Sociocracy vests the power to rule in the “socios,” that is, in the people who regularly interact with one another and have a common aim. Each member of the “socios” has a voice that cannot be ignored in the managing of the organization. In contrast, democracy vests the power to rule in the “demos,” that is, a collection of people who may or may not know each other and have only general aims in common – such as the right running of a country. The majority of the “demos” can ignore the minority of the “demos” as they make their decisions. In an autocratically structured organization, the power to rule is vested in an “auto,” a single person. That executive can ignore the rest of the organization as he or she makes decisions. Businesses and nonprofit organizations, including residential care facilities, are typically autocratic. However, an organization can become sociocratic simply by overlaying a policy making “circle structure” over its existing autocratic structure. On the surface, there may seem to be little difference in day-to-day operations, but the organization quickly blossoms with energy and creativity.
In the sociocratic circle-organization model, the basis of decision-making is consent, which uses the principle of no objection. The consent principle has some subtle but important differences from the use of consensus, including the concepts of one’s “range of tolerance” and “reasoned objections.” Those differences make sociocratic processes practical in the context of day-to-day operations.