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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
We are a mix cooperative school (composed of working members and consumer members). We started working with sociocracy from the very beginning of the foundation of the cooperative.
We seek out small producers and bring you their heirloom varieties of everything from apples to beans to tomatoes. Being a cooperative means that stewardship of the business is spread out among the workers.
Unicorn is a successful worker co-op grocery in Manchester, England. Established in 1996 by a small group of people committed to social change, we set out to create an alternative to supermarket shopping – to provide affordable, fresh and wholesome food to our local community, run by motivated worker-owners with a shared social and environmental agenda.
What’s special about Jerry Koch-Gonzalez’s meetings is that they are sociocratic. How often have you been part of a call where one person in the group hardly had any chance to speak?
A worker-owned theater company in New York state.
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 have been calling sociocracy the “Operating system of the New Economy”. We say that sociocracy could be at the heart of the New Economy. Before we describe how sociocracy and collaborative paradigms go together, let’s look at the New Economy. The New Economy For...
A worker-owned cooperative bakery: Blue Scorcher Bakery Scorcher bakery in Oregon (US) has been running on sociocracy since 2012. Make sure to check out the section on governance on their beautiful website! This case study is helpful if you are part of a worker coop...
This case study features a homeschooling cooperative in Massachusetts (USA), after just having started out using sociocracy This case study is helpful if you are a volunteer organization with very flat hierarchy at the risk of burn out would like to get an...