- What is our aim?
- How can we best achieve it?
- Can everyone work toward the aim if we accept this proposal?
This is the premise behind the sociocratic method of dynamic governance. Policy decisions in a sociocratic circle are made by consent.
The consent circle is comprised of group members from various parts of the organization. They all come together all carrying an equal voice. The goal of this broad participation means all levels are represented to cover differing expertise and points of view. For example, a meeting in a large organization might bring together managers, supervisors and workers as equals. They would then determine the policies that would guide day-to-day operations. This is the distinction between traditional decision making and sociocracy. The circle is the central decision maker.
To consent to a proposal, it does not need to be your first preference. It just needs to be within your ‘range of tolerance. A way to simply illustrate this might be this: if somebody offers me ice cream; I may wish that it were strawberry (first preference). But if they only had lemon, I would still eat it (lemon is within my range of tolerance). If they offered me licorice; I would have to refuse it because I am allergic to licorice (it would be outside my range of tolerance).
Objections in sociocracy must be ‘paramount’ and ‘reasoned’. Objections must be related to the practical achievement of the aim of the policy. They cannot solely be based on personal feelings (paramount). These objections must be presented in the form of a rational, sensible, intelligible argument that can be easily understood by others (reasoned). Objections are not seen as roadblocks and obstacles.
Objecting essentially means: “I want to work effectively, and this proposal will negatively affect my work, so we need to figure out how to make this proposal better”. Objections are not negative; they are seen as positive and constructive. Objections are the beginning of a search or an acceptable adaptation of the original proposal to gain consent .
The aim of the group is to form a proposal good enough that everyone can work together to make the necessary aims into tangible goals.
Why sociocracy? Equivalence: people affected by decisions are involved in making them, with the power to influence change when there is reason to do so. (Equivalence is important precisely because people are otherwise often not equal in their ability to influence.)
Added benefits of consent vs. consensus decision making:
- Better decisions: Through including the input of all stakeholders the resulting proposals may better address all potential concerns.
- Better implementation: By including and respecting all parties and generating as much agreement as possible, there will be greater cooperation in implementing the decisions.
- Better group relationships: A cooperative, collaborative group atmosphere can foster greater group cohesion and interpersonal connection.
Consent decision making promotes a sense of interdependence and transparency in the decision making process. At the same time it promotes ownership of the ideas and aims of the organization. With the idea of equal voice comes equal participation in bringing those goals into reality. All parties involved are on equal footing as stakeholders. This is a bilateral approach that incorporates and pays credence to critical feedback.
- Buck, J. A., & Villines, S. (2007). We the people: Consenting to a deeper democracy: A guide to sociocratic principles and methods. Sociocracy.info.
- Kaloudis, H. (2019, December 4). A very brief introduction to sociocracy. Medium. Retrieved November 16, 2021, from https://medium.com/@Harri_Kaloudis/a-brief-introduction-to-sociocracy-a0770f220937.
- Priest, J., Bockelbrink, B., & David, L. (2021, September 22). A practical guide to sociocracy 3.0. A Practical Guide to Sociocracy 3.0. Retrieved November 16, 2021, from https://patterns.sociocracy30.org/.
- Quarter, J. (2000). Beyond the bottom line: Socially Innovative Business Owners. Quorum Books.