Sociocraty: a process to reach decision making

From the Wikipedia article on sociocraty that helps to make a policy on decision making. The question is: what type of decision making policy do we want for a local community of practice in scientific programming. If we stick to the community values (see related post), then it should be a democratic and respectful decision making process. For now, there is no explicit structure which means that we need to implement one.

Maybe sociocraty would prove a good model for that!

All decisions are made by consent rather than majority vote. A decision is reached only if they are no “paramount objection”. Objections are integrated to the decision rather than cast away.

Something important:

Sociocracy makes a distinction between “consent” and “consensus” in order to emphasize that circle decisions are not expected to produce “a consensus”. It doesn’t mean agreement or solidarity. In sociocracy consent is defined as “no objections,” and objections are based on one’s ability to work toward the aims of the organization. Members discussing an idea in consent based governance commonly ask themselves if it is “good enough for now, safe enough to try”. If not, then there is an objection, which leads to a search for an acceptable adaptation of the original proposal to gain consent.

Circular organisation (principle 2)

Quoting here:

The sociocratic organization is composed of a hierarchy of semi-autonomous circles. This hierarchy, however, does not constitute a power structure as autocratic hierarchies do. Each circle has the responsibility to execute, measure, and control its own processes in achieving its goals. It governs a specific domain of responsibility within the policies of the larger organization. Circles are also responsible for their own development and for each member’s development. Often called “integral education,” the circle and its members are expected to determine what they need to know to remain competitive in their field and to reach the goals of their circle.

This could be a nice model for us. We could make sub-commitees for “genomics”, “statistics”, “metabolomics” or by language (“Python”, “R”). The sub-committee would be responsible for hiring new members, teaching, etc.

Double-linking = leaders (principle 3)

How to link circles?

Individuals acting as links function as full members in the decision-making of both their own circles and the next higher circle. A circle’s operational leader is by definition a member of the next higher circle and represents the larger organization in the decision-making of the circle they lead. Each circle also elects a representative to represent the circles’ interests in the next higher circle. These links form a feedback loop between circles. At the highest level of the organization, there is a “top circle”, analogous to a board of directors, except that it works within the policies of the circle structure rather than ruling over it.

For us, this would mean that we have sub-commitee leaders that are also part of the next-circle = the decision board.

How do you appoint one circle leader?

This fourth principle extends principle 1. Individuals are elected to roles and responsibilities in open discussion using the same consent criteria used for other policy decisions. Members of the circle nominate themselves or other members of the circle and present reasons for their choice. After discussion, people can (and often do) change their nominations, and the discussion leader will suggest the election of the person for whom there are the strongest arguments. Circle members may object and there is further discussion. For a role that many people might fill, this discussion may continue for several rounds. When fewer people are qualified for the task, this process will quickly converge. The circle may also decide to choose someone who is not a current member of the circle.

Each sub-committee would appoint someone from the circle (or external) to represent them at the circle of direction. This means that everyone can potentially become a decision maker at any time.

Written on April 23, 2018