The Magic of the Circle. Sociocratic Modles of Self-Organisation and the Transformation of Democracy in European Cities

Tuesday, 17 July 2018: 16:00
Oral Presentation
Susanne GIESECKE, Austrian Institute of Technology, Austria
Western European cities are under a lot of pressure for growth in terms of migration, economy, infrastructure, educational opportunities, etc. At the same time value sets among citizens are changing and certain citizens demand more participation. One promising phenomenon against this background is the self-organisation with regard to food supply, housing and mobility. As part of the non-profit sharing economy groups of people organize their daily matters in coops and have a significant effect on urban life. Especially the sociocratic circle model that is practiced in some of these organization points towards a new era of democracy in our future lives and cities.

Sociocracy is an approach for transparent and democratic decision making within any kind of social organisation. Other than the conventional norm, a sociocratic organization makes decisions not by majority rule but by consent. Consent is given when no-one in the circle has an objection with regard to the proposed decision.

The individual is the smallest unit of the organization and several individuals are organized in a circle in order to achieve a certain goal. The sociocratic principle acknowledges that conventional democratic decision-making by majority rule has the disadvantage of leaving those people behind who are in opposition of the decision. Thus, it can evoke the same reactions as authoritarian decisions. The minority is defeated, not convinced. In an era where a lot of voters are frustrated with majority-rule democracy, sociocracy may point to an alternative and attract people for civic engagement at least in their neighborhood. This approach of decision making gives every member responsibility to ensure the realization of the objectives in a productive way.

The paper explores in what kind of bottom-up organisations and to what degree sociocracy is implemented and how its democratic practice is spilling over and changing the urban way of life.