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What does Sociocracy have to do with co-ops?
Sociocracy offers a decision making and governance model in line with the ethos of the cooperative identity, which honours and centers the human individual within the organisation. As values-based and principle-driven socio-economic organisations, co-ops benefit from an operating system that has a coherence and a synergy with the Cooperative Identity. Sociocracy is an approach to decision making and organizational structuring that is relatively quick and easy for a co-op or start-up group to start using.
The mission of Sociocracy for All (SoFA) is to make resources for learning and implementing Sociocracy accessible to everyone. SoFA has created the SoFA Co-op Circle as a vehicle for addressing the unique and specific needs of co-ops considering sociocracy. SoFA democratizes the process of learning sociocracy through an international peer group of cooperators who use sociocracy. SoFA Co-op Circle offers an opportunity to join a global community of practice around sociocracy in co-ops, working together and sharing resources to contribute meaningfully to a more just and sustainable world.
The SoFA Co-op Circle is currently developing and delivering tools, methods, and educational materials to support Co-ops in adopting Sociocracy, including:
- Case studies of co-ops using Sociocracy
- Sample language for use in bylaws, and tools for making bylaws development and revision easier.
- Workshops on Sociocracy for Co-ops, for presentation at conferences and as video recordings available online
The SoFA Co-op Circle meets every four weeks, online via Zoom web conference. The Co-op Circle’s website can be found at http://sociocracyforall.org/coops/, and their email is email@example.com.
The SoFA Co-op Circle currently consists of founders of new co-ops, members of existing co-ops, and professional co-op developers. We are particularly interested in getting more members who are members or founders of co-ops, especially worker-owned co-ops, as well as supporters and allies of co-ops. We invite cooperatives and cooperators using sociocracy to join our vibrant community of practice and inquiry.
Visit sociocracyforall.org/sociocracy/ to learn more.
Some cooperatives using consensus or majority vote find it challenging to have the decision making they are longing for. Decisions might take a long time or don’t include everyone in the same way. With sociocracy, many of these issues disappear:
- Clarity: small, trusted teams and people in clear roles make it easier to define each other’s responsibility and authority. Fewer discussions have to be discussed by everyone – and yet, those smaller teams have more headspace to actually listen to everyone’s input.
- Calm meetings: rounds and consent and an orderly meeting format help so no one gets ignored and nothing is forgotten.
- Connection: smaller teams and rounds help build trust, belonging and togetherness.
Is sociocracy hard to do?
While it’s easiest to implement sociocracy in a young organization. cooperatives with more than 100 working members have introduced sociocracy. It takes facilitation training and clarity around consent and roles and a clean circle structure that supports collaboration in all operations.
Where do we start?
Read and watch the information on this site. If you are interested in suggesting sociocracy at your workplace, make sure to read The Sociocracy Starter Kit first. You will notice that it suggests involving other people in your exploration as early as possible. Having seen dozens of organizations in this situation, we really mean it!
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Featured Resources for Cooperatives
Sociocracy in cooperatives
Recording of a presentation by Abbie Kempson (as part of a webinar on cooperatives).
Which Co-ops are Already Using Sociocracy?
This list is FAR from complete. You can add your co-op by sending an email to Ted (firstname.lastname@example.org).
- Equal Care coop (UK)
- Outlandish (UK)
- Unicorn Grocery coop (UK)
- El Roser (Spain)
- Green City coop (UK)
- Blue Scorcher Bakery (OR, USA)
- El Semillero (Spain)
- Forth River coop (USA)
- Eugene Alliance for Somatic Education (OR, USA)
Learning and Implementation
“Meeting times have shortened and, generally, our members feel good about working together in a sociocratic way.”
"We have less ego-driven conflicts and laborious meeting agendas have given way to productive, enjoyable ones."
More Resources on Sociocracy in Co-operatives
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.
Domains combine clarity with flexibility, small groups with big picture thinking and alignment, empowerment of groups and individuals with responsibility. It’s a design pattern that we can use indefinitely – with a place for everything and everything in its place.
Wise Democracy tools serves deliberation and input, sociocracy serves decision-making and implementation. Here’s how they can be combined.
Reiterating Sociocratic Models for Culturally-Competent Inclusion, Accessibility, Accountability, and Transparency (Sophie Xu)
Sophie Xu explores how to center historically and currently marginalized voices — especially those of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) — in existing and innovative sociocratic framework. She grapples with and examines the births of sociocracy, its linkage to whiteness, and how to render its core, identifying, and groundbreaking norms (e.g. consent-based decision-making) culturally-competent.
Unicorn Grocery, a sociocratic case study What is Unicorn Grocery? Unicorn Grocery is a thriving worker-owned, values-driven grocery co-op in Chorlton, Manchester, UK. They consist of 71 members who all work within the cooperative and are also the directors of the...
5 Ways you’re already using restorative practices and how to become even more restorative when using sociocracy “Don’t tell anyone else we’ve trained, but this is by far the most restorative school I’ve ever seen.” I was shocked to hear that from the...
Consent and Lazy Consent In sociocracy, the default decision-making method is consent. Consent is clearly defined as “no objections”, and objections are defined as “a measurable concern that carrying out the proposal at hand will have a negative impact on our group’s...
Small Steps — Introducing Sociocracy in an Established Food Co-op by Andy Grant and Alexander Davidson Carroll
A report on bringing sociocratic practice to one board committee in a 40-year-old consumer-owned food co-op where, according to the bylaws, decisions are made by majority vote and, for operational oversight, the co-op uses policy governance (Carver method)
One of the values of cooperatives is to have democratic processes involving all members. The value of sociocracy is to have all workers be decision-makers. How does this match in large coops, like platform coops?
Learn about a society model that brings together the Sociocratic Neighbourhood Circle (aka Neighbourhood Parliament), cohousing development, and local multistakeholder coop.
Often, our cooperatives are formed as a response or alternative to the destructive power dynamics in the mainstream hyper-capitalist and oppressive systems. However, it often takes some unlearning and new structures to help us create the workspaces that we dream of.
Disorganization and overwhelmed general assemblies have long been documented to be the reality of radical worker cooperatives. Does sociocracy offer a way out that fits the vision of radical co-operators? In this presentation, we reflect upon a case study on an attempt to introduce bits of sociocratic governance into a radical cooperative in Greece.
An exploration of the constraints that UK legal structures impose on the implementation of sociocratic governance in co-operatives and how we might create governing documents that work within these constraints.
Creating the climate where Sociocratic principles can thrive. 6 months in the life of “Building OUT” – Abi Handley
Building OUT is Outlandish’s programme of services and workshops that can build any team’s Openness, Understanding & Trust (see what we did there?). It’s delivered by practitioners from co-operatives that really use the tools we share in their everyday work.
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.
About a “satellite apartment” with 10 other adults at the ambitious mehralswohnen.ch housing coop in Zurich, Switzerland. Since 2017 we have been practicing sociocracy for our monthly circle meetings (to discuss issues, make decisions, manage our money) and open votes to select new flatmates.
Longing for better time management in meetings? Curious what sociocracy has to offer? Learn how to keep meetings short and productive.
A little anecdote Some time ago, I was strolling down the park with a friend of mine and had briefly explained to her about sociocracy, a governance system that distributes decision-making power to decentralized, autonomous groups of people who participate in rounds...
Sociocracy and cooperatives both share values – from the self-help and self-responsibility of organising collectively to solve problems and improve our lives, prioritising a form of deeply democratic participative governance, and supporting equality, equity and solidarity.
On what basis do we decide salaries in sociocracy? Is it based on the sum of all roles? But how does that work? Or are there traditional “positions” in sociocracy too?