One thing Sociocracy seems to do is make you realize your own fallibility. Circle meetings and the Consent Decision Making Process very quickly surface your blindspots and the limitations of your perspective, usually bringing about interesting changes in the people involved (like an appreciation for multiple and diverse perspectives).
At one of the introductory Sociocracy workshops we conducted for traditional school administrators, principals, department heads and teachers, there was a Circle Meeting where such an interesting change took place by surfacing things that weren’t accounted for by simply giving everyone a voice.
Before we start the story, I need to give you a little context about the playful Holi festival that is celebrated in India.
Holi, also known as the festival of colours, is a popular festival in India where people smear each other with colours and drench each other using water guns, water-filled balloons, buckets and other creative ways to colour their targets. It’s usually a free-for-all where anyone and everyone is fair game.
The backdrop for the Circle Meeting was that the kids had played Holi inside the school premises (after school) and created a mess. The agenda for the meeting, proposed by the Principal of the school, was to come up with an appropriate punishment for the students, along with the elected student representatives. Present in this Circle Meeting were the Principal, the student representatives, someone representing the cleaning staff and some teachers.
During the Picture Forming stage of the Circle Meeting, we learnt the school had instituted a mini-Holi “celebration” in the school where the class teacher brought some dry colours to the classroom and let the students take turns putting a little colour on each others cheeks. While this constituted a “safe” celebration that wouldn’t create a mess, we learned from one of the students that what they really wanted to do was celebrate with all their friends in the entire school and not just the ones in their class. This perspective was an eye opener for the Principal as she now saw what happened from the perspective of the students. She saw that there was a “need” that wasn’t being fulfilled with the mini-Holi celebration they had come up with.
The Principal’s focus now shifted from thinking of a way to punish the students to one of seeing how their needs could be met. Here again, the students came up with an interesting proposal during the Proposal Forming stage of the Circle Meeting.
The proposal they came up with to fulfill their need and avoid creating a mess within the school premises was to allow the students to gather in the school playground (after school) and play Holi using only natural dry-colours which can be easily dusted off. There was still an issue of the school buses getting messy when the student went home but the meeting ended with them deciding to revisit this again in the next meeting.
From my perspective, the Circle Meeting resulted in a big change in the Principal from wanting to punish the students to acknowledging their need and wanting to do more such meetings with student participation.
There’s so much more to Circle Meetings and the Consent Decision Making Process than I’ve touched upon here, but I’ll leave you with this for now.
Do you have experience with Circle Meetings and the Consent Decision Making Process? Please leave a comment, I would love to hear your story 🙂.