From today I am officially the first certified sociocracy trainer in Poland!
My little ego is proud to send this message out to the world. At the same time, what I really would like to share is the fantastic experience it was attending the Sociocracy For All Academy (SoFA) and the two-year process of obtaining the above-mentioned certificate.
Magic of studying (in) sociocracy
I have already completed a lot of training, courses, and studies in my life. I have obtained numerous badges, qualifications, and titles: practical (e.g. a lifeguard or horse riding instructor), development (e.g. a coach), professional and formal (two master’s degrees), prestigious (MBA). None of these experiences gave me as much fun, confidence, practical skills, a feeling of belonging, and, as a result, satisfaction, and value, as studying at the Sociocracy For All Academy.
At this point, it is worth explaining that sociocracy is an organization’s self-management system based on the principles of equity, efficiency, and continuous improvement. It embodies a new management paradigm and is therefore consistent with agile or dynamic management, the so-called Teal, etc. (More about sociocracy on the SoFA website.)
In this article, I want to focus not on the method but on the learning process experienced in a sociocratic environment.
The most important and specific element of studying sociocracy, after a year of lectures and workshops at the Academy, was a long period dedicated to gaining the certification. It required practicing and documenting thirty badges and the writing of 26 essays. The badges were divided into 5 bundles, 6 skills in each bundle:
- feedback and accountability
- trust and connection
- training and consulting
Plus optional sector badges, e.g. education, non-profit, for-profit.
What distinguishes the Academy and the certification process, apart from the incredibly versatile and deep approach to the topic of self-organization, is:
- Trust and support
- Experimentation and learning by failing
- Priority for practice
‘Organize yourselves!’ We got this invitation when dividing into subgroups of several people, in which for many months we were learning about sociocracy. This means that, in a group of people who do not know each other, it is necessary to establish, among others: the mode and frequency of meetings, the way of documenting work, rotation in roles, topics on the agenda of each subsequent meeting, rules of joint practice and dealing with emerging tensions. For this type of function to be efficient and effective, and free from major conflicts, the practical use of self-organizing processes is crucial – this is the essence of this science.
The main pillars here are:
- the method of making decisions by the group through Consent;
- clearly defined roles: leader, facilitator, secretary, representative and, full of goodwill;
- omnipresent feedback.
All of this only happens thanks to the fact that everyone supports each other in their development. Being mentors and students at the same time.
Self-organization at the Academy also means that every student has an open invitation to become a teacher – he or she can propose, prepare and conduct a lecture and/or workshop in an area in which they believe brings value.
There were many student-teachers among us. Their contribution was phenomenal because it was lined with passion and some incredibly valuable experiences.
What is probably unprecedented is the fact that, throughout the entire certification process, these small, self-organizing groups of students are the main ‘decision-making body’ that approves participants’ achievement of the next levels on a reciprocal basis. If anyone has any doubts as to whether it is not tempting to take shortcuts or take the easy way, I assure you that this mode of learning does not give you any space to pass without knowing the stuff. Not only there are many, not one, ‘examiners’, but also the practical nature of learning (see below), prevents ‘slipping’.
Trust and support
People from all over the world, from different backgrounds, spheres, industries, and experiences met at the Academy. We were united by the search for more sense in the world and looking for ways to replace competition with cooperation. And this is cooperation! Full of trust and mutual support. That is the essence of learning in a sociocratic environment. There are no rankings or comparisons, you measure only against yourself and get support from others through feedback embedded in the spirit of ‘non-violent communication’ (NVC).
Moreover, it is an expression of trust that SoFA gives unlimited access to all of its materials, and even an invitation to co-create them and share them in the world.
If necessary, you can pay only what you can afford for studying at the Academy.
Experimentation and learning by failing
At the Academy, everyone enters new situations and roles without hesitation – not when they are prepared for it, but when they know that they want to learn a given skill. You learn by doing at first. There is no fear of failure or criticism. Each ‘stumble’ is seen only as a valuable experience. The value is facing the challenge, sharing your reflection, and group discussion. Absolute truths and the correct answers do not exist.
Priority for practice
Each lecture, workshop, and meeting are conducted by practitioners, using real, up-to-date examples that are often contributed ad hoc by participants. There are, basically, no template, repetitive lectures. It happens that classes on the same topic conducted in a group adapted to the time zone of the Americas and Europe are very different from those for Australia and New Zealand, and it is sometimes worth listening to recordings from both.
The conclusions that emerge from such activities can be tested immediately in life.
The Academy is one great self-organization, so everything that happens there is practice.
A very extensive certification process is based on looking outside the Academy for situations where you can apply the lessons and exercises in the real world: in your own company, group of interests, family, etc. In this way, people take self-organization into the world and return to their team at the Academy to share their experiences.
It was going to be ordinary yet extensive training. It turned into reality, and also very versatile, studies. It took place on a real traverse, but at the same time to a large extent at online meetings. Co-created by a community that has proven the triumph of self-organization.
Thanks to this experience, not only did I gain new knowledge and even a new profession, but most of all I became a new, better version of myself: stronger, more aware, resistant and persistent. I´m sure that cooperation does not have to be difficult. I have faith that with the support of others everything is possible. And, I believe that being open and kind is always (even if not always immediately) worth it!
This is the value behind the proud statement ‘the first certified trainer of sociocracy in Poland’. Even if in practice hardly anyone reacts to this title.