Some thoughts on sociocracy, and how to tell important concepts apart

At the plenary meeting of Monday most @reeflings had their first brush with sociocracy. Some interesting “theoretical” questions were raised, I believe by @GiuSeb and @Mas:

  • How do we tell personal preferences from the group’s interest?
  • How do we know which level of importance to assign to a given decision?

In a sense, it’s true: meeting people’s personal preferences makes them happy, and it’s always in the group’s interest to make its members happy! But still, I see a clear demarcation between the two concepts. This is because this group has already encoded several decisions in its Blueprint document. So, if the consequences of a decision negate one of those, we can object to it to protect the group’s interest. For example, compromising on universal design might threaten the group’s interest for inclusion.

As for the importance level, the main confusion arises between levels 2 (medium importance, reversible, decide by team autonomy but consult the people impacted) and 3 (high importance, reversible, decide by consent). Again, in this case there is a simple test to deternine if the decision is very important or not: ask yourself who is impacted by it. If it is only one person or a few people, you should probably talk it out with her/them: if that person(s) is OK with the decision, you can implement it without further ado. If it is many people, then you might want to do it with a sociocracy round.

Any thoughts, anyone?


Thanks @alberto for launching this thread.

On some topics I have a slightly different understanding though.

On the difference between importance level 2 and importance level 3 I think the distinction lies more in how much the collective intelligence for the entire Team Reef can add to the decision. A typical example of a level 2 imporance decision is the choice of Nextcloud: in this case I think it’s necessary to consult everybody (in writing) about their needs and possible input, but the final decision I don’t think needs to be put through 4 rounds of consent decision-making.

Here I would mostly refer to what is written in “Many voices one song” section 3.2.2, which has the butterfly-shaped venn-diagram that I included in the Powerpoint.
It’s true that it’s not an exact science, but overall I am confident that we will converge on the meaning of the tree different concepts:

  • Preference = a person’s preferred outcome
  • Range of tolerance = everything that someone can work with
  • Objection = everything outside the range of tolerance, interfering with the objective and values of The Reef

I think there are two things we didn’t cover in the presentation that are worth mentioning related to personal preference:

  • We opted for consent as the default way of decision-making because we wanted to avoid getting stuck around personal preferences (i.e. consensus) for issues that are not so important. For things that are very important or sensitive however - imporance level 4 - we refer to consensus-based decision-making and make sure everybody is on board.
  • For some issues related to personal preference we already know that circle-based decision-making just doesn’t work. Examples include the purchase of the site or the colour of the curtains in the common spaces. For this kind of issues we have introduce the option of “alternative method voting”, which could be a majority vote (threshold to be determined) or multi-voting. This is explained in more detail in the Governance document Section 3.3.

Of course I was not there at your sociocracy session, but I’ve read and heard some about it. The best thing about it in my own understanding is the sociable approach to decisions. For instance, in preference voting, you may not agree with a decision in priority, but you may not completely disagree with it, nevetheless. Thus, you may mark it as low priority without preventing others choosing it as priority. So this would be communal consent.

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Thanks @alberto yea I believe things will start becoming easier as we move forward… But it’s good to keep in check.
In any case, is the governance and the blueprint 1.0 final documents? Are we generally expecting a “buy-in” on those docs by individuals joining the project?


As I understand it, Blue 1 is final, but the governance doc is very much not. This was also recorded in the Decisions log 2022.

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