Sociocracy – Insights into my Personal Journey – Part 1

Earth-RisingShock and horror!

From a young age I was both perplexed and concerned by the lack of equivalence I observe between people and how so few have an effective voice in influencing decisions affecting them. I witnessed, and continue to witness abuse of power and an apathetic majority surrendering to circumstances that are at best undesirable and at worst, deadly! I’ve felt so sad at times, and at others, horrified, overwhelmed!

Like a vast majority of people in the world, including those who at first glance might be perceived, and act, as perpetrators and power-mongers, I tend to “wounds” resulting from being on a receiving end in “hierarchical”, “power-over” environments – situations where my objection and protest carried little weight but to secure further chastisement, pain or exclusion.



Nurturing Holistic Organisational Development, spreading the word about relational energetics (the subtle yet predictable energetic dance underlying our daily experience) and teaching people about sociocracy – a whole system governance method with innovative decision making process and feedback loops (evaluation protocol built in) – has been a passion of mine for well over a decade.

The last years I’ve committed myself to working full time, developing resources, teaching and consulting organisations, networks and groups about how to organise and govern themselves more effectively. I feel gratitude for being able to contribute to the changes I wish to see in the world – energised, so alive!

I have a policy, I mean, an agreement with myself – “share passion and service in the places I’m invited”.

In the past I learned painfully, and observed with some sorrow that regardless of whether ideas have value or not, until others are ready and wishing to listen, dispensing my point of view constitutes a violent act!

As the years of my life accrue so I’m increasingly aware of the perfection of life’s timing. This said, I observe how determinedly people can resist change due to fear, and perpetuate behaviors and actions that fail to serve them until way past expiry date.

Perhaps pace is a choice, and so to, to some extent at least, the degree of joy or misery experienced.


Why I like it!

Discovering sociocracy (more about that in part 2), learning about re-configuring organisational structure and how to apply the principle of consent in decision making, has contributed towards my growing sense of informed hope for the future.

Sociocracy takes a “reflexive” approach to navigating life, which basically means learning from experience by remaining conscious throughout the process and apply learning to future action. This “awake” attitude towards engaging life serves to rekindle people’s attention and invites greater accountability for what might happen, is happening, and did happen.

Alongside such a dynamic way of steering, I’ve grown to appreciate how meetings can flow smoothly, be enjoyably productive, and that both facilitation and participation can be practiced artfully!

The “hopefulness” that continues to ignite my passion is fueled by an experiential knowledge that positive transformation is possible. The tools required to take an evolutionary leap in how we organise together and engage with the world around us, are here and available. What happens next it seems, is simply down to us.



I’ve discovered that sociocracy offers a way to guarantee the potential for equivalence, transparency and effectiveness in organisations. I’m struck by how leadership (with informed consent) can serve a useful purpose, how circular functional hierarchy has value and how some structures can paradoxically support greater freedom.

I’ve realised how my “knee jerk” reaction to previous experiences of abuse has influenced me and how at times, in defense, I’ve “thrown a few babies out with the bath water”!

In the spirit of “both/and” thinking, sociocracy flattens out the policy making to the point that “leaders” and “those who answer to them”, participate with equal power in making policy.  Everyone is honored as a leader in their own right and those affected by decisions have an equivalent voice in making them.


Collective intelligence?

I’m impressed by how sociocratic processes facilitate the gathering of wisdom, insight and creativity at every turn, and how the elements harvested can be synthesised to formulate innovative strategies with greater integrity and resilience than those that may have been authored by any one individual alone.

Through sociocracy’s proposal forming and decision making processes, an underlying intelligence reveals itself. Once tapped, this resource supports groups to meet the emerging future more effectively – in harmony with their purpose and congruent with the needs and requirements of those in roles and with accountabilities to serve them.


Growing interest

Over these last two years in particular I’ve witnessed demand for sociocracy flourishing in all arenas – business, intentional communities, non-profits, social movements. There’s an explosion of interest, due perhaps to both timing and the fact that organisational agility and dynamic governance are hot topics!

In combination with the fact that applying sociocratic practices inspires engagement, fosters accountability and allows for lean, dynamic steering, it’s a no brainer option for people tired of cumbersome, stagnating, micromanaged organisations.

Yet worn out, traditional, centralised structures are not the only source of frustration for people. sociocracy provides a viable solution for an opposite scenario where people have polarised and formed radically egalitarian groups where leadership is rejected at every turn and few dare to speak out, yet alone lead, for fear of being labelled as a perpetrator of some kind of violent act upon humanity.

Such “flat” organisations rarely work at scale and power emerges from within the shadows, seeping through paths of least resistance and venting in distorted ways.

Sociocracy makes positions of leadership explicit, including defining the scope of authority. People leading may only do so with the informed consent of those that answer to them.  No-one can remain in a position of leadership if acting without integrity or when failing to honor accountabilities associated with their role.

Regular evaluation and feedback offers everyone within an organisation the opportunity to learn and improve.

If only my family of origin had had such policy in place when I was a child!


Spreading the word

Thirteen years ago, I knew of two people in the English speaking world that had heard of Sociocracy. Of course, I’ve since discovered that there were many more besides, but the point is that no international networks had yet formed. There were barely 5-10 references written in the English language on the Web.

At the time of writing this post, there are approximately 35,000 references to sociocracy in total (43,700 for sociocratie). This is a positive sign and although relatively small compared to say “consensus decision making”, clocking in around 18,700,000, none the less, a critical mass is building.


Insights into my journey with sociocracy – Part 2… coming soon.

Thank you for taking the time to share my thoughts.


If you’ve enjoyed reading this and other articles that I’ve posted then please take a moment to share them with others.

Together we can contribute to a more conscious and empowered humanity!


  1. Sound insights shared here regarding your arrival to the path of Sociocracy, James. I greatly appreciate that you have a vetting system for those you work with through the means of them choosing to learn by inviting you to share your wisdom. I also like how you illustrate the balance between traditional structures of governance and the radical polarised methods of governance, both of which can be (and all too often are) experienced as stifling of the innate collective intelligence we humans are privy to.

    Grateful for the work you do, thanks for sharing!

    Erin Young. Brisbane, Australia.

    • Nice post, Whitney. From the little I’ve seen of other beusnessis, as you say, there are an awful lot of crap leaders out there. And I’ve worked for a few of them, of course.My take, like a lot of the other people here is that leadership can be learned, but only if some of the core competencies exist in the person already. You can only teach someone so many leadership techniques. After that, they need to have certain qualities as a person to be able to execute on these techniques.And of course, it goes without saying that they need to actually care about doing a good job. In my experience, although people say they care, their actions often conflict this. And it’s all too easy as a manager to kid yourself that you’re a great boss and an awesome leader, as it’s a post that requires a lot of self reliance. There aren’t many people who are your equal who can call you on your bullshit.I think there are lots of people who won’t ever be a great leader, not because it can’t be taught, but because they don’t have the necessary qualities and/or care enough about doing a good job.

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