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 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.
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!
Featured Resources for Cooperatives
Sociocracy in cooperatives
Recording of a presentation by Abbie Kempson (as part of a webinar on cooperatives).
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.
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?
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
Useful documents about governance – take one of them and adjust it!
An article describing the phases of introducing sociocracy in an organization.
Individual coaching with implementation teams from communities. Benefit from the experience with dozens of communities in this process – we’ve been there before!
4×2-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.
“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 Playerstheater co-op in NY state, USA
Organizational Structures of Co-operatives
More Resources on Sociocracy in Co-operatives
Collaborative decision-making can be fast and efficient if we have clear guidelines what decisions are made by groups, and what decisions can simply made by a designated person in a role.
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 in sociocracy – while they are innocent-looking, they are the foundation that makes sociocracy so transformative – with empowerment, and clarity! So what are domains? Each circle has an aim (a description of what they do), anda domain (a statement of what they are responsible for and have authority over). Why is it important…
Wise Democracy tools serves deliberation and input, sociocracy serves decision-making and implementation. Here’s how they can be combined.
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.
What is Unicorn Grocery?What did Unicorn’s co-op governance look like prior to sociocracy?What was the reason Unicorn implemented sociocracy for its governance?What did Unicorn’s implementation of sociocracy look like?Network Structure 2021What has changed since Unicorn embraced sociocracy?Were there any difficulties for Unicorn in the change to sociocracy?Adaptations to sociocracy for co-op governanceWhat were the key…
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 restorative practices trainer who visited our school. At the time,…
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 ability to carry out our previously agreed upon aim (ie the very reason…
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.
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.