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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 firstname.lastname@example.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.
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 (email@example.com).
- 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
A worker-owned bakery in Oregon that implemented sociocracy years ago.
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...