I have worked with a variety of decision making structures – from authoritarian to egalitarian. On one end of the spectrum, the person with the most authority, investment, or charisma makes the decisions. On the other end it often seems that the lowest common denominator is the decisive factor. Through the spectrum, “we the people” are hardly heard.
In an authoritarian structure, the primary considerations come from the perspective of the person or persons at the top. At worst, it is ego or bottom line that controls direction. At best, in organizations with caring and benevolent management, the people are heard but only within the limited abilities of the few that are listening.
The majority rule of traditional voting is an attempt to curb abuses but, again at best, there are always winners and losers. At worst, thugs with the muscle or lobbyists with the money control the vote. A truly deeper democracy is needed.
In egalitarian structures, often in reaction to authoritarian abuses, there is a greater attempt to listen. Achieving universal agreement through the process of consensus is usually the goal. Although this is usually an improvement, there remains serious problems to overcome. It is at times difficult to move forward because of the lack of agreement and leadership is often discounted in favor of a false sense of equality.
Several years ago, after around twenty five years of struggling with the problems in these structures, I came across Dynamic Governance, or sociocracy, and quickly saw the beauty of an organizational system and decision making process that was designed to empower everyone involved but also to allow leadership to move things forward.
Dynamic Governance is a governing process that evolved from a philosophical concept to an organizational structure that has the ability to create self organizing efficiency especially suited for collaborative living and working environments. Sociocracy was first conceived by August Comte in the early nineteenth century as an organizational system to replace the monarchy in the emerging industrial revolution. Sociocracy literally means to “rule by socios”, people who have social relationship with each other.
Sociocracy didn’t take root until last century under the leadership of Gerard Endenburg who established a functioning system for highly efficient business management in the Netherlands. Today it is being used in diverse organizations in Europe, Latin America, Australia, the United States and Canada.
Dynamic Governance is rooted in three key principles that distinguish it from other forms of decision making structures. The principles are circles, double linking, and consent. The overall structure of an organization is first organized into functional and management circles where everyone is involved and given a voice. Decisions are then based on consent rather than agreement or voting. Proposals are formed within the circles for all matters they are involved with. Consent is given or held back by each person based on a range of tolerance. Decisions are quickly processed as proposals are modified based on what everyone in the circle can live with. Double linking of functional and management circles assures top down and bottom up communication and consent.
Although somewhat complex to grasp, Dynamic Governance becomes quite simple and efficient as it becomes internalized. I am presently working toward certification in facilitating the process for community building and will post more detail on the principles and process along the way.
For more information, check out the following links.