Last week we started a six-part, online/video workshop with the organization, Sociocracy for All, designed to instill in us the delicate art of democratic self-governance. Sociocracy, a.k.a. Dynamic Governance,* is a set of protocols or procedures designed to improve on other forms of democratic decision-making, including consensus. It sounds complicated. And it is, sort of.
It begins, innocently enough, with rounds.
Theoretically, in a round, every member of the group has his or her say on the topic or proposal at hand. Everyone is heard. Everyone gets equal time. The process encourages respectful listening and, because everyone is guaranteed an opportunity to weigh in, it discourages cross-talk. Dominant personalities don’t dominate. Quiet voices are heard.
We’ve been using rounds in our meetings for some time now. But rounds are just the start.
In the first sociocracy workshop, we went on from practicing rounds to experiment with elections. In sociocracy, circles (committees) require that certain positions be filled: leader, facilitator, record-keeper. The procedure for filling these positions begins with a round in which the skills required for the position are listed. Then each member of the circle writes down the name of the person they would choose. (They can choose themselves if they want.) This is followed by at least two rounds in which the pertinent virtues of the nominees are discussed. The cool thing about doing elections this way is that people who might not step forward on their own are, as it were, nudged to the fore by their peers. And this can have an unexpected—and happy—result.
I won’t describe in detail the process we went through last Monday (July 10). But I think Anne was surprised to find herself elected as record-keeper. She accepted the outcome gracefully.
The second session this Monday (July 17), which I missed, was devoted to preparation for proposals—a big deal in sociocracy. I have some reading to do.
All of this learning, and all of the meetings we’re holding, require an awful lot of talking. It gets tiring. When do we get to the part where (as Bruce has said more than once) “we put shovels in the ground?”
But it’s become clear that the talk is unavoidable. The talking—and the learning—are about getting to know and trust one another so that, when the time comes to make big decisions under pressure, we have the confidence to act.
But there’s no denying it takes a lot of meetings. If anything, we may have to up the number of meetings we hold each month. And there will be talking.
Talk, talk, talk.
*There’s a textbook for keeners: Sam Kaner, Facilitator’s Guide to Participatory Decision-Making, Second Edition (San Francisco: Wiley 2007).