From Consensus to Dynamic Governance at Lost Valley
Sociocracy: A Permaculture Approach to Community Evolution, Melanie Rios, Communities Magazine of Winter 2011.
This article basically says that dynamic governance (sociocracy) is an organic process for community growth, and that it is very much aligned with the principles of permaculture.
Lost Valley, Dexter, OR is a small intentional community of about 40, and an educational center that teaches permaculture. It started as a consensus-based intentional community in 1989. In 2008 it moved from consensus-based to a hierarchical mainstream business. In 2010 it began integrating dynamic governance (sociocracy).
– From 1989 to 2008. The consensus phase valued cooperation over competition, process over product, equality over hierarchy, bonding over economic profit. It sustained the community for a long time. Over time its shadow side appeared: long meetings with few decisions taken; the members became discouraged, some of the most enterprising ones left. What made things worse was the economic stagnation, and inability to maintain the premises.
– From 2008 to 2010. A nonprofit board of directors assumed leadership, creating hierarchical governance. The new phase valued effectiveness, ease and output quality, product over process, profit over goals. On the positive side it brought systems of accountability, defined tasks and roles, and budgets to be accurately followed. But these advantages could hardly be integrated with the values that had shaped the community. The shadow side was very clear. There was a divide between the upper side and the lower side of the totem pole, managers took decisions without asking for input from those affected, gossip and resentment grew apace.
– From 2010 to 2011: dynamic governance. The community numbers grew back from “a handful of people” to about 40. The community formed a couple of new businesses; it renovated buildings, upgraded the water system, planned to build additional homes, and kept a positive cash-flow. It seems that the dichotomy cooperation and consensus versus effectiveness and ease is no longer holding back Lost Valley.
The article also explains some elements of dynamic governance and how they worked for Lost Valley
Elements of Dynamic Governance
– Double linking
In order to make decisions that affect more than one circle (our committees) the idea was born of ‘double linking.’ Communication goes not only from top to bottom but from bottom to top. The committees work together through a coordinating circle in which each major committee has two representatives. Each circle has a leader, the downward link from the coordinating circle, and a second link, a person elected to carry information up from the whole membership to the coordinating circle. An example is offered of how the “water circle” helped upgrade the water system, and how the communication went back and forth between the circle, the community circle (coordinating circle) and the Board of Directors.
This is a community building process of recognition of people’s skills and abilities. The group’s preferences are weighed against the strength of the reasons for nominating a person to a task. It is a process of affirmation of individuals and tasks they embrace that reinforces connection and trust; it empowers the person that will take up the task, and adds clear responsibilities to the role. It strengthens the trust of the community on its representatives.