Sociocracy in nonprofits (presentation)


Non-profits do double-duty – they are running an organization with operations and (sometimes) staff and volunteers but they also put their time, resources & passion into serving a purpose.

Despite best intentions, many non-profits still copy the hierarchical structures of corporate businesses and replicate the power systems that are contributing to the societal issues we see. They have top-down chains of command, often a lack of clarity and transparency between board and operations, and they often struggle to include the voices of volunteers in the decision-making.

One way in which nonprofits can step out of that pattern is by systems like sociocracy. A flexible system, sociocracy is inherently inclusive because it runs on consent. Sociocracy also improves the flow of information between the board and the staff, it can help spread the workload, unleash self-organization, and provides clarity of who decides what.

This webinar recording showed how sociocracy works, gives real-life examples and circle structures from nonprofits, and highlights some of the tricky interfaces of self-organized self-governance work and nonprofit contexts, for example:

  • how does one divide up the work?
  • the interface between operations and the board
  • collaboration between staff, Executive Director, volunteers


Links and resources mentioned







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!”