How We are Organized: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Northwest Compassionate Communication uses Sociocracy as our form of governance.

About Sociocratic Circles

Q: What are Sociocratic Circles?
A: NCC uses Sociocratic organizational and governance principles. (Please see “About Sociocracy ” a little later in this FAQ section for more on what Sociocracy is and how we use it.) For the purposes of this section, we are focusing on two of the three Circles that presently make up NCC

Q: OK… Tell me about the circles.
A: There are two circles available to join. (A third Circle- Coordinating Council- is comprised of members of the other two circles) These circles are: The Independent Trainers Circle (ITC) and the Trainers Circle (TC). Each circle has its own membership criteria and reason to exist (Aim in Sociocratic lingo)

Q: Hmm. I’m interested…. Please describe the two circles

  • The ITC is a group of people who are leading practice groups and giving workshops based on NVC. They also share their challenges and success and support each other in their trainings and deepening their own practice of NVC.
  • The TC is a group of people who are recognized by the Center for Nonviolent Communication as “Certified Trainers.” The members of this circle give workshops, contract for private services e.g. business consultation and training, support practice groups, support CNVC trainer candidates, develop training materials, and may be invited to teach at International Intensives (ITT’s are a 9 day immersion in the consciousness and practice of NVC. IIT’s are held mostly in Albuquerque, NM these days). The group members meet regularly to give each other support in developing their training skills and deepening their understanding and practice of NVC consciousness. As a group, the Certified Trainers have made a commitment to the Mission and Vision of the Center for Nonviolent Communication and support the Centers work financially and materially.

Q: What’s the same about these two groups?
A: Both groups have agreed to organize Sociocratically and both groups are filled with people who are passionate in sharing/living NVC.

Q: Are there “rules” to join the circles?
A: Yes, though we hope you don’t see them as “hoops” (or if you do we hope you enjoy them!) but rather as strategies to meet needs and you are able to connect with the needs the strategies serve. To join a circle you have to agree with the circle's Aim and meet the Membership criteria.

  • Membership in the ITC is open to anyone who agrees with its Aim
  • To join the TC, a person would be supportive of the Aim and would be a Certified Trainer.

Q: What needs are met by these strategies of Aim and a Membership criteria?
A: Access, intimacy, support, integrity (shared purpose, keeping agreements with CNVC), effectiveness among others. Our motivation to experiment using Sociocracy revolves around a way to have a balance of effectiveness, autonomy and intimacy.

Q: How do I find out about meeting times and places?
A: For the ITC you can e-mail o w n e r - i n d e p e n d e n t t r a i n i n g c i r c l e AT DOMAIN yahoo~com and request to be put on the listserv. You will then get the schedule of meetings and activities and can ask questions if you like. For the TC, call a TC member, or send an e-mail to t r a i n i n g s AT DOMAIN nwcompass~org

NCC: Sociocracy FAQ

Q:  What is sociocracy?  
A: Sociocracy is a form of governance involving interwoven circles of participants instead of members aligned in a hierarchy.  Sociocracy is based on the concept of “consent” as opposed to “consensus”.  This distinction is an important one for sociocratic process.  It means allowing proposals to be put into effect if they are consistent with the AIM.  It doesn’t mean that the proposal is necessarily the “best” one. 

Q:  How are the circles organized?  
A:  Each individual circle functions somewhat autonomously in that it has its own vision, mission and aims, however it is interdependent with the larger organization by sending two representatives to a coordinating circle (CC) for organizational business meetings.  Information and other resources flow both ways – into and out of each circle.

Q:  How does Sociocracy influence how I become a member or active with NCC?
A:  You may join NCC by joining an existing circle or creating your own (and applying to the Coordinating Circle for inclusion).

Q:  How does a member vote or make proposals to the organization?  
A: Anyone requesting organizational resources must be a member of a sociocratically organized NCC circle. Members may bring their proposals up in their circle and pursue them there, .  If organizational resources are needed, their proposal would need consent from their circle and the coordinating circle.   The coordinating circle controls the purse.  Members in individual circles vote on general issues by sending their representatives to the coordinating circle’s meetings.   

