Bringing Equivalence at a Permaculture Farm

Sociocracy, also known as dynamic governance, is a system of governance which provides different tools to achieve a collaborative working system based on three principles of transparency, equivalence, and effectiveness.

All the above principles are new age principles which might look simple but it delivers powerful results if applied in organizations. I have been researching and experimenting with all these principles for a while now and trying to apply it at grassroot level organizations. I am in awe of the results of my findings. Let me share with you one of my experiments with Equivalence in a permaculture farm where I was working, in Maharashtra, India. I was brought there by the farm owner to work on their systems. The farm owner was an experienced permaculturist living in another city. She used to visit the farm once a week to oversee the farm work.

There were 3 employees in the Permaculture farm. One of them, let’s call him Ram, was more academically educated than others so he was informally managing and coordinating the farm for the last 3 years. But owner didn’t appoint him formally as the “farm coordinator”. Since he was educated and he used to speak a lot, he informally started representing farm work to the owner and the owner started interacting with him more. As a result he had some hidden power in the farm.

As I started consulting, one of the first things I did was to make a formal list of who is currently holding which role. To my surprise, Ram didn’t agree that he was the “farm coordinator” as this role was never formally given to him. One of the reasons he didn’t want to become the farm coordinator is because many things were not happening in the farm and he didn’t want to take responsibility for them. I also found out that the other two people also didn’t want to be the farm coordinator as they were afraid that Ram holds certain hidden power.

So I created a system that each one of them would be the farm coordinator for 3 months on a rotation basis starting with Ram. I made sure that owner coordinated only with the farm coordinator.

This had  a tremendous effect on the governance structure of the farm. As soon as they were formally given the power of being farm coordinator, their working pattern changed. The farm coordinator was more responsible about taking care of tools and new work while the other two were mentally prepared to follow him. More magic happened when farm coordinator changed after 3 months. Now it was time for the youngest employee to become the farm coordinator. He had amazing leadership qualities which never came out because he was never given a chance. Now the other two were following him and farm work became more productive. The younger one made sure that everyone followed the timing and he was disciplined in terms of following the fertilizer spraying schedule. Because of this farm calendar was being followed and everyone learned from the younger one’s leadership quality. Over a period of time the owner realized the potential of the other two employees and now she has also changed her working pattern. She is now not giving work [1] unconsciously based on relationships, but instead she has started taking informed choices based on employees potential and skills. For the staff, equivalence gave them an opportunity to learn from each other and see their blind spot.


1. You might be surprised to see someone “give” work in a Sociocractic setup but it’s actually not inconsistent with Sociocracy in practice. More on this soon.

Editor’s Note: This is part of a series of blog posts I’m curating on Sociocracy in Action in India. If you have a story to tell, please get in touch. — Sandeep Shetty

Author: Kunal Kankhare

I am a Nonviolent Communication certification candidate and a Permaculture practitioner. I am exploring community building tools with an aspiration to bringing forth profound societal change that allows all of us to create intentional sustainable communities where people can live in harmony with each other and with mother earth. My particular interest is in exploring the riddle of social fields: how can practices of nonviolent communication help shift the patterns created by patriarchy and capitalism, towards communities of trust generating collective capacity for action addressing the big challenges of our times?

2 thoughts on “Bringing Equivalence at a Permaculture Farm”

  1. Hi Kunal,

    I liked this story of creative coaching of an organization. I like to say that leadership can be handed around like a basket of bread at the table, and you showed them exactly how to do that!

    You might also be interested in three videos about sociocracy and permaculture at the Sociocracy for All website. Go to http://sociocracyforall.org/resources/#Casestudies and click on the Permaculture tag (toward the top of the page).

    John

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