Thanks to facilitators Xana and Maria from Orla Design, we were able to host a group of Sunseeders and outside visitors for an immersive four-day course in Sociocracy 3.0 last month, where we explored both practical and theoretical topics.
Sociocracy, which is gaining popularity in alternative spaces, from eco villages to anarchist campaigning organizations, is not just a toolkit for decision-making, it is a totally new way of relating to the world and to other human beings. Rather than perpetuating a system of hierarchies and rigid leadership where an elite group takes control for decisions that will affect the whole, it is a firm commitment to allowing the diverse wisdoms that exist in group structures to emerge in an equitable way; to creating a safe space for all members to be heard and steer the outcomes.
From an outsider’s perspective, the use of hand gestures that Sociocracy employs – from thumbs ups, to fists that open out in a palm to signal an objection offered as a gift – could seem like a bizarre bohemian sign language. But within these silent movements lies the power of consent. Sociocracy offers the opportunity to reach a decision wherein all those present can contribute to and negotiate on the proposal, rather than a system of consensus, wherein the majority rules, at the cost of smaller and often marginalised voices.
One principle of Sociocracy sticks out for me more than most – artful participation. Is my behaviour or response the best contribution I can give to the group at this time? This beautifully simply mantra reigns in the often egotist impulse that emerges in group dynamics. Rather than speaking to get your point across, or because you like the sound of your own voice, Sociocracy asks that each person considers the common good before raising an objection, offering a proposal, or commenting at all.
In this sense, the power of Sociocracy reaches across boundaries and can be applied to our daily lives. At a time when thinking holistically and modestly is so critical, Sociocracy asks that we renounce the individualist and competitive philosophy which has dominated the Western world since Enlightenment, and focus instead on creating an environment which values all opinions and experiences, which seeks to create harmony, and which puts the group, rather than the I, first.