Q:  How does voting take place within a circle?  
A:  There is a meeting facilitator and a recorder at each meeting.  Each role is elected using the sociocratic election process.  After those roles are filled the proposal process is as follows:

  1. First a proposal is stated,
  2. Next is a “clarification” round to answer any questions that help clarify the proposal.
  3. members briefly state their first impression in the “reaction round.”  The proposer can decide whether to stick with the original proposal or make refinements.   
  4. If there is common accord, the Facilitator may sense this and a proposal may be passed by acclaim.  The formal process is to conduct a “consent” round where each person either gives their consent or announces a “paramount objection”.  If all have consented to the proposal then it goes into effect for a specified period of time.  All proposals are reviewed periodically.  If paramount objections are raised, the proposal fails to be passed.  The objections are explained, and the proposal can be modified in response.  If modified, it again goes through the clarifying, reaction and consent rounds.

Q:  What is a “paramount objection?”  
A:  A paramount objection is called when an individual would not want to continue to connect if this proposal were to take effect.  In other words, the goal here is not a majority rule, but rather a decision that everybody can live with.  Some may be more pleased with it than others, but all consent that it’s a viable strategy towards meeting the needs expressed.

Q:  What circles are currently available for me to join?  
A:  At present there is a certified trainers’ circle (CT) and an “independent trainers circle (ITC) that sends its reps to the coordinating circle (CC).  Remember you may create a circle of your own: for empathy practice, NVC projects, out-reach etc.  Or, you may connect with an existing circle if what you wish to do is within their Aim and membership criteria.  Or, you may just get together with people to have an empathy group and not have a circle.

Q:  Why would I want to form a circle?
A:  Reasons might be all over the map.  Maybe you see a need for a particular AIM that is not represented by any existing circle.  Maybe you’ve approached an existing circle and no one wants to do the thing you are interested in and you think you can come up with the energy to get a different group of people interested while still meeting the mission of NCC. 

Q:  If I were to create a circle, what would I need to apply for inclusion?  
A:  A mission statement that is consistent with the NCC mission statement and supportive of the missions of NCC and CNVC.  The circle must be organized according to sociocratic principles which include a clear AIM and membership criteria plus two members willing to be representatives at Coordinating Circle meetings .

Q:  Why did NCC organize sociocratically?
A:  We are exploring sociocracy as a strategy to meet more of the needs of people affiliated with NCC.  These needs include:  effectiveness, autonomy and participation. 

Q:  What if I don’t like something and want it changed?
A:   As a member of a circle, you may always make a proposal that affects the workings of your circle.  If you see a need for a general policy that affects the organization as a whole, you can always make a proposal through your circle to be brought to the CC

Q:  What if I don’t want to join a circle?  Can I still participate in NCC?
A:  Yes you can.  You will need to have a connection within a circle though – someone affiliated with a circle who will “vouch” for you.  This meets the needs of accountability and integrity.

Q:  Is sociocracy being used by CNVC?
A:  Yes, CNVC is using a modified sociocratic practice in its meetings and organizational structure.  Circles are being formed throughout the network.  It is hoped this will facilitate the sharing of resources and connection among people doing NVC work all over the planet.

Q:  How can I learn more about sociocracy?
A:  The web is full of resources about this process.  NCC had an intensive weekend training with John Buck who also has consulted with CNVC.  You might start by googling him.

Teaching/Sharing NVC

Q: Can I teach or share NVC with others?
A: Anyone can share NVC with others. Hopefully you have read Marshall’s book, have a solid understanding of the process and principles and have been practicing NVC. 

Q: Can I use the web site to advertise my training/NVC activity?
A: We want some connection for activities posted on our web site. So, we are "gate keeping" by having people who want to post on the web site be (1) a member a circle or, (2) sponsored by a member. If a sponsor is desired, the person wishing to post should contact a circle member for further guidance.