A double-linked structure
The governance structure uses double-linking to connect Circles and gather feedback, preventing them from operating as silos. What this means is that every Circle within a sociocratic structure is linked to another Circle through two of its members. Each Circle elects a leader and a delegate.
These two role holders attend the meetings of their home Circle and their linked Circle – the leader is tasked with bringing information from the linked Circle into their home Circle, including updates on any decisions taken and requests for feedback to support future decision making, and the delegate is tasked with reporting from their home Circle to the linked Circle.
Leaders and delegates have Consent rights in both Circles, which means they are empowered to make decisions in both Circles and are expected to actively contribute to the work of both. The aim is to create a form of circular hierarchy within which decisions are made transparently and with feedback from others in the organisation. All Circle members undertake the responsibility to listen to feedback and act in the best interests of the organisation, while holding the right to make decisions within their Circles (Consent rights).
Circle structures include a Board of Directors, usually named the top or Mission Circle. In most sociocratic co-ops the Mission Circle is made-up of elected co-op members (using the sociocratic elections process). In some organisations the Mission Circle can also include external people, who are invited to join the Board to contribute particular expertise to the organisation. A General Circle holds the executive function and coordinates operations and processes based on the agreed strategic direction of the organisation. In small co-ops the General and Mission Circle functions can be combined. The General Circle acts as a central point for coordinating the work of double-linked department Circles. Specific business functions (or projects) are looked after by Circles clustered by department.
The system is based on Consent Decision Making, requiring all Circle members to be in consent (i.e. have no objections) for any given decision. This means that proposals cannot be passed with a majority decision, with the minority voting against, which is particularly important at Mission Circle level if external people are elected to the Board. The double-linked structure creates a safeguard to prevent any one Circle from acting outside of its remit or moving away from the agreed strategic framework.