Sociocracy is a system of governance, using consent-based decision making among equivalent individuals and an organizational structure based on cybernetic principles.
Sociocracy means the rule by the “socios,” people who have a social relationship with each other – as opposed to democracy: rule by the “demos,” the general mass of people. The sociocratic organization is composed of a hierarchy of semi-autonomous circles. This hierarchy, however, does not constitute a power structure as autocratic hierarchies do.
The word sociocracy is derived from Latin and Greek. ( socius – companion and kratein – to govern). It is English for the word sociocratie, coined in 1851 by August Comte and was later used by the U.S. sociologist Lester Frank Ward and later still by dutchman Kees Boeke. Boeke saw sociocracy as a form of goverance that presumes equality of individuals and is based on consent. This equality is not expressed with the „one man, one vote“ law of democracy but rather by a group of individuals reasoning together until a decision is reached that is satisfactory to each one of them.
To make sociocratic ideals operational, Boeke used a system of circles to organise decision-making within a large organisation. Members of each circle were responsible for decisions within their domain. Rather than using ever larger circles to make decisions affecting more than one domain, each circle elected representatives to a “higher” circle. Use of representatives maintained the efficiency of a hierarchy while maintaining basic equivalence of the members of the organization. In the 1970s, Gerard Endenburg, a former student of Boeke, further developed and applied Boeke’s principles.
The Four Key Design Principles
Endenburg’s policy decision-making method is composed of four key design principles:
Decision Making on Policy Issues by Consent
Organizing in Circles
Elections by Consent
Consent as defined and practiced in sociocratic organizations is claimed to be a more efficient and effective decision-making method than autocratic decision-making, because it builds trust and understanding.
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