Co-operative Sociocracy — making it work for your co-op – Abbie Kempson & Kate Whittle


Abbie Kempson
Member Director of Unicorn Grocery, a 70-member worker co-op twice named the nation’s ‘Best Food Retailer’ at the BBC Food & Farming Awards. With a background in community development and education, Abbie has a long-held interest in participatory processes for collective decision-making and action. She has been leading on a restructure project at Unicorn for the past three years, drawing on sociocratic principles to enhance the co-op’s decision-making processes and meetings.

Kate Whittle
Kate has been working in and with co-ops of all kinds both in the UK and overseas since the mid 80s. For the last 15 years she’s focused on ‘co-operative skills’ training, mentoring and writing, after recognising that at that time, little attention was being paid to these skills, essential for co-operative sustainability. In 2008, together with Nathan Brown, Kate set up Cooperantics, focusing on helping people work together in collectively-managed co-operatives. In 2011 together with illustrator Angela Martin, Kate authored ‘from conflict to co-operation’, published as a set of 5 printed booklets by CUK, updated in 2015 and now available online. Kate discovered Sociocracy through online posts of Ted Rau of SoFA, and undertook the SoLT training course in 2019. She is a member of SoFA’s Co-op Circle.

Drawing on the past two to three years of implementation at Unicorn Grocery and Kate’s many years of experience supporting co-ops in communication and decision making, Abbie and Kate show how to implement sociocracy in a way that works for your co-op.

More on sociocracy in cooperatives on our coop page.

Further SoFA Reading

Self-Organization – a leap into the unknown

Self-Organization – a leap into the unknown

There are organizations, and in them people, who will never see the value in involving employees in shared governance. There are those who, although they feel the growing discomfort of working ‘in the old way’, remain full of fears and doubts about the incomprehensible concept of self-organization. Self-organization is a set of meta-processes: how to decide together, how to divide the areas of responsibility and decision-making, how to jointly create and develop ourselves and the organization thanks to ubiquitous feedback. With preparation and the right skills, techniques, and tools, transitioning to self-organization can be an empowering experience.

Hager Homestead Case Study

Hager Homestead Case Study

Hager Homestead is a community in Littleton, Massachusetts (United States) working to form the first 55+ cohousing community in New England. They anticipate construction to begin in 2021, with move-in planned for 2022. Their Vision and Values statement says,“We are a community of active older adults committed to living sustainably on the earth, creating a beautiful place to live, and nourishing the body and soul. We embrace diversity as vital to a flourishing community. We value lifelong learning and personal growth. We care about and support one another, balancing independence and mutual concern. We strive to be compassionate and respectful in our relationships. We look for opportunities to celebrate, engage with the world, and have fun!”