Sociocracy is a decision-making process that enables every member of an organisation to have a voice in its management. As such, it creates feedback loops in a system, helping information flow not only from top-down but also from the bottom-up. As each individual is a part of the whole system (be it an organisation or a community), sociocracy cherishes the voice of each individual, knowing that everyone’s consent is needed for a decision to be made. It doesn’t mean however that everyone necessarily agrees fully with the decision. It just means that for now we can give a proposal a go, no one has any paramount objections to it, meaning everyone can live with the given proposal, and people know that in a few weeks/months (as stipulated by a proposal) they can return to this decision and amend it if necessary. “Safe enough to try, and good enough for now”.
What makes sociocracy different from majority voting is that it actually puts equality and freedom in practice. It highlights inclusiveness and cooperation among everyone involved. Contrary to majority voting, the participants can actually discuss issues much more thoroughly until consent is given to a proposal and there are no severely discontented people. In a majority voting system, where “yes” and “no” are the key players, we can end up with 60% of participants saying “yes” to a proposal and 40% being severely opposed but the proposal will still be implemented as the majority quorum is reached, leaving 40% of the people severely disgruntled.
In this activity, participants will get acquainted with the sociocratic model by using it in an election process.
Group / Experiential
Roughly 40 minutes depending on the size of the group.
To participate in a transparent and empowering election process
To learn how to facilitate a group election using sociocratic principles
Required Materials and Tools:
Post-it notes or pieces of paper (at least 1 per participant)
Appoint a facilitator for the election. It doesn’t matter how you decide on this, but it should be a person who understands the procedure well in order to lead the process.
Define the role the elected person should carry out: tasks to be accomplished, prefered or required skills, duration of the role; how often will the person be evaluated in her/his role and what the evaluation criteria are.
Distribute papers & pens.
Each person fills out a piece of paper with their own name on the top, and the name of the person they are nominating underneath. You can nominate only a person who is present; nominating yourself is also possible.
Nomination round: the facilitator collects the papers following the order of the circle and then asks each person to tell why he/she nominated the person they chose (nominations are written on piece of paper so that members can’t change their nomination during a round). One by one, the members give their reasons to the entire group. Reasons must be relevant to the skills for this role.
The facilitator writes down how many nominations different people received and is also paying attention to arguments for nomination (and possibly writing them down).
The clarifying round: people can speak about how they feel being nominated or others can ask questions to people being nominated. E.g.: asking the person with the most votes if they are actually willing and able to take on the role.
Change round: after having listened to everyone, the facilitator presents how many votes different people received and starts a second round asking each person if they want to keep their nomination or they feel like changing his/her nomination on the basis of the arguments heard from the group. The facilitator changes the number of votes accordingly.
The facilitator proposes 1 person based on the group opinion and arguments (not necessarily the person who received the majority of nominations).
The facilitator presents three voting options:
Consent (“I agree, fully support”)
Consent with concern (“I agree, I have some concerns, but they don’t stop me from moving forward”)
Objection (“I can’t support this proposal, and this is my argument why...”)
The facilitator points out that the decision must be “good enough for now and safe enough to try”, it can always be reversed, and through evaluation you monitor the progress of the selected person in his/her job.
Consent round: starting from the left of the person nominated each person is asked to express if they consent, consent with concern or if they have an objection. The nominated person is the last one to express their opinion. The person is elected if everybody voted with consent or consent with concern. If somebody objects, the person is not elected.
If the person was elected and there were some concerns now is the time to listen to them. Address them if necessary and adapt accordingly.
If the person was not elected you should listen to reasons for objection from everybody who objected and also listen to concerns. The facilitator integrates feedback in the proposal or asks someone from the group to do it. With the alternative proposal in place you do another consent round.
By bringing an objection you help the group as you express a major concern, something that could harm the group. You do not block it simply because you don't like the person but because you have a reason why this wouldn’t work and you present it.
What difference did you notice between this way of electing someone for a role, and the usual way you are used to see/utilise?
What could the advantages be of using this tool?
How do you think the person elected in this way might feel? Would it help him/her to feel more committed to the "job"?
Instructions for Submission
Upload 1 photo, submit the role description, and a summary of the election. Notice what went well, what could have been improved. Write personal reflections on advantages and disadvantages of this methodology and of key points made in the participant reflection. Instructions on how to upload photos and how to submit things in Moodle can be found here: Instructions on Submission&Uploading
Instructions for AssessmentProvide feedback to at least one participant that has done this activity. Instructions on providing feedback can be found here: Instructions on Feedback
Tried an activity? Give us feedback!