Tag Archive: sociocracy

October 7, 2019

Participatory Methods and Approaches for Equitable Food Systems Work

“Nothing about us without us is for us.”

South African slogan

“What is missing from the policy analyst’s tool kit – and from the set of accepted, well-developed theories of human organization – is an adequately specified theory of collective action whereby a group of principals can organize themselves voluntarily to retain the residuals of their own efforts.”

Elinor Ostrom (1996) Governing the Commons

“…there’s no real evidence that one can become expert in something as broad as ‘decision making’ or ‘policy’ or ‘strategy.’ Auto repair, piloting, skiing, perhaps even management: these are skills that yield to application, hard work, and native talent. But forecasting an uncertain future and deciding the best course of action in the face of that future are much less likely to do so. And much of what we’ve seen so far suggests that a large group of diverse individuals will come up with better and more robust forecasts and make more intelligent decisions than even the most skilled ‘decision maker.’”

James Surowiecki, The Wisdom of Crowds

Last week I had the opportunity to facilitate a workshop for one of the sub-networks of the Vermont Farm to Plate Network focused on food access (including food justice and racial equity). Farm to Plate is moving into a second decade of work and looking to refresh its strategic work and structure (version 2.0). As part of this move, various members are interested in how they can engage others more robustly and/or responsibly in their work, including those who are negatively impacted by the current system (those living with hunger and in poverty, struggling farmers, farm workers, indigenous people, etc.). The workshop was designed around some core IISC collaborative frameworks, which participants applied to their work in pairs and small groups, and it also elicited different participatory methods that those in the room were already using or aware of.

One of the operating assumptions in the workshop was that engagement and participation can and should look different in different situations, and that more is not necessarily better. Rather, it is important to get clear on the aims of an initiative, carefully consider who the key stakeholders are, weigh various factors (time, complexity, readiness, power dynamics, etc.) and think about timing and different phases of the work. Doing this kind of due diligence can help to clarify when and where on a spectrum of engagement options different individuals and groups might fall (see below for some examples).

For the last segment of the workshop, we explored a variety of participatory models and methods, and here is some of what came up (specifically considering the context of Vermont food systems work).

Organizational/Network Models:

Tools, Techniques, Roles:

Governance/Decision-Making:

Participatory Planning and Assessment Approaches:

Of course there are many others out there. Please feel free to suggest additional models, examples, techniques and tools!

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August 30, 2012

More Science to the Social

“Sensitivity can be very self-absorbing.”

-Bill Reed

hierarchy

|Photo by Dan Zen|http://www.flickr.com/photos/danzen/5611377054/in/photostream|

The older I get the more of an appreciation I have for science. Perhaps this is the natural balancing process that occurs over time in my Myers Briggs profile – more T to my natural F, more S to my natural N. It also owes to the impatience I have with the tendency I’ve noticed to throw the baby out with the bathwater when it comes to social change. Two examples I’d like to lift up are thinking about and reactions to consensus and hierarchy. As I become more influenced by research into living systems, I realize that these concepts are often given a bad name because of our tendency to take (or make) things very personally. Read More

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September 29, 2011

Tips for Encouraging Self-Organization

self organization

|Photo by grongar|http://www.flickr.com/photos/grongar/4965343939|

Building on yesterday’s post of the video about sociocracy, and inspired by the work of John Buck and Sharon Villines that I mentioned there, I’ve been pulling together a list of ways that leaders at all levels in organizations and networks might encourage more collective self-organizing, self-correcting, resilient and adaptive behavior.  Here’s a start and I invite readers to please add: Read More

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September 28, 2011

Dynamic Governance

Given my interest in living systems theory and practice, I’ve been very excited to learn more recently about sociocracy.  I was tipped off by Beth Tener of New Direction Collaborative who passed along a book suggestion in We the People: Consenting to a Deeper Democracy by John Buck and Sharon Villines, which serves as a guide to sociocratic principles and methods.  A unique method of governance, sociocracy applies scientific understandings of how the world works through open systems thinking and complexity to creating more self-organizing, self-correcting, inclusive and efficient organizations.  Read More

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