Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Dynamic governance through Sociocracy - Beth Whitman

Is there anyone out there who isn't frustrated with government?

I would guess in this day and age the almost universal answer is "no"!

At last weekend's Dynamic Governance workshop, we practiced a technique for transcending the logjams, bickering, bitterness, and then seeming oppression that often comes with governance--be it democratic, autocratic, or consensus-style. John Buck led this "sociocratic" event sponsored by Belfast Cohousing & Ecovillage and the Belfast Area Transition Initiative.

The four elements that make Dynamic Governance different from other models are subtle but important for any organization that wants to get things done quickly while taking into account differing points of view.

Decision-Making Style is the first element.

Dynamic Governance uses the governing principal of consent as the basis for decision-making. Unlike consensus, this is not a quest for agreement. It is a process by which each member is able to explain their reasoned objection to a proposal and allow the group to problem-solve to find a solution to the objection. This system allows for a relatively quick decision-making process while at the same time bringing in the wisdom of the group that often majority rule voting or autocratic systems do not do.

Structural Organization is the second element.

In Dynamic Governance the organization is composed of working groups (rings), each of which has a specific aim or task. There are different levels of rings, and each level of ring is responsible for different degree of abstraction of the decisions they make. Within the same level, each ring is responsible for different types of aims or tasks.

Communication is the third element.

Different levels of rings are interlinked by having at least two representatives that are in both the upper ring and the lower ring. This process is called double linking and is the way that critical information is communicated through the organization.

Election is the fourth element.

The governing principal is that leadership is more dynamic when leaders are elected for specified terms as opposed to volunteering. Rings elect their ring-leaders to functions and tasks by a consent decision-making process after open discussion. This often brings out unidentified leadership within an organization. It also allows individuals to 'try out' a role they might not have otherwise have taken on, and it gives them the confidence of the group as they take on that role.

The entire process of Dynamic Governance is based on a cycle of "lead-do-measure." Each ring reports to the rings above and below as it introduces a task (lead), then performs that task (do), and then evaluates the performance of that task (measure).

This basic feedback loop ties the four elements of Dynamic Governance together such that the organization functions in a way that excites and energizes the participants instead of promoting burnout and depression as so many other styles of governance do.

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