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Deep dive

Find exercises and deeper knowledge concerning the sociocratic election here.

Deep dive

Embodiment exercise with students as preparation for Consent 

In order to distinguish between the personal preference and a convergence of opinions (=consensus) and the solution that is in favor of group achievement without objections (=consent) it helps to know how consensus and objection feels like in your body. The neutral feeling is the feeling of consent “I can live with it and take responsibility for the proposal”. 

Ask the students to imagine a very positive situation, in which they felt that the best thing ever happened to them. Where do they feel this feeling in their body? This is their inner consensus. 

Next you ask the students to imagine a situation in which their gut feeling told them that a decision or action is just not right. Or a situation where they felt a clear NO inside them. Let them place their hand to the body area in which they feel this feeling of inner objection. 

The last exercise invites the students to take this feeling of inner objection and place it just like a present with both hands in front of them or into the circle. This objection is very valuable because it holds information about why a proposal is not “Safe enough to try”. 

Facilitate rounds: A learning field to change up participatory patterns

Normally there is always a person in each small group who is the most extroverted and who talks a lot and quickly. This is not meant in a negative way but corresponds to the nature of the person. However, it means that the other group members hardly or not at all get a chance to speak. Normally, the extroverts do not notice this at all. She or he might think that if the others don't speak right away, they don't have an opinion at all. 

As part of the open election, these students in particular can be given a new, important responsibility: They are invited to redeploy their strengths and practice facilitation. As facilitators, they are responsible for ensuring that everyone in the small group has their say and that they themselves hold back their own ideas and opinions for the time being.

For the community and thus also for finding a common solution it is an incredible enrichment when everyone can have their say and contribute their perspectives. The form of communication of speaking in a circle offers orientation and structural support for this. Everyone has the opportunity to say something in turn. The others listen and wait their turn. If they get an idea that they really want to get out while listening, the facilitator will ask them to write the idea down and listen to the person who is speaking again.

Another important responsibility for the extroverted students is to listen deeply. The listening frame from Theorie-U by Otto Scharmer gives a great overview of the power of deep listening.

Facilitation with students with special educational needs:


Teachers who want to conduct sociocratic class representative elections in inclusive classes with students with language and hearing impairments should consider the following aspects:
 

 

  • Adapting the group size and optimal room acoustics create a low-barrier learning environment. Student microphones are essential for classes with hearing-impaired students in any teaching situation. Sound field systems ensure optimal speech transmission for all students and enable understanding and thus participation. Circle discussions provide visual support and strengthen the joint discussion.

  • Establishing clear communication rules enables an inclusive culture of exchange and the active participation of everyone. A conscious teacher echo ensures that information can be perceived correctly and repeatedly. Clear articulation and simple language on the part of the teacher encourage learners' attention and understanding. Only one person speaks, thus minimizing background noise.

  • Developing the necessary vocabulary on strengths, feelings and needs in advance creates a basis for the dialog and, together with formulation aids for the argumentation, facilitates participation. Blackboard pictures visualize what has been worked out, thus promoting understanding and enabling individual further work.

  • Simultaneous transcripts help students with perception and memory problems to follow the discussion and contribute their own suggestions.

  • The integration of listening breaks enables hearing-impaired students to take a necessary break. This can be made possible by rhythmizing the lessons into joint and individual learning phases.

  • Splitting up the sessions in terms of time or longer preparation for the younger classes.

  • Character traits and self-reflection, arguing, sensing needs and concerns and addressing them publicly.

 

How to do the open election if students don't know each other well?

 

It doesn't matter how well the students know each other, they still need to elect a class representative. However, you can start in a new class with the preparation phase and the collectively created role description and go from there to the secret ballot vote. However, secret ballot voting mostly comes with election campaigns in which only the loud and extroverted students are participating. The open election process builds on the strength that these students can still nominate themselves. In this process their nominations are equal to nominations of others. We often underestimate how much we perceive the qualities and skills of people even in a short time frame.

Legally compliant class representative election with sociocracy

Each country has its own school law in which the election of the class representative is mostly regulated by law. In our many years of experiences we learned schools have various different ways on how to carry out the election process. The main election method to elect the class representative is the secret ballot vote as the secret ballot vote is the main democratic voting method for party elections. From our point of view the group size of a class is not comparable with the one of a country. That is why we promote the sociocratic election method for the class representative. Maybe the school law forbids using an inclusive, argument based and co-creative way to elect the class representatives as majority vote creates a minority which will be overruled. Hopefully one day the school law will give the freedom of choice about the decision-making-method for the election of class representatives.

One option to integrate the sociocratic principle into the secret ballot voting process is to sociocratically nominate the nominees for the secret ballot voting.

