The purpose of this thread is to establish an “everything Sociocracy” thread to track the progress of the Sociocracy Working Group. Plus, I needed somewhere to post outside perspectives on communities associated with and using Sociocracy actively and want them to not get lost as the progress of the working group begins to unfold.
In progress by Sociocracy Working Group
This is where I will drop my communication with Daniel Miller of NASCO Education and Properties (North American Students of Cooperation)
ME: hi Daniel! Are you familiar with sociocracy as a form of decentralized governance? Do you have resources or referrals of folks who have seen it in action?
D: I’ve only had a bit of experience here - one was a committee led by board members using sociocracy, where we were trying to think through some complex ideas in a very large group with very different opinions. In that case I thought the process they brought was pretty helpful - it brought a lot of structure to things, it collected a whole lot of input, and it gave the most active folks within the group a way to grow that feedback into recommendations that people could digest.
The other was attending a training co-presented by a co-op staff person and the author of the main Sociocracy manual, and it was not great - the space created by those trainers seemed really at odds with the message of sociocracy, and felt disrespectful and exclusionary enough to people attending that some of them walked out on the training and some of those who stayed were pretty clear about how they felt about things. I was pretty frustrated there, both because this was not the vibe people signed up for and because I think it made it really hard to absorb any of the training we were there for ):
I do have this copy of Many Voices One Song I keep meaning to read, and where I saw talented co-opers using the process it was great, so I am definitely interested in using the process again. What I think I took from the less great experience was similar to what I thought about Carver Method Policy Governance, or consensus meeting process, or some of the other really specific tools with detailed instructions I’ve seen in co-ops and non-profits - they’re really useful tools, but it can also be hard to separate out the hype you might hear from some of the folks passionate about them (or the consultants who train on them).
I do know of one co-op that’s been investing in sociocracy process for some of their governance work, and one of the folks who introduced me to sociocracy works there and has good judgement about what makes for healthy or unhealthy dynamics in a co-op, would it be helpful to make an introduction?
ME: Indeed it would. Thank you for sharing your experience on this topic. It’s no surprise to me that skillful co-oppers would wield the tool well and I love hearing that reflected in your storytelling.
Is NASCO ED or P decentralized? What kind of governance model(s) are used?
D: BTW - I reached out to the co-op staff person I’ve seen use this process well. I think they’d correct me and say the process they used was only loosely based on sociocracy, but it worked pretty well in my experience and I think most co-ops would be adopting something ‘based on’ rather than just absorbing an entire system into their process unchanged. But I asked them if they’d be willing to be contacted, and they’re usually pretty responsive.
And neither NASCO nor NP use a formally decentralized system. Both use basically a majority decision making process, but both also incorporate a lot of the methods used in consensus and it would be very unusual for either board to make a decision with significant opposition - both would almost definitely set the decision aside for more group work before bringing it back for a vote, and both board would be trying to find opposition to the idea before bring it for a vote to avoid conflicty zero sum weirdness.
NP’s board uses a more conventional meeting facilitation format, but intentionally leaves a lot of facilitation details blank - because people on that board come from a range of local co-ops with their own way of running meetings, and NP treats that as a strength. The start of each meeting has the facilitator state how they want to handle the mechanics of the meeting (keeping stack, hand signals, etc), and leave room for questions if anyone’s unclear on the proposed facilitation.
NASCO’s board uses a particular method for facilitation, splitting the job into two roles (“sheppard” and “guide”), with one focused more on process and meeting business and the other focused more on mood / power dynamics / the needs of the humans in the room.
Both NASCO and NP are sort of de facto decentralized - both boards have to deal with constituents spread far apart with a complicated set of relationships between the board and the members and orgs represented in their meetings. So while they don’t use any particular decentralized process, but have a similar intent.
D: I heard back and they’re happy to be name-dropped for you to contact them.
The person I spoke to was Noah Compo, who serves as the Director of Member Services for the Santa Barbara Student Housing Co-op. I’ve pasted their email signature below with all their contact details.
Noah is also a former NP board member and before working at SBSHC they served as a staff member for the UKSHA co-ops in Lawrence KS (which is how they came to be on the NP board). I think Noah’s communication style and judgement are probably a fit for the kind of firsthand feedback you’re looking for on the pros and cons of sociocracy as used by actual co-op members, and I hope y’all enjoy getting to talk to one another!
Director of Member Services
Santa Barbara Student Housing Cooperative
777 Camino Pescadero
Isla Vista, CA, 93117 805.685.6964
A proposal from the working group on how to implement Sociocracy into SourceCred