“It is good to love many things, for therein lies the true strength, and whosoever loves much performs much, and can accomplish much, and what is done in love is well done.”
Sociocracy is a tool that new communities use as a form of government today. Sociocracy practices in Turkey entered with the movement Another School is Possible. Cooperatives are among the communities that closely follow the sociocracy movement that started in 2015. With this article, which opened a debate to close the gaps of sociocracy, we also present examples of using sociocracy as an example of good practice.
“We believe the best decisions are made when everyone’s voice is heard, that’s why we use sociocracy to save time, make inclusive decisions and create more human organizations.”describes “Sociocracy for All” meaning sociocracy tool as a term. Sociocracy prioritizes the preservation of quality while bringing together more people, and the enrichment of the atmosphere of thinking and decision-making as different voices increase.
Thanks to the sociocratic approach, instead of vertical hierarchical organization structures, a system in which everyone is equidistant from the center and no one is in the center. Concepts such as coordinator, president, representative, which we are used to in all institutional structures, cannot find a place in sociocracy. Circles created from the very first moment determine the leader, delegate, secretary and facilitator to reach the goal of the circle. Task sharing takes place on a voluntary basis instead of voting, and the start and end times of all tasks are determined with the participation of everyone at the beginning.
There is a person who leads the formation of a community. Let’s start with that person as the leader in the sociocracy. If the second person whom the leader invites to work with agrees to take responsibility, s/he assumes the delegate role. The people who join right after they exist in the community with a concrete task as soon as they join and a circle is formed.
Circle is the first step in sociocracy. People who come together around a common dream form a community. The group determines its goals for the realization of the dream and an operation plan is made for the implementation of these goals. The leader follows the internal and external communication during the operation plan, receives and shares information from the parent circle. The delegate reports all actions within the circle according to the operation plan to the parent circle. The secretaries are responsible for the continuity of the written culture. The facilitator, on the other hand, encourages participation when everyone is together and creates an environment where everyone can have their say.
In sociocracy, leaders and delegates are tasked with providing the reporting flow when the parent circle is formed. When it comes together with the leaders and delegates of all circles, a common operation plan is harmonized. There are three circles as seen in the example figure. This structure is interpreted as three operation plans for a single goal. The communication between the circles is present in the parent circle formed by the leaders and delegates. We call the operation plans circle as a child circle. The parent circle is the area that provides integrity and facilitates communication. The parent circle can similarly determine a leader, delegate, secretary and facilitator within itself.
Multiple goals can be set for a single dream. When operation plans are created for each goal, the subject and number of connected circles become clear. This system, which can be interpreted as inside out and outside inside, naturally eliminates the vertical hierarchy. While sociocracy prevents unnecessary speeches and time losses, it ensures that more people are included in the system and are expressed freely. Sociocracy facilitates qualified growth. With everyone being active in the decision-making processes, belonging within the community is always solid. On the official Sociocracy for All website, the good sides of sociocracy are explained as follows:
“The best thing for me personally is the clarity. I can’t stand sitting in meetings where everyone is changing the topic all the time! I also can’t stand situations where everyone is tip-toeing around an issue because it’s not clear who decides. All of that goes away in sociocracy: it’s clear, efficient, transparent and doable. We also think it will be aligned with your values. Rounds are another personal favorite! Talking one by one is magical! It helps me listen better to my peers. And I can be sure my peers hear me out when it’s my turn to speak. As a result, we all get to know each other better and build more trust. Things don’t feel as rushed, heated or defensive. They’re calm, focused, and there is flow.”
Communities start with people gathering around an idea. For the formation of a community, the person who comes up with the idea takes the people s/he convinces with her. It is seen that community members increase in a certain series around the same idea. Those who come up with the idea in the sociocracy first dream, and the goals and operation plans for the dream are determined. A “Mission Circle” is established, which constantly reminds of the original dream and follows the founding principles.
The community that sets the goals ensures that the “General Circle” will be established by those who implement the operation plans. The important thing here is not to form a dream circle or a general circle. The dream circle and the general circle occur simultaneously, and the general circle allows the community to organize its actions while the imagination reminds the community’s ideals, values, and principles.
Connected circles, which make operation plans and organize all actions to achieve goals, are formed on the axis of task-responsibility.
Relationships and Communication in the Circle
While the sociocracy presents the proposal on the institutional structure as a governance model, it defines only the tasks related to the circle. There is no modeling regarding communication and relationship between people in decision-making processes. However, sociocracy proposes the nonviolent communication tool to facilitate community communication and enable everyone to speak. Other tools used to eliminate this gap in order to strengthen sociocracy in the context of communication within the circle are deep democracy, and U theory.
Some people in a community may have established trust among themselves because they have met before, or on the contrary, those who have never met may have never had the opportunity to establish an atmosphere of trust between them. This may cause prejudices to multiply and rise in the circle over time, and the community may suffer in conflict resolution areas where sociocracy does not enter.
In order to turn sociocracy into a functional governance model, it seems necessary to increase the efforts to create an in-circle systematic by identifying the gaps in relations and communication within the circle.
