Many Voices One Song: Shared Power with Sociocracy

Sociocracy is a way of working that gives everyone power to lead!

Sociocracy results in

  • Power to the people
  • Clear and just decisions
  • The ability to learn and evolve
  • Connections at scale

Sociocracy For All: Key concepts

Watch this 4 Minute Introduction to Sociocracy. Captions available.

To learn more

Book Cover

Image Description:
Many Voices One Song Book Cover. Text:
Ted J. Rau and Jerry Korch-Gonzalez
Many Voices One Song
Shared Power with Sociocracy
Sociocracy For All (with Sociocracy For All Logo: blue circle with smaller circles that are linked together to form the shape of a flower)

@zaps Here’s the governance structure that we’re using, Sociocracy! I LOVE LOVE LOVE the practices and mindsets behind Sociocracy, my favorite idea being making decisions by consent.

Here’s a quick primer on consent from 3 tools from sociocracy to use right away (plus magic phrases!).

Consent is defined by “no objection”. Not having an objection is slightly different from agreeing. We refer to that extra space as the range of tolerance. We don’t have to find the overlap of our preferences in order to make a decision. Instead, we seek the overlap of our ranges of tolerances which gives us much more to work with. (Side note: some use consensus like consent. In that case there is no issue as long as that is done by everyone consistently.)

Image Caption: Nested circles showing how proposals can be within someone’s personal preference, range of tolerance, or objections. Consent is about the range of tolerance.

The benefits of consent decision-making are:

  • Everyone’s needs will be considered. That does not mean everyone gets what they want but every objection can be heard and addressed.
  • More buy-in. No one leaves the room feeling disengaged.
  • No toxic behavior after. Consent is an active process. There is no “standing aside” and no abstention. Everyone with consent rights has to consent — which also means everyone in the room is equally responsible. There is no “well I told you” after things go wrong.
  • It saves time. We do not have to argue about everything until we agree or one gives up. If there is no objection, we consent, and if there is an objection, we deal. We always push for consent fairly early. Then we hear what the objections are which tells us where to best put our discussion time.
  • Objections give us more information. Someone who votes “no” might never tell us what their concern was. In consent, we harvest more information which can only be better for everyone.
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I’m super excited to welcome @TedRau! He’s a co-founder of Sociocracy for All, which has created all the resources I put in the original post. I’m transferring ownership of the post to him so he can continue to do what SoFA does best, which is make Sociocracy accessible for everyone. Welcome again, @TedRau. You’ve made such a difference already in how we at work and it’s wonderful to have you here.

Thank you :slight_smile:

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Could you provide an example of how sociocracy would work in decision-making within NYCEDU and also some examples of how other organizations use sociocracy?


Hey @Jess. There are several elements to that. Imagine this: mentally throw all decision-making power in an organization onto one pile. Now we divide it up and give each circle a piece. They are fully responsible and empowered to make decisions in that area (“domain”). Each circle makes decisions together by consent so no individual can just make decisions in that domain on their own (no autocrats, unless they are explicitly empowered by their role/authorities being defined). In order to make sure we don’t have a bunch of silos, we nest the circles and make sure that if you have two related circles (“parent circle”/super-circle and “child circle”/sub-circle), two people will be part of both so they know from each other what they are doing and so no circle can overpower another.

So what this looks like in practice is that you have full clarity over who does what. It feels a bit like a loose and light structure with information flowing nicely.

I also know that sociocracy is like a ball of yarn and one needs to see the whole to understand it. I am aware that I only started pulling a piece of yarn out to show it to you. Let me know if you’d like to see another piece and in what direction you’d like to look more deeply.

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As for other examples, maybe these case studies might be informative:
I think the second one (Mindfulness First) might be most useful to you but I’d need to know more to give answers that fit better.

I really, really like this image! Thanks for sharing that.

@michael @rachelkate.miller This is the exact language we were talking about when it comes to our bylaws of “nested” and “linked” circles.

Take a look at how another nonprofit structured their circles in the case study below.