Introducing en route sociocratic elements to a radical worker cooperative – Orestis Varkarolis

Orestis Varkarolis: Introducing en route sociocratic elements to a radical worker cooperative: Lessons from a failed attempt

Speaker: Orestis Varkarolis is a founding member of Pagkaki which in turn is a founding member of a radical coalition of worker cooperatives in Greece. His PhD thesis (2020) is entitled ‘Developing theories and tools for resisting degeneration with the Worker Cooperatives’ Network of Athens’. He is also the author of ‘Creative Resistance and Anti-power’, a book published by Pagkaki (2012).

Presentation: Disorganization and overwhelmed general assemblies have long been documented to be the reality of radical worker cooperatives (Landry et al., 1985, pp. 46–48). 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. While organizing transparently in circles and opting for consent over consensus seemed compatible with the radical visions of co-operators, the working group powered model of decision making collapsed due to the lacking culture of self-regulation or collective control characterizing Pagkaki and like-minded collectives more generally (Mansbridge, 1973; Landry et al., 1985). In turn, a proposal was made to adopt a fail-safe mechanism to better ensure that things get done without the collective having to act in a bossy manner towards its members. The way the collective initially skilfully avoided this proposal and later ignored/rationalized the disorganization in place highlighted that introducing sociocracy is not a technical fix fit for all (radical) cooperatives. A necessary precondition for enjoying a working sociocratic system of governance requires a deeper understanding and acceptance of the necessary trade-offs required to promote effective democracy while incorporating democracy and bureaucracy

More on cooperatives and sociocracy on our coop page.

Further SoFA Reading

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. Self-organization is a set of meta-processes: how to decide together, how to divide the areas of responsibility and decision-making, how to jointly create and develop ourselves and the organization thanks to ubiquitous feedback. With preparation and the right skills, techniques, and tools, transitioning to self-organization can be an empowering experience.

Hager Homestead Case Study

Hager Homestead Case Study

Hager Homestead is a community in Littleton, Massachusetts (United States) working to form the first 55+ cohousing community in New England. They anticipate construction to begin in 2021, with move-in planned for 2022. Their Vision and Values statement says,“We are a community of active older adults committed to living sustainably on the earth, creating a beautiful place to live, and nourishing the body and soul. We embrace diversity as vital to a flourishing community. We value lifelong learning and personal growth. We care about and support one another, balancing independence and mutual concern. We strive to be compassionate and respectful in our relationships. We look for opportunities to celebrate, engage with the world, and have fun!”

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