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An exciting (and scary) “sociocratic moment”

By Uli Nagel, August 16th, 2021

Hello, dear reader, it’s been a time of much growth and learning at BIC, so I was moved to write about one particular excitingand also confusing and scary piece we are just beginning to wrap our brains around!

As you might know, our group uses sociocracy as governance method, an organizational structure and a way of meeting that aims to combine inclusivity with efficiency.

Sociocracy has three foundational elements: an organizational structure in which circles are doubly-linked to each other, a meeting structure that includes speaking in rounds and finally, feed-back loops that ensure ongoing learning.

Initially, we were focused on learning how to meet in sociocraticways: speaking in rounds to hear every voice, guided by a facilitator, asking questions before giving reactions, making sure we understood each other, and integrating objections to proposals. We were a small group, and it was easy to include everyone’s voice. And of course, being a new enterprise, we allwanted and needed to be involved in every detail of our vison-building and growth.

Now that our membership has grown to fourteen, it’s become clear that making policy and other practical decisions is no longer workable as one member group. Doing rounds takes a long time and the questions and reactions that can “pile up” stretch our patience, especially at a time when we really have work to do. It’s also not really possible to emotionally stay connected and attentive to that many people in a meeting.

This is a potent and delicate moment in any organization: thetime to let go and expand the structure in a way in which not everyone is involved with every decision. We realized, we need a smaller coordinating circle that makes sure that the property group, member, marketing and outreach circle, fundraising team and process support people know what is being worked on, coordinate their efforts, support each other and help guide our collective work as smoothly as possible.

When we met about this and looked at the diagram of our new structure (above) it was clear we were a little nervous: what role would we each play? How would everyone know what all is happening? How much input would we be able to give? What were others going to be up to if we did not all keep an eye on everything? Did each of our voice still matter? Were we still going to include everyone?

Working our way through these questions and beginning to understand the nature, benefits and even beauty of doubly linking circles, seeing the more complex organism that our community is becoming, and understanding that the diagram is a living, ever changing document, will take some time – we are easing our way into it. And we are glad we are doing this now, while we are still relatively small. Many of us will sit in several “circles” – teams really, because of our limited numbers. As wegrow faster, our trust and confidence in the structure will have deepened and been internalized, and it will be easier to each feel an integral part of a larger system without having to know or decide everything.

For further information, here are some wonderful resources from Sociocracy for All: a free video summarizing sociocracy and a free video course on Creating a Circle Structure

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