Posted on November 13, 2011 by nwhitestone
[Cross posted from the DecisionLab blog]
I am passionate about economic democracy — not so much in the sense of majority rule voting, but in the sense of the people involved in something controlling it together. Some people have argued that, for this purpose, organising as a sociocratic business is better than organising as a co-operative business. Sociocratic businesses allow their members to participate in decision-making regardless of the size of their contribution to the business’s capital; sociocratic businesses do not get torn apart by the Scylla of majority-rule politics or sucked down by the Charybdis of interminable and impotent meetings. However, many co-ops do not suffer from these problems either — and a co-op can remain a co-op while becoming a sociocratic business. The opposition between co-op and Sociocracy is a false one. Let me show you why.
I will assume that you already understand the basics of Sociocracy. If you don’t, that’s okay — visit SociocracyUK to find out more. Come back when you have the basics…
The International Principles of Co-operation are guidelines by which co-operatives put their values into practice. While different co-ops and different co-operative federations have different standards for implementation, all share these Principles. I will go through the Principles and compare each to sociocratic practice.
1st Co-operative Principle: Voluntary and Open Membership
“Co-operatives are voluntary organisations, open to all persons able to use their services and willing to accept the responsibilities of membership, without gender, social, racial, political or religious discrimination.”
In the case of a sociocratic business, “able to use” and “willing to accept responsibilities” implies a respect for the appropriate size of the business — one responsibility of membership might be accepting that the community has an ideal size given particular number of customers or size of facilities. Co-operative businesses and sociocratic businesses are both similarly limited by various bottom lines, including financial ones, and the decision of worker co-operatives to hire or not is a perfect example of such an appropriate exercise of judgment. Residency in a shared (co-operatively-owned) house is another example where a community must wisely judge appropriate size and personal fit without discriminating on the various grounds that would be inappropriate. Wise worker co-operatives give special care to hiring only those people with whom they wish to share their working lives over the long term. A sociocracy can adopt this principle and apply it in the same way that any wise co-operative can.
2nd Co-operative Principle: Democratic Member Control Continue reading