If there is no article that states how the candidates for the secret ballot vote must be found this would be a great opportunity to use the sociocratic election process to nominate 2 candidates that are then elected through secret ballot voting. 

Objections and how to integrate them

 

Objection refers to a valid concern or issue raised by a participant during a discussion or proposal. It indicates that the proposal is not yet complete and requires further consideration. Objections are typically raised when a participant believes that the proposal may have negative consequences or overlooks important factors. They are an important part of the decision-making process as they help to identify potential flaws or weaknesses in the proposal. Addressing objections can lead to an accepted and effective proposal.

In consent decision processes, objections are considered valuable contributions because they give insight into a person's experience and perspective and indicate that the proposal needs to be improved. It's a gift if one has the courage to present its objection. If we as a group are ready not to roll our eyes or moan if one can not go along with a proposal just yet, but if there is the tone of curiosity and appreciation it is possible to come to wiser and more inclusive decisions together. 

Helpful questions to integrate objections: 

  • Is the proposal not your personal preference or do you see that our common goal is in danger if we try it with this proposal? 

  • Tell us more about your objection, what is our proposal missing? 

  • For which time frame would it be safe enough to try it? (Especially for the class representatives: make sure the students understand that the legislation period is only one year.)

  • Power shifts with sociocracy

     

    Power shifts refer to the process of transitioning from traditional hierarchical power structures to more collaborative and decentralized circle power structures. This shift involves a redistribution of power and decision-making authority among individuals or groups within an organization or society. The goal of power shifts is to promote greater equity, inclusivity, wisdom and participation in decision-making processes. This can lead to more effective problem-solving, increased innovation, and improved overall organizational or societal outcomes. Power shifts require a willingness to challenge existing power dynamics and a commitment to ongoing learning and growth.

    Reason for the 4th principal in Sociocracy

     

    Gerard Endenburg (NL) has defined the sociocratic circle method as we know it today. He was a student in a school where students and teachers made decisions together by consensus and thus learned the value of such decisions and group processes in his youth. In addition to that he studied engineering and cybernetics. He was fascinated by how systems regulate themself because of their feedback. 

    When Endenburg got the chance to lead the family company ‘Endenburg Electronics' he wanted to combine the social harmony with the self regulating mechanisms from cybernetics through participation. It was important to him to find a management tool that ensures equality, feedback and transparency. 
     

    So he determined the first three principles of the Sociocratic-Circle-Method (SCM): 

  • The consent-method rules the decision making. Which means not that all decisions are made by consent, but that a group decides with consent how to decide. 

  • The circle process ensures constant feedback.

  • Working circles have their own goals and authorities and are double linked with a leader and a delegate. 
     

  • These three principles improve the teamwork within the company a lot. However, he recognized that how people are recruited into new positions was not transparent, but in the power of individuals. That's when he introduced the 4th principle of the open election, which ensures that the decision on who will get the authority of a new role will be an argument based and transparent process. With this principle the biggest power lever within a group and organization is now a shared responsibility.

    Successful student participation throughout the rest of the school year using the stages of participation

    Not all participation is the same. There are several levels and specific terms that better describe participation. For successful participation it is helpful to define, communicate, or ask exactly what type of participation it is. These 4 stages provide a quick overview:

    Preliminary stages of participation - no decision-making power nor responsibility is shared:
     

    1. Inform and be informed: This is where issues, processes, concerns, decisions, procedures are made transparent. However, no opinion is shared.
       

    2. Soliciting opinions or contributing opinions: Before a decision is made, the person responsible for it, either the teacher or a student, finds out how the people concerned assess the initial situation, possible solutions or consequences, so that this can possibly be taken into account in the decision. It is important to communicate that the responsible person decides alone and that the opinions expressed are not taken into account 1:1. In the best case, information is provided afterwards about how this round of opinions influenced the decision-making process.

      Levels of participation - decision-making power and responsibility is shared or relinquished:

    3. Allow co-determination: Teachers involve students in certain decisions and vote together on what should happen. The consensus principle is very well suited for this, in order to involve everyone well and to achieve joint responsibility for the decision. The teacher himself also gives his consensus to the solution.
       

    4. Decision-making authority is partially delegated: Teachers delegate independent decision-making authority to students, parents or other teachers in certain areas. It is important that a clear framework is set within which the students themselves can shape and decide. For example, in the case of a class outing, the students should know what the rules are for a school outing in terms of supervision, time frame or costs. As soon as the responsibility for choosing the destination of the excursion is handed over to the class, it is important that the teacher no longer interferes, except to define the framework more clearly.
       

    >> Worksheet: Mini-Guide for Consent-Facilitation

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