Case study: Asheville Movement Collective

Dec 14, 2020

Asheville Movement Collective

By Rick Feltington & Kathleen Livingston

The Asheville Movement Collective is a dance community located in Asheville, NC that “envisions a world that moves in harmony where all are free to be their authentic selves within a loving community.” Their mission and aim are to “inspire authenticity and healthy community through free-form dance by hosting dance waves for personal and community transformation.”

The Asheville Movement Collective is a dance community located in Asheville, NC that “envisions a world that moves in harmony where all are free to be their authentic selves within a loving community.” Their mission and aim are to “inspire authenticity and healthy community through free-form dance by hosting dance waves for personal and community transformation.”

The collective’s journey began in 2000 and grew from 4 people dancing together in a living room to a large group that kept outgrowing the space where they danced.  In 2007, the small group of people leading was feeling burnt out not knowing how to respond to their rapid growth. Their treasurer, who had previously studied with John Buck, set up their first sociocratic leadership training weekend. They fell in love with Sociocracy during the workshop.  Adopting the governance system gave them a way to organize and also helped them to become a non-profit within a year. 

 

It took time and effort for the organization to get used to using sociocracy. At the time they were the only sociocratic group in Asheville, so everything was new.  At first, they attempted to stick closely to the sociocratic model and do things “by the book”, but found they had too many meetings and too many groups with the same people in them.  

They now adopt a more flexible approach.  They used the consent process to determine which parts of John Buck’s formula truly applies to their situation, letting go of the parts that block their capacity to operate and move forward. 

“Nothing is one size fits all,”  Marta told us.  “Flexibility is very important… If you have a small organization, you have to adapt it.  See what it is that your team needs, and how it (sociocracy) will support and not burden you.”   

 

At one point earlier in the process, they held a dance leadership circle where everyone in the community was invited to participate in the decision making, but they found that this approach was not practical. There were too many ideas.  Hearing everyone took up too much time, and decisions were impossible to make.  The policy they eventually adopted instead, and which now works well for them, allows invited members of the community to participate in Team AMC circle.  Presently, members have to commit to four meetings to listen first to what is going on before fully engaging, so that they gain an understanding of what is happening. This onboarding has been effective in maintaining sociocracy within the circle.

 

In 2016, the organization experienced another turning point. The whole leadership group resigned at once, and a new leadership group emerged, including Marta, and CJ.  At that time, the organization didn’t have any money.  The new leadership group decided to have one joint circle meeting that includes all the other circles (core, board, team AMC, facilitators).  Financial decisions are made by the board and the core circle.

They reorganized, held fundraisers, and by March of 2020, they were thriving again.  They were holding big events and had raised seed money for a new building, engaged in visions of collaboration with other organizations had plans to respond to social justice challenges by reaching out to different communities – to diversify their predominantly white, financially privileged membership.  

When COVID 19 manifested, CJ, who had been secretary for two years and a dance facilitator, put together a proposal to train and support minority dance facilitators and wanted the organization to consider expanding its aims into social justice matters.  He feels there is a need for greater accountability and deeper training in sociocratic processes, empowering those who are typically disempowered.  At the point we spoke with him and in spite of several attempts, his proposal had not been consented to, and he expressed frustration with the implementation of the organization’s ideals.

 

Read CJ’s written proposal Oct 2019

“I Learned to Listen More….”

Marta is a big fan of sociocracy, notably in acknowledging its impact on her own personal growth. 

“I learned to be open, to be wrong, and to be open to new learning.  And I learned to get off my high horse a lot more often now, and listen.  Very important.  I learned to listen more, and push my opinion less.  That range of tolerance has helped me in my life.”

Elections

I fall in love with elections every time we do one.  It never turns out to be what you think it’s going to be.” When people are going around saying why you nominated a person, what they say about that person is just an amazing thing.”

“If it’s done well because those things can derail if there’s a few trying to move it in their direction, which is not a real election.  And if you don’t acknowledge people, all the people who are nominated, it can be tricky.  But it’s great learning in communication, because when you talk about growth edges, it’s about making “I” statements and (speaking about) ‘how do I experience you’ and ‘how I perceive your growth edges’.

“It’s a tricky thing but it’s a great learning experience each time.  It gets richer as you do it more and more.  It gets really rich.”

Dancing During Covid

MC, like thousands of nonprofit charities, is suffering under COVID restrictions. Through a fundraising drive (in 2019?), they successfully accumulated a seed fund towards their vision of owning their own building. But, this dream has been dashed by the drop in operations under COVID19 constraints. Although they continue to offer virtual dance raves, attendance – and consequently revenues – have dropped perilously, leaving them in a loss position on a per-event basis. It is likely that the organization will need to “bleed off” some of the building funds in order to survive before COVID is no longer the threat it currently is. 

SUMMARY:

AMC is a dynamic dance community focus in Asheville. It has achieved remarkable success, acknowledged as largely due to the adoption of Sociocracy in 2009. The resulting growth in membership was well-managed; the organization was growing in responsiveness to the many pressures of the various dance communities it attracted into its membership, and it recognizes the value of encouraging diversity and building pathways to do so. 

COVID was, perhaps, the catalyst that changed everything. While it still offers virtual dance waves, AMC struggles to provide service to the dance community, and it suffers financially through lower attendance. Fortunately, it’s financial reserves could help it to maintain a presence with the hope that it might resurface ever stronger following the trials of COVID19.

Further SoFA Reading

Power

Power

Let's take care of the power, that we can take care of ourselves Part II of the series "Hints Towards a Liberation Sociocracy". Read part I here.   "No one liberates anyone, nor does anyone liberate himself alone. People liberate themselves in communion." - Paulo...

5 Strategies for Combining Equity with Sociocracy

5 Strategies for Combining Equity with Sociocracy

The key promise of sociocracy is that all voices matter. In reality our current sociocracy practices are not enough to overcome the way society systemically oppresses the voices of people from poor, non-white, transgender, disabled, et cetera, backgrounds. In this article I define equity, make an argument for why combining equity and sociocracy is so powerful, and share five strategies for embedding equity into sociocratic governance.

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