Leadership for Meal Programs Increases Meals

"It is a strategy I think a community could use to jump start their program, and then talk about how to reduce the centralization after a year or more of successful meals. Since we have quite slowly added new households it is quite clear that our successful meals program is what has helped get more people involved in it."

This is a quote from a current thread on the cohousing discussion list, Cohousing-L, about how communities with active meal programs, 3+ a week on a regular basis, organize them. What keeps them going? One of the features that seems to be common is a central person or team that organizes them. Schedules, monitors, matches people up, etc. This is a good example of how sociocratic governance of meals, and other programs, would work.

Organization in sociocracy consists of two parts:

1. POLICY & PLANNING is done on the basis of equality and collaboration. Everyone—the membership, the board, a team—sits in a circle (figuratively speaking) with equal authority and respect to decide what they want/need, what it will require, how they will pay for it, and who will do what. And they decide who will lead.

This would usually be done with an initial ideas generating meeting, the writing of a proposal, and another meeting to discuss, amend, and adopt the proposal by consent. These steps would be repeated as necessary until a proposal is accepted. A leader would be elected using the sociocratic elections process.

2. OPERATIONS is the implementation of the Policies and Plans and is done fairly autocratically. Effective and productive execution needs a Leader who can say, "the buck stops here," a person who is has the authority to make decisions. A person who will report back on whether something works or not. Leadership might be a shared responsibility between two people but that is often difficult for other people to sort out and it makes communications more difficult. Confusing or contradictory Leadership will sink the ship.

Not choosing a Leader is often a failure on the part of the membership, board, or team to accept responsibility for making a decision and/or develop and support leaders once chosen.

The Leader makes decisions and acts within the approved Policies and Plans. Everyone knows the Leader is in charge and is in charge because everyone decided they were the best available person for the job. Grousing about the Leader will get you no where and action will be hit and miss. Effectiveness and productivity will decline if not come to a halt.

Action without a Leader is like herding cats. It works with two and maybe three cats. Otherwise forget it -- unless you have a lot of smelly cat food available for rewards. Cohousing doesn't run on cat food.

If a decision comes up that hasn't been answered by the circle, the leader makes that decision on the spot and "argues about it later." A special meeting can be called to address the decision or it can wait until the next scheduled meeting. But life can go on because the leader has the authority to make decisions.

If you think you don't need Policies and Leaders, read "The Tyranny of Structurelessness" by Jo Freeman:


(I realize I've posted the "Tyranny of Structurelessness" before but it truly is a wonderful analysis of what "really" happens in leaderless groups — it becomes personality driven or ineffective.)

If you do implement a leadership program, please let me know how it goes. sharon [at] sharonvillines [dot] com