Sociocracy in Non-Profits
Featured Resources for Non-Profits
This article explains how the principles of Dynamic Governance (aka sociocracy) apply to nonprofit organizations, and serves as a supplement to the article “The Creative Forces of Self – Organization”. We appreciate your support in improving how we communicate about dynamic governance.
By Jerry Koch-Gonzalez and John Buck
Purpose-drive organizations love sociocracy. Not only do they help getting things done and serving the purpose who are passionate about – they also help doing good inside the organization. And doing good inside radiates to the outside, making the world more beautiful for everyone.
Most non-profits are governed like a hierarchy – which makes sense given that they have to be financially sound and effective. Yet, what if we told you that you can share power and be effective and efficient at the same time?
The best things about sociocracy:
- Clarity: small, trusted teams and people in clear roles make it easier to define each other’s responsibility and authority. And yet, those smaller teams have more headspace to actually listen to everyone’s input. It’s the perfect combination between strong, loving leadership and teamwork.
- Calm meetings: sociocracy uses the decision-making method of consent which is close to consensus but more efficient. The best thing about consent is that it is crystal clear: we know who decides, how we decide – even how we decide who decides! The transparency and clarity is liberating and a relief for everyone on the team.
- Connection: we often talk in rounds, which means everyone talks one by one. This way of working, once everyone is used to is, doesn’t take longer than “debate” style, yet it creates a stronger bond within teams and contributes to a better sense of togetherness.
Is sociocracy hard to do?
How easy it is to implement sociocracy depends on the size and the culture of your non-profit. If things are done in hierarchical ways, people need to learn the nuts and bolts of sharing (and receiving!) power. If things are run very collaboratively now, creating clarity might be the biggest learning.
Meeting facilitation, improved clarity and the relationship between board and staff and core volunteers are areas that we find sociocracy contributes the most to.
Where do we start?
Read and watch the information on this site. If you are interested in suggesting 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!
Who Is Already Doing It?
Learning and Implementation
More Resources on Sociocracy in Non-Profits
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Reiterating Sociocratic Models for Culturally-Competent Inclusion, Accessibility, Accountability, and Transparency (Sophie Xu)
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.
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A presentation by Jacob Theilgaard. Hierarchy, power and sociocracy will explore the dynamic of power and emergence of informal hierarchies in sociocratic circles through micro behaviours. We will explore the different dimensions of hierarchy and how you can support equilibrium between perspectives and viewpoints with facilitation.
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 Irena Kaszewska. Description: Szarża is a horse riding association with a 35-year history. It has always based on volunteer work, creating a unique community, inclusive and active. With a growing scale of operations, the ad-hoc and intuitive management style of volunteers started to be insufficient. Sociocracy, piloted on a small scale, proved to be just the right solution. We are now at the brink of full-scale implementation, aware of many challenges, and full of hopes.
A presentation by MIke Haber. The presentation describes different ways that NGOs and non-profits have used sociocracy in their corporate governance structures. Based largely on Prof. Haber’s experience in representing U.S. activist organizations, he discusses different non-profit governance structures that embrace sociocracy within the context of the legal limitations on non-profits and NGOs.