We are currently organized as a Limited Liability Corporation. Once we move in, we will legally change our structure to a condominium or Home Owners Association.
Like some other cohousing communities, we make key decisions using Sociocracy, a dynamic governance system best suited for self-governing organizations that value equality. We make decisions by consent, rather than by autocracy, hierarchical authority, majority voting, or consensus.
Sociocracy makes a distinction between consent and consensus, in order to emphasize: decisions are not expected to produce consensus in the sense of full agreement. Consent is defined as "no objections," and objections are meant to be based on the values and aims of the organization. Members ask themselves, "Can I live with this?" If not, they raise an objection, and if the objection identifies ways the proposal conflicts with the group's values, it leads to a search for an adaptation to gain consent.
Working groups are organized into circles, a system of domains of authority and responsibility. Each circle is linked to the circles next to it, and all are linked to an executive circle. Feedback is integral to activities and roles at all levels.
Typical cohousing circles include:
Membership Services Circle
Site Selection Circle
How Sociocracy Works
Pillar 1: Making decisions by consent
Every circle has an aim. For example, the aim of a cohousing group's membership circle might be to increase membership from 10 to 20 members. Circle members focus on how best to achieve the aim, making proposals in support of it; other members give their consent to exploring the proposals. Proposals are reviewed, and then revised or discarded, again, with the consent of all members. Resulting plans or policies are put in place, monitored for success, and then fine-tuned and fine-tuned again based on experiences, measurement, or feedback, with member consent at each step in the process.
Pillar 2: Circles and double-linking
Every circle has a domain, its area of authority. Circles make decisions about everything within their domain, and other circles cannot interfere, unless their own work is somehow affected by the activities of the other circles. Double linking is used to communicate between circles. A leader is chosen for each circle, and the leader becomes the delegate to linked circles. A leader's responsibilities might include preparing materials and presenting them to the linked circles in order to communicate circle needs and decisions made. Both leaders and delegates are full members of both circles. Both have objection rights in both circles; no circle has authority over another.
Pillar 3: Feedback
Circles use feedback systems (measuring and evaluation) to assess how well the circle's aim is being met. When circles make policy decisions, part of the process includes asking, "How will we know if the policy is working well?" Or, "What evaluation tools should we employ to measure the effectiveness of a decision or policy?
More proactive & open to change
Creates accountability & roles
Empowers individuals to find solutions
Requires planning & participant training
Requires strong support of members (resistance can derail method's success)
Sociocracy can take longer than other traditional governance systems