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Manifesto for Wholesome Cooperation
A Sociocratic Perspective. By SoFA Co-op Circle
Sociocracy and cooperativism stem from the premise that humans thrive as social animals. Quite possibly, cooperation acts as our most characteristic trait as living beings. We need each other. No human effort, made by a lone individual, succeeds. Since the dawn of our species, we have engaged in cooperation, and we’re still figuring out how to do it best. We could certainly do it better than we are now, and sociocracy sheds a light on the way forward.
Sociocracy (also called dynamic governance) means governance by the socios: those who associate together. In other words, if you join, if you participate, you get to have a voice in decision-making. This aligns itself nicely with the International Cooperative Alliance (ICA) definition of cooperatives, which states: “a co-operative is an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly owned and democratically-controlled enterprise.”
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!
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 ([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
“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
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?
Three years ago, in a Town named Ebeltoft people started to gather, they began having conversations within the Community, they started organising themselves and gradually formed an organisation of around 30 people.
Presentation by Bolette Nyrop. Description: The dance between Sociocracy and the Art of Hosting: Where do they strengthen each other? How do they complement each other? Where are they at odds?
Presentation by Jesse Marshall. Description: Extinction Rebellion (XR) used a hybrid of Holacracy and sociocracy to become the fastest growing environmental movement in the world in 2019. Jesse is one of four SoFA members serving on the governance circle of XR New York City, the largest chapter in the US. In this session, he’ll reflect on their experience, including mass sociocracy trainings, circle restructuring, and the challenges of maintaining coherence in an all-volunteer organization intent on exponential growth.
When the Swiss design and development agency Nothing AG spun-off one of their internal products into an independent business called Peerdom, the Peerdom team initially started by replicating their mother company’s implementation of sociocracy.
Case study of sociocracy in SCCAN. Its mission is “To inspire and promote, connect and support community-led action in Scotland to address the Climate Emergency.”
Sociocracy was developed with small groups in mind. When and how can we apply it to large groups?
Understanding the difference between operations and policy is key to making fast and good decisions. The idea in sociocracy is to empower operational decisions (so they can be made by anyone who is authorized) and to make policy decisions to guide and improve those operational decisions.
An article about governance of (large) platform coops and the tweaks we’d have to make to use sociocracy successfully.
Sociocracy: The Worker Co-op Operating System (By John McNamara. Originally posted on workersparadise.) Over the last couple of years, I have had the incredible opportunity to work with Sociocracy For All (SoFA). This organization has worked diligently to bring the...
Sociocracy and cooperativism stem from the premise that humans thrive as social animals. We need each other. No human effort, made by a lone individual, succeeds. See how sociocracy and coops are a natural fit.
An IT tool to display roles and circles with their holders and attached descriptions.
Solawi Bodensee is a German association with around 90 members. Solawi is an acronym for “Solidarische Landwirtschaft” which is translated as “solidary agriculture” and meaning “sharing the harvest”. It is similar to the US-concept of CSA, Community Supported Agriculture.
Recorded in March 2019 at Co-operatives UK, Abbie Kempson (Unicorn Grocery, Manchester) leads the introduction to sociocracy and is joined by Pete Burden (SeeStep, East Sussex) and Kirsty Warren (Greencity Wholefoods, Glasgow). All provide their practical views using the techniques in their organisations and how it supports governance systems. From https://www.uk.coop/resources/webinar-talkan-introduction-sociocracy
3 decisions every young organization will make. They will happen either way, either consciously with a good and inclusive system, or unconsciously with old biases kicking in. Which would you rather do?
The practical sociocracy handbook written by the co-founders of Sociocracy For All. 300 pages full of real-life support!
A worker-coop bakery in Oregon.
Do we have to endure “disruptive” team members if we want to be inclusive? What crosses the line, and what helps us?
A worker-owned bakery in Oregon that implemented sociocracy years ago.