Wednesday, February 06, 2008

NVC and Sociocracy in the FWBO

Shantigarbha is an Order Member living in Cambridge, UK, where he has founded a training business ‘Seed of Peace’. He specialises in ‘Non-Violent Communication’, or NVC, and has recently returned from a six week trip running NVC trainings in India and Sri Lanka, including a live interview introducing it on Sri Lankan TV. Several Order Members have qualified in NVC and are actively involved in training worldwide – Aniruddha and Kumarajiv in India, Locana in the UK, among others.

Next in his schedule is a weekend introduction to ‘Sociocracy’, which is a system for designing (or redesigning) organisations that he feels may be particularly suitable for groups such as the FWBO.

Shantigarbha writes -

“We've arranged for Philip Seligmann, a Sociocratic consultant from the Centre in the Netherlands, to come over to lead a weekend at the Cambridge Buddhist Centre. Philip is on the Board of the Sociocratic Centre, and has brought Sociocracy into several organizations, including the Dutch Buddhist Broadcasting Corporation. The dates are: February 22-24; the Friday evening will be a free Introduction, open to all, and will form the first part of the training for those who stay on for the Saturday and Sunday (10am to 5pm both days)”.

Sociocracy was first introduced to the Order last summer on the biannual Order Convention, after which this report appeared in the Order’s journal ‘Shabda’:

“Sociocracy is a structured way for groups to make decisions & interact with other groups. As such it may be relevant to many situations in the F/WBO and we were interested to hear the NVC community are considering adopting it for much of their internal organisation. It is particularly suitable in situations where everyone needs to be taken into account and where each person needs to be valued equally. More specifically, it is suitable for groups which are interacting regularly and united in aim.

Sociocracy started with an attempt to bring Quaker principles into a Dutch engineering laboratory. Hence the language is technical and the procedures fairly precisely structured. It is something which needs some effort to learn but which, once learned, becomes more and more fluent and flexible. It was noteworthy that Sociocracy can work alongside any conventional leadership system and can be introduced to only one part of an organization or for only one issue.

Some of the basic governing principles are –

• In meetings, some people are elected to temporary roles eg a facilitator
• All organizational processes are seen in terms of circles, with discussion proceeding in 'rounds' eg rounds for clarification/nominations/objections/consent
• All decision-making is by consent (with consent defined as the absence of 'paramount objections' ie no absolute "Nos", ie, a solution which is within everyone's “range of tolerance”)
• Different levels of the organisation are 'double-linked' to ensure smooth information flows up & down & across.

There’s lots more information available on the sociocracy website Personally we were impressed with the clarity of the process and the care taken to ensure everyone has a chance to be heard. However everyone involved in a sociocratic meeting would need to make a significant investment to learn how it works, and while this is happening, meetings could seem slow or cumbersome. Since Shantigarbha wanted us to have some real experience of sociocracy in action, our session could be summarised, not unfairly, as nine Order Members taking an hour to discuss who was going to make a report into Shabda!

Anyone interested in the Cambridge weekend is asked to contact Shantigarbha as soon as possible.

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