Can an approach be developed to support the principles of the governance model on relationships and communication within the circle that sociocracy does not address?
Fibonacci Sequence for Circles
The Fibonacci Sequence is a sequence of numbers that brings us to the golden ratio which is seen in nature. Mathematician Leonard of Pisa, known as Fibonacci, wrote the two smallest numbers side by side, then added up the last two numbers and formed a sequence of numbers as he progressed.
0 1 1 2 3 5 8 13 21 34 55 89 …
0+1 = 1
1+1 = 2
1+2 = 3
2+3 = 5
3+5 = 8
5+8 = 13
8+13 = 21
When we ratio of the last two numbers in this series of numbers, we get the irrational number 1.6180339887… each time. The rectangle drawn by considering this ratio is the golden rectangle.
As can be seen in the drawing, the radius of the formed quarter circles were created by considering the numbers in the Fibonacci sequence.
The Fibonacci Sequence is seen in the core sequence of the flower part of the sunflower, the shell of the snail, and the petals of the rose. Many painters and architects have created works of art taking into account the golden ratio. Fibonacci formed the sequence of numbers by observing the reproductive numbers of rabbits. Since this series is common in nature, it has become the subject of different disciplines.
Fibonacci Sequence in Sociocratic Circle Formation
The Fibonacci Sequence can be used to make the relationships between the members in the circle as insignificant as possible in the decision-making process.
Considering Michael Tomasello’s discussion over experiments in “Why We Cooperate?”, people tend to be community around intent. When this tendency in human nature is combined with the mathematical sequence that exists in nature, brand new relationships between people can be established in the context of cause-effect and responsibility-task.
For example, according to sociocracy, the person who keeps internal-external communication continuous by following the general functioning of the community takes the role of “leader” with these responsibilities. In the second stage, a delegate is added to the leader. Leader and delegate are the “1 + 1” step of the circle. The 2, formed by the leader and delegate, meet with the secretary and reach 3. As you can see “1, 1, 2, 3” in the circle, the first 4 rows of the series are formed with 3 people. In the third stage, it is ensured that 2 people are included in the circle and these people are included by taking on the responsibilities of “facilitating” and they can fulfill their duties alternately. Five people with the first five numbers of the sequence “1, 1, 2, 3, 5” form the core of the circle. The circle clarifies the operation plan, revealing its short-medium-long term operation plans. After the basic structure is formed with five people, an open invitation is created for the participation of 3 people. The system in “8” is set up. Circles in sociocracy are both process and result oriented. Those in charge are authorized to make effective decisions. Qualified growth that will minimize conflicts can be achieved without deviating from the principles with the encouragement of circles with at least 5 people to the extent required by the formation of tied circles through operation plans.
The entire community is also a circle. The holistic structure formed by the parent circles and the child circles converges to a wide circle. If we go back to the beginning, inviting a person with a clear and concrete task by the person who took the first step is the step that starts the movement. Thus, “1” is nothing on its own, only if “1” is next to it, a step can be taken with “2.” It may be possible to increase functionality with a micro-scale spiral touch to sociocracy that encourages thinking together.
It is necessary to benefit from the analytical approach as much as possible, especially in societies where culturally emotionality is intense. In geographies where unity prevails, the “couple” approach may be the formula for “together” in order to make the grassroots organizations permanent. The “Sunflower Model” in sociocracy proposes an in-circle systematic approach.
Neutralizing the form of attachment between people in the circle with a mathematical approach can help the realization of free will at a higher level in the decision-making stages.
Sociocracy is one of the most effective governance tools today. Cooperative initiatives are expected to be community based. The system should be equitable, inclusive and fair in decision-making processes during responsibility-task sharing in communities. In order for the community to reach its dream, everyone who works in accordance with the operation plan towards the determined goals should have a say in the decision-making mechanism.
In order for participation to really exist, everyone must show their presence freely without thinking for a moment about the possibility of “minority” or “majority” pressure. In sociocracy, the “Sunflower Model” suggests a systematic approach to the circle in order to eliminate possible invisible pressures. After the community is formed, instead of sharing tasks for the crowd, growing by taking responsibility step by step can create system. With this method, it is possible to enlarge the movements starting from the base by making loops from the first step. For sociocracy to flourish and become a widespread means of governance, it is important to establish bonds that serve the common dream among the people who make up the community.
 The number of circles increases according to the number of operation plans, or when separate operation plans are created to achieve the goals, the number of circles increases.
Rau, Ted J. Many Voices One Song. Shared power with sociocracy/Ted J. Rau, and Jerry Koch-Gonzalez. Sociocracy for All, Massachusetts, USA, 2018.
Grigas, Anna, The Fibonacci Sequence Its History, Significance, and Manifestations in Nature. A Senior Thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for graduation in the Honors Program Liberty University, ABD, Spring 2013.
Tomasello, M. (2009). Why we cooperate, California: Stanford University Press.
www.sociocracyforall.org (May, 2021)