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
AMC is a dynamic dance community focus in Asheville. It has achieved remarkable success, acknowledged as largely due to the adoption of Sociocracy in 2009. The resulting growth in membership was well-managed; the organization was growing in responsiveness to the many pressures of the various dance communities it attracted into its membership, and it recognizes the value of encouraging diversity and building pathways to do so.
Biblioterre is an intentional community that aims to offer affordable and low-impact housing, grow healthy food, create permaculture gardens, offer workshops & classes, and support initiatives that bring ecological and social benefits to the greater community. Inspired by the concept of a “land library.”, they intend to share the Land and resources with each other, nature, Indigenous communities, and the wider community.
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?
Want a board meeting that is clear and engaging? This article offers a template that helps you prepare and run a refreshing and productive board meeting!
Børns Vilkår: based in Copenhagen, Børns Vilkår is dedicated to stopping child neglect in all its forms. They were born with this purpose in 1971 and have continued to grow and expand the way in which they support children. Currently, they run a number of services including phone line and online support, as well as working with schools and government to address the root issues.
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.
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.”
Are sociocratic organizations more responsive than top-down hierarchies? Read a case study of two sociocratic organizations – a community and an NGO workplace – and their responses to the covid crisis.
Pittsfield Listens Pittsfield Listens is an organization in Pittsfield, New Hampshire, that works to build community, inform on civic issues, solve problems through community conversations, and to award individuals, groups and...
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 Europe-wide organization supporting democratic education in schools.
A change in governance or an organization can be compared to open-heart surgery. Just like heart surgery is invasive for a human organism, so is a change in governance. Recognizing that is key to understanding pitfalls in implementing sociocracy.
An association of (associations of) ecovillages in Latinamerica.
A horseback riding association in Poland.