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HARMONIC GOVERNANCE - CIRCLES OF HOPE

Blueprint for a New World Age

COG's Guiding Principles

The four guiding principles introduced by Gerard Endenburg form the foundation on which all Circle Organisations are built.

COGs honour these fundamentals and have amended them only where necessary to reflect the fact that we are using the system largely to build a self-governing model from scratch, rather than re-structuring an existing organisation. We also recognize that communication technology has improved dramatically since 1945 and embody that fact into our process. We de-centralise Circles as much as possible and emphasise the importance of drawing from the neighbourhood for membership. We suggest using the ‘foot-rule’ principle; i.e. ‘can I get there by foot?’

1. Consent governs policy decision-making.

Consent means there are no paramount and reasoned objections to a proposed decision.

The consent principle ensures that a decision can only be made when none of the circle members present has a reasoned, substantial objection to making the decision.

2. Circle Organization structure

Circles are the primary governance unit. Circles are semi-autonomous and self-organizing. Every circle formulates its own vision, "mission statement" and aim (which must fit in with the vision, mission and aims of the organization as a whole.

Within their domain, they make policy decisions; set aims; delegate the functions of leading, doing, and measuring to their own members; and maintain their own memory system and program of ongoing development.

Using rules borrowed from Cybernetics, it is possible to design structures for dynamic processes. Whenever activities threaten to ignore someone, the concerned group or individual can make a correction. The circle process seeks the optimum by identifying limits that we can live with and operate within.

Gerard Endenburg used the example of a bike weaving down a bike lane. The limits are the curb and the car lane. The bike doesn't travel in an exact straight line – nor do we aim to make the bike go in a straight line. That straight line is the optimum, which we as the biker seek, but we don't need to stay on it. We weave back and forth near it, correcting our path based on the circumstances that we find ourselves in at the time.

When detailed decisions have to be made, a small committee of three to five people may be needed. This kind of committee is not new. If we were to look at the countless committees in existence, we would probably find that those which are doing the best work do so without voting. If voting became necessary in such a small group, it would usually mean that the atmosphere is wrong.

Final acceptance of any committee’s decision is still based on common consent by the Circle(s) involved.

3. Linking

Each COG Circle is connected by a link to an earlier-formed circle. The ‘linking member’ is one of three members elected by an experienced Circle to assist in the formation of new circles.

When a Circle reaches its optimum of 7 members, new applicants are invited to form a Circle of their own friends and associates who share a common mission.

As an example, the common Mission and Aims in a rural setting may be development of the community’s economy using food as the principal focus. The primary aims of such linked Circles may be as varied as Community Supported Agriculture, Permaculture, Community Gardens, Linking Land and Future Farmers (LLAFF), Home Composting, Bee Safe and Seed Saving, but when public action is called for, they will speak with one voice – as a Community Options Group - and with a power that cannot be denied.

The principal reasons for non-action by governments and the bureaucracy are invariably fuelled either by ‘lack of funding’ or a perceived ‘lack of sufficient public interest’.

The first argument is a strong one while governments, the bureaucracy and academia remain inside the box of conventional thinking. Using COG’s material we can, however, overcome this argument with legal documentation that there is no shortage of money – it’s just in the wrong place. As for the second reason, we can overcome it by uniting COG’s efforts around the issue and turning out in large numbers to support each other.

4. Elections by consent

People are elected to functions and tasks by consent after open discussion.

Choosing people for functions and/or responsibilities is done by consent after an open discussion. The discussion is very important because it uncovers pertinent information about the members of the circle.

Additional Agreements. Besides the four main principles, Endenburg introduced some agreements that help maintain equivalence between participating members:

  • Everyone has a right to be part of a decision that affects them.

  • Every decision may be re-examined at any time.

  • No secrets may be kept.

  • Everything is open to discussion, without exception.

SUBSIDIARITY

It’s not a very elegant word, but ‘subsidiarity’ describes a form of governance that recognises the need to have decisions made by that level of government closest to the issue, It implies the minimum involvement by senior governments in the community and personal lives of the people. It is a principle which COGs strongly support.