in this respect, though perhaps not by all.

Since consensus (or sense of the meeting) and peace as daily practices are most often associated with the teachings of the Quaker church, anything reminiscent of this becomes touchy.

Even sociocracy (dynamic governance), the only governance method designed to use consensus decision-making tends to discuss it as a tool, not a socially desirable objective. The official sociocratic organization, the Sociocratisch Centrum in Rotterdam, and its certification program focus specifically on how to implement the method in to design and govern better organizations, not to produce a better society. Even equivalence is presented simply as the best way to create a harmonious organization. Their desire is to have sociocracy taught in as many kinds of organizations as possible and to develop a sociocratic society. This aim requires not adopting any cultural messages that might be interpreted as religious. This is one reason they prefer to refer to “consent” decision-making and to avoid the word consensus. Its connotations are too inclusive.

While sociocratic methods can be used simply as management tools, the underlying values of equivalence and harmony ultimately produce a worldview that is more inclusive and mindful. A leading consultant in Montreal, Gilles Charest, has extensive experience in Gestalt psychology. He teaches the principles with a decided focus on personality development and the way the principles address people’s need for attachment, security, and influence (being listened to). His leadership training has long focused more on psychology and sociology than on organizational engineering.

So the avoidance of discussing the contributions of consensus to community building are not necessarily because anyone wants to avoid building community. It is to be as inclusive as possible and this requires not imposing values or expectations of unanimity, and not interpreting harmony as agreement. It’s a difficult balance.

Hierarchies 101

There is nothing about a hierarchy that assumes “the people at the top” are any more intelligent or more highly trained than the people at the bottom. They have a different function, one which requires a specific knowledge base and skill set, not necessarily more of either intelligence or training.

A case in point is a university. The president of a college has, one hopes, a certain kind of knowledge and training. The teaching staff has another kind. Professors are often much better educated in terms of breadth of knowledge, even in certifications and recognitions, than university presidents. Department chairs are not necessarily, and probably not even normally, the most educated or the most intelligent members of their department. (I’m assuming a general definition of “intelligent” as highly knowledgeable with the ability to transfer that knowledge to a wide range of topics. Intelligence is more than memory and diligent processing of research in the field, in other words.)

The brilliance of university presidents is in knowing how to hire and promote people who are smarter than themselves and in knowing when to consult them. That isn’t to say that university presidents do that but for the sake of argument, I’m assuming competence. A president is a person who can conceptualize issues broadly and integrate information from an operational point of view, not necessarily from an academic point of view—and is interested in doing it. Probably 80% of the population has no interest in this at all and only a fraction of  the other 20% are good at it.

Levels of abstraction characterize the levels in a hierarchy. The higher levels think in longer time frames and larger budget categories. An even clearer distinction is that the higher the level the more it is concerned with the meta data of an organization. A university is about education, but what presidents do from day to day has very little to do with educating. Presidents need to understand educational issues but what they are responsible for is facilitating education: obtaining and overseeing the allocation of resources, representing the institution at ceremonial events, guarding public reputation of the institution, etc.

A university president has probably not seen the inside of a classroom in decades. And students only at commencement and while walking across campus. Or in the newspaper when there is trouble.

The value of the sociocratic structure as conceptualized by Gerard Endenburg is that it recognizes this and provides a way for presidents not only to be informed by administrators, professors, and students alike, but to be informed in a way that requires them to listen. The president has specific roles and responsibilities that are governed, directly or indirectly, by the rest of the organization. The president is led by the organization, not the other way around.

The problem of those who advocate the ideas of sociocracy as they establish organizations internationally is to determine how those national organizations will lead the movement, which for decades has been confined to the Sociocratisch Centrum in The Netherlands. Ironically, the principles and methods of sociocracy are being tested as the struggle for the control of ideas is waged. Who controls ideas? Who can teach them?  Can there be an authority apart from the Centrum?

How Many People Know about Sociocracy?

In another post, I just asserted with no evidence what-so-ever that more than 99% of the world’s population had no knowledge of sociocracy, the world’s most deeply democratic method of governance. Someone might have a method of measuring this but I have a quick way.

When I Googled “sociocracy” in 2002, there were 12 pages listed by Google. Most were repeats of links to Kees Boeke’s essay and to the Sociocratisch Centrum site.

Today, as of one minute ago, there were 56,000. The even number is a bit suspect and some are probably to the same site, but the difference between 12 and 56,000 eight years later is certainly significant.

Democracy, on the other hand, returns 66,900,000 pages. Autocracy, 1,360,000.

We have a long way to go.