People often ask us how we make decisions and handle our differences. We use a method called Sociocracy: an evolution beyond democracy and beyond consensus. Sociocracy includes many practical elements such as:
1 Decisions are made in smaller or larger groups meeting as circles
In a circle, each person’s voice is valued equally; we take turns speaking and listening. The result is a meeting of minds, better decisions, and genuinely shared accountability.
Each circle is entrusted with an area of responsibility. For instance, the Companion Animal Circle deals with issues around pets.
2 Disagreements are welcomed and valued
It is through exploring different points of view that we get better quality solutions.
3 Decisions are not set in stone: all policies are reviewed regularly
We aim for consent, not consensus. We ask, is this decision ‘good enough for now’ and ‘safe enough to try’?
4 Decision making is transparent
Meeting schedules and minutes are shared on our members’ online space. We also have a members-only weekly e-newsletter, and a monthly report from all Circles. Steering Circle & Board meetings are ‘fishbowl’, which means anyone can drop in and watch.
5 Circles are double-linked
We have 5 Teams and a Board of Directors, and at least two people from each of these groups form the Steering Circle (See diagram) In addition, each team has several sub-circles (eg the Companion Animal Circle is part of Community). At least two people belong to both ‘parent’ and ‘child’ circles. This ensures high quality communication and understanding at every level.
6 Sociocratic practices support our community ethos.
The practices of listening to others without interruption, clarifying our understanding, owning our responses to issues and seeking ‘consent’ to outcomes that support our shared vision all help to build a culture where conflict does not escalate and fester.
“It is my experience that shared decision-making at Narara Ecovillage has been fundamental to building community and a sense of belonging.“
If you’re interested in sociocracy, we recommend Sociocracy for All (an international group) for some great free and affordable resources. We will also be offering face-to-face sociocracy training at Narara in 2021 and beyond. If you’d like to be informed about upcoming courses, please contact Liz Bassett firstname.lastname@example.org.