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Sociocracy in

Cooperatives

What does Sociocracy have to do with co-ops? 

An Invitation

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 protected]org

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.

Read our “Manifesto for Wholesome Cooperation: Sociocracy and Cooperatives

Watch a 20-minute animated video: “What is Sociocracy?”

Why sociocracy?

For many, cooperatives and sociocracy are a great match. Both value shared power, equality, cooperation.

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?

No. Many cooperatives have included all or some tools from sociocracy into their governance. The culture of sociocracy is very similar and compatible with the culture of cooperatives.

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!

Coop conference - join us in February 2021!

Featured Resources for Cooperatives

Sociocracy in cooperatives

Recording of a presentation by Abbie Kempson (as part of a webinar on cooperatives).

Sociocracy and the New Economy

For us, the new economy are all the parts of our economy that are based on values around justice (social, generational, racial, environmental etc.) and cooperation. The underlying insight of the New Economy movement is that competition will always create winners but inherently also losers of a system.

(Read more)

3 tools from sociocracy to use right away (plus magic phrases!)

Many organizations are intrigued by the idea of self-governance using circle-based frameworks. However, it can be intimidating to implement those methods. (…) Is there an easier way?

(Read more)

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 ([email protected]).

  • 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

Sample governance agreement

A document that lays out a governance agreement for cooperative housing - take it an adjust it!

See document

Sociocracy Starter Kit

An article describing the phases of introducing sociocracy in an organization. 

Read more

Meeting posters

Having a visual makes every meeting easier to follow.
Use them in your meeting room, or laminate and bring along?

See posters (pdf)

Talk to a real human!

Individual coaching with implementation teams from communities. Benefit from the experience with dozens of communities in this process - we've been there before!

Learn more

Study group curriculum for groups

4x2-hour sessions with exercises, readings, handouts, perfect for groups of 5-8 people. Video-led - just turn on the video and learn! $120/group. Option coaching.

Learn more

Sociocracy Handbook

Written by the co-founders of Sociocracy For All. 300 pages.

More information and purchase options

“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."

Will Kempe’s Players

theater co-op in NY state, USA

Organizational Structures of Co-operatives

More Resources on Sociocracy in Co-operatives

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.

Clarity and empowerment: What is a domain?

Clarity and empowerment: What is a domain?

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. 

Sociocracy meets Listening At Scale

Sociocracy meets Listening At Scale

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)

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.

The use of sociocracy in Unicorn Grocery

The use of sociocracy in Unicorn Grocery

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

5 Ways you’re already using restorative practices

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...

Lazy Consent: Care and Power

Lazy Consent: Care and Power

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...

Mehr als Wohnen — housing coop – Andreas Geiger

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.

Co-op principles align with Sociocracy

Co-op principles align with Sociocracy

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. 

Roles, jobs and salaries in sociocracy

Roles, jobs and salaries in sociocracy

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?

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