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Sociocracy in co-operative organisations

Circle working

Sociocratic systems delegate authority and distribute power to semi-autonomous working Circles to manage specific functions of the organisation, with ideally four to seven members. Circle members are selected for their expertise in any given area of an organisation and are trusted to make the best decisions in the interests of the whole.

When implementing Circle working, all members can be actively involved in selecting members to populate each of the Circles using the open elections process.

Once established, Circles will advertise vacancies using whichever method is adopted in their organisation, and candidates for Circle membership are consented to by the current Circle members.

The governance structure uses double-linking to connect Circles and gather feedback, preventing them from operating as silos.

Many organisations using sociocracy introduce Rounds (speaking one-by-one in turn) within their Circle meetings to empower every member to actively participate.

Rounds are treated as an invitation. While people do not have to speak if they have nothing new to add on any given topic, experience shows that active participation increases by using Rounds.

Rounds are designed to bring structure and clarity to meetings and save time. They include:

  • Opening Rounds at the start of a meeting to provide an opportunity for everyone to share how they are
  • Clarification questions Rounds to ensure everyone understands the topic under discussion
  • Reaction Rounds to invite feedback and idea-sharing; Consent Rounds for making decisions
  • Closing Rounds for brief feedback on the meeting.

This method of communication lends itself particularly well to supporting co-operative values.