Democratic organizations: what does research say?

sociocracy: effective governance

Democratic organizations. Breaking down the barriers between theory and practice

In this webinar, academic researchers Daniel King and Martyn Griffin explore with practitioners the difficulties that we have all faced while transitioning to democratic organizing and the most effective ways they might be overcome.

Daniel and Martyn will present three paradoxes facing organizations adopting sociocracy:

  1. the desire to let go of power power while yearning to maintain control;
  2. the desire for individual freedom while yearning for collective hierarchy;
  3. the desire for authenticity while yearning for whatever works.

Rather than seeing these paradoxes as problems to get rid of, Martyn and Daniel argue that these are natural tensions in democratic/sociocratic organizations. To present these paradoxes in context they will share stories from their own personal experience of creating a democratically-organized alliance among coaches, leaders and academics whose very aim is to work together more proactively to facilitate and sustain transitions to democratic modes of working.

In the second part of the webinar we will invite participants to discuss these (and other) paradoxes and to explore the key questions: what are the biggest obstacles facing the development of sociocratic practices today within organizations? And how might we most effectively, collectively overcome them?

Martyn Griffin (Leeds University Business School, UK)

Daniel King (Nottingham Business School, UK)

A little background: Daniel and Martyn on the divide between academics and practitioners

The dilemmas faced in enacting democratic forms of organization have been written about extensively. However, most academic research on democratic organizations (and organizing) is done from the outside – with the academic acting as external judge – often analysing it based upon idealised terms. Academics rarely explore the difficulties in establishing democratic forms of organizing alongside practitioners from ‘the inside’ in a way that truly embodies engaged scholarship, taking on the challenges themselves by living out the paradoxes that exist and the resilience required to make democratic organizing a success. The consequences of this is that the distance creates a divide between practitioner and academics in this area (when in essence they have similar goals); it reinforces the myth of the ivory tower looking down on practitioners as apparent failures; it creates an impossible ‘perfect’ democratic organization rather than seeing it as a process; it captures and defines what it is to ‘fail’ at democratic organizing rather than understanding the resilience found within. The danger of this is that it doesn’t do much good for the furtherance of democratic or sociocratic organizing and by consistently critiquing these organizations as failures it creates a cynical distance to the topic amongst scholars generally. Our central interest in this webinar therefore is to break down these barriers and explore with practitioners the difficulties that we have all faced while transitioning to democratic organizing and the most effective ways they might be overcome.


This event will happen on the video conference platform zoom. Everyone can participate on either a computer or a smartphone/tablet. You will receive the link to zoom after your registration. CAUTION: some time zones will have changed their clocks on that day, some won’t. The time we are referring to is linked here in different time zones.


  • 5 min welcome and getting oriented in zoom
  • 5 min introduction into sociocracy (hosts)
  • 50 min presentation (guests)
  • 30 min Q&A (hosts, guests and participants)

After the 90 min event, there will be a formal closing. Afterwards, anyone who is interested can stay on the call to ask more questions and connect.

The core piece of the webinar will be recorded and can be watched on youtube 2-3 days after the webinar.

Registration through eventbrite