Blueprint for a New World Age

The History of Circle Organisation

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FURTHER DEVELOPMENT - Kees Boeke and ‘Sociocracy’

Just before WW II, the Dutch pacifist, educator, and peace worker, Kees Boeke, updated and greatly expanded Ward's ideas by implementing the first sociocratic organizational structure in a school in Bilthoven, Holland. It quickly became a community of 400 students and teachers – and is still in existence.

Boeke saw Sociocracy as a form of governance or management that presumes equality of individuals and is based on consensus. This equality is not expressed with the 'one man, one vote' law of democracy but rather by a group of individuals reasoning together until a decision is reached that is satisfactory to each one of them.

To make sociocratic ideals operational, Boeke used a system of circles to organise decision-making within a large organisation. Members of each circle were responsible for decisions within their domain. Rather than using ever larger circles to make decisions affecting more than one domain, each circle elected two representatives to a "linked" circle. It was found that such linkage maintained the efficiency of a hierarchy while maintaining basic equivalence of the members of the organization.

In May of 1945, after further extensive research into the Quaker method of governance and several years’ practical experience, Boeke wrote a book entitled ‘Sociocracy - Democracy as it might be’. In it he wrote, “I found by trying out this method in my school and other organizations that it really does work, provided there is recognition that the interests of others are as real and as important as one’s own. If we start with this fundamental idea, a spirit of goodwill is engendered which can bind together people from all levels of society and with the most varied points of view’.

Many may be sceptical of this possibility. They are so accustomed to a social order in which decisions are made by the majority or by a single person that they do not realise that, if a group provides its own leadership and everyone knows that only when common agreement is reached can any action be taken, quite a different atmosphere is created from that arising from majority rule.

The fact is that we have taken the present political and electoral systems for granted for so long that many people do not realise that the party system and majority rule are not an essential part of democracy. If we really wish to see the whole population united, like a big family, in which the members care for each other’s welfare as much as for their own, we must set aside the quantitative principle of the right of the greatest number (sometimes as little as 50% plus 1) and find another way of organising ourselves. This solution must be truly democratic in the sense that it must enable each one of us to share in organising the community, whether local or international. But this kind of democracy will not depend on power, not even the power of the majority. It will have to be a real community-democracy, an organisation of the community by the community itself.

Before describing how the system could be made to work, we must first see what the problem really is. We want a group of persons to establish a common arrangement of their affairs which all will respect and obey. There will be no executive committee chosen by the majority, having the power to command the individual. The group itself must reach a decision and enter into an agreement on the understanding that every individual in the group will act on this decision and honour this agreement. This is referred to as the ‘self-discipline of the group’. It can be compared to the self-discipline of the individual who has learned to set certain demands for himself which he obeys.

Kees Boeke added, “Ultimately, however, everything depends on a new spirit breaking through among men. May it be that, after the many centuries of fear, suspicion and hate, more and more a spirit of reconciliation and mutual trust will spread abroad. The constant practice of the art of Sociocracy and of the education necessary for it seems to be the best way in which to further this spirit, upon which the real solution of all world problems depends”.

Continue Reading:   REFINING SOCIOCRACY - Gerard Endenburg >