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Sociocracy in co-operative organisations

Benefits of Sociocracy

Co-ops that have adopted sociocracy report a number of benefits, including:

  1. Better, more efficient meetings
  2. Increased member engagement
  3. Balancing the dichotomy between strategic and executive functions

1. Better, more efficient meetings

Sociocracy offers a blueprint for efficient meetings in which everyone’s voice is heard. The Sociocracy blueprint coordinates various good governance ideas that might otherwise only be implemented on an ad hoc or discretionary basis in another decision-making structure.

Meeting agendas are structured to ensure clarity of outcome for each item by indicating whether it is being brought to the meeting for the purpose of a report, for discussion or for decision. This is a very effective system to keep meetings focused and ensure everyone understands exactly why each item has come to the meeting and what the process is for addressing it.

Report items are followed by a round of clarification questions to ensure everyone understands what’s been communicated. Discussion items include clarification questions and Rounds to share feedback and ideas. Decision items use the Consent Decision Making process.

Knowing exactly what the process is for any given agenda item can save a lot of time and prevent unnecessary repetition of the same issue coming back to a meeting again and again without resolution. Sociocratic meetings also include the use of a Backlog, a record of topics that arise that need attention from the Circle in a future meeting.

By using Rounds and intentional agendas that state the desired outcome for all items included, meetings allow all members present to play an active role, within a framework that supports focused contributions and efficient use of collective time.

A typical sociocratic meeting will include an Opening Round, which can be structured around a specific prompt (for example sharing a work highlight from the previous week). Opening Rounds are included in meetings to boost connection between members and to share relevant information about anything impacting on a member’s ability to participate in a meeting.

A closing round provides the opportunity to offer feedback on the meeting.

Meeting template

Download sociocracy templates

Increased member engagement

Member engagement is at the heart of the co-operative model. To embody the definition of a co-operative, a jointly-owned and democratically-controlled enterprise, co-op members must be able to meaningfully participate in setting policies and making decisions. Sociocracy is designed to maximise engagement.

Feedback loops in sociocratic systems keep their members’ needs at the forefront of their activities and operations.

In worker co-ops, Circle membership ensures active participation in governance by directly empowering workers to make operational decisions to guide their work. Consent Decision Making boosts ownership of decisions taken and supports effective implementation.

For members of multi-stakeholder co-ops, Circle membership provides a forum to have an active say in any given area of the co-op’s operations by helping to shape policies.

Balancing Strategic and Executive Functions

Sociocratic governance provides an alternative co-operative governance model that seeks to collectivise strategic and executive functions, while retaining a clear sense of both. Members are empowered through their Circles to feed into strategic and management decisions at the level most appropriate to their knowledge and experience.

Each Circle’s decision making is framed by the overall strategic direction stewarded by the top / Mission Circle, and the feedback loops within the structure in turn ensure the overall strategic direction is informed by the strategic thinking of its component Circles.