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HARMONIC GOVERNANCE - CIRCLES OF HOPE

Blueprint for a New World Age

The History of Circle Organisation


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ORIGINS – The Quakers

Since the mid-1600s, the Quakers have used a method of self-government that has stood the test of time and proved highly successful. They rejected majority voting; group action being possible only when unanimity has been reached.

The Quakers, a religious group, are also known historically for founding and operating a number of large global corporations and financial institutions such as Lloyds of London, Barclay’s Bank and Cadbury-Fry, these were all run under Quaker principles and funded much of the Quakers' work around the world.

Since understanding the Quaker experience yields great value, let’s look at the process followed during a Quaker business meeting.

The group comes together in silence. In front sits the Clerk, the facilitator for the meeting. Beside him sits the Assistant Clerk; who writes down what is agreed upon. The Clerk reads out each subject in turn, after which all members present, both men and women, old and young, may speak to the subject, if they choose. They address themselves to the meeting and not to the facilitator, each one making a contribution to the developing train of thought.

It is the Clerk’s duty, when he or she thinks the right moment has come, to read aloud a draft minute reflecting the feeling of the meeting. It’s a job that calls for both experience and tact. Members, however, can – and often do – contribute to redrafting the minutes after ‘first reading’ to help cooperatively formulate the sense of the meeting in a way that is acceptable to all.

It sometimes happens that the Clerk feels the need for a time of quiet. Then the whole gathering will remain silent for a while, and often out of the silence will come a new thought, a reconciling solution, acceptable to everyone.

Three fundamental rules underpin the Quaker system:

  1. The opinions of all members must be considered, the individual primarily considerate of the interests of the whole.

  2. Solutions must be sought that everyone can accept: otherwise no action can be taken.

  3. All members must be ready to act according to these decisions when unanimously made.

The spirit which underlies the first rule is altruism – a concern for others as a principal of action -- and where this exists, where there is sympathy for other people’s interests; where love is, there will be a spirit in which real harmony is possible.

The second point must be considered in more detail. If a particular group is unable to decide upon a plan of action acceptable to every member, it is usually condemned to inactivity; it can do nothing. This quite often happens where the majority is so small that efficient action is not possible. But in the case of a Quaker-based system there is a way out, since such a situation stimulates its members to seek a solution that everyone can accept; perhaps ending in a new proposal, which had not occurred to anyone before.

While under the party system disagreement accentuates the differences and the division becomes sharper than ever, under the above system, so long as it is realised that agreement must be reached, it activates a common search that brings the whole group closer together.

Similarly, in situations where no agreement seems possible, then under most systems this usually means that the impasse will continue for some time. Conservatism and reaction reign and no progress is possible. Experience has shown that with a system based upon Quaker principles, the contrary is true. The mutual trust that is accepted as the basis of the organisation – and which is noticeably greater when all go forward together with something to which everyone has agreed – leads inevitably to progress.

The third principle means that when agreement is reached the decision is binding on all who have made it.


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