CHEER Embraces Sociocracy

July 7, 2020

CHEER became a sociocracy in 2019. “A sociocratic organization can be organized very
differently than a traditional organization,” notes CHEER’s Executive Director Bruce Baker. This blog post relies heavily on a recent sociocracy orientation that Baker gave to various members of the CHEER team (via Zoom). Italicized portions of the article are direct quotes from Baker.


The modern conceptualization of sociocracy originally comes from the Netherlands and the
word sociocracy dates back to the 19 th century. The purpose of it is to incorporate the broad
knowledge of a group and to reach optimal decisions. The more involved people are, the more
likely they are to support a particular project or initiative. Sociocracy also fosters transparency
and equality. The idea is for all team members to make a meaningful contribution and to
achieve shared goals.


During his presentation, Baker notes that CHEER adheres to specific standards for meetings:

  • Everyone has an opportunity to express themselves;

  • Everyone feels that what they expressed was heard; and

  • Everyone feels that their contributions will make a difference.

The bottom line is that sociocracy is an efficacious way to make decisions since it’s a structure
that ensures everyone is heard.


Baker notes that circles – the various, smaller groups that comprise a sociocracy – need a
meaningful purpose, including the following:

  • Vision: What would you like to see come about in the world;

  • Mission: How we fulfill the vision; and

  • Aim: The concrete and specific results our circle produces.

The idea is to gain consent from all circle participants. To be clear, that doesn’t mean that
everyone always agrees with one another. Consent is not consensus. Rather, the idea is to
come up with “[a] strategy that everyone can live with.”


Circles help organizations reach better decisions because they ensure a range of people are
heard from. Outcomes are shared by circle participants.


CHEER is comprised of both foundational circles and project or program circles. Foundational
circles include governance, engagement, support, and information. Project or program circles
include health, housing and community development, empowerment and leadership
development, and youth development. At the center of CHEER’s organizational chart lies the
coordinating circle, which is essentially an all-staff meeting. There are two types of circle
meetings, policy meetings and operational meetings.

 

Sociocracy is a nuanced, thoughtful and, at times, challenging form of governance. Also referred to as “dynamic governance,” obtaining consent from all participants is paramount. As CHEER moves forward with this lively model, it will be interesting to see where things go from here.

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