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How to write a good Sociocratic proposal

19 Mar 2021

Nope, not a proposal for building a website… we should definitely write that blog post and hopefully will soon…

This is about developing proposals for the consent based decision-making process we use here at Outlandish and have done for the last 7 years.

So first off, if you don’t know what consent based decision making is… go here.

Still here? OK great.

Proposals don’t tend to come out of thin air – there needs to be a certain amount of groundwork done before a proposal is made to the group who have decision making power. That doesn’t necessarily mean a huge massive document or a million spreadsheets though. The work is effectively communicating and understanding your team before deciding on the proposal you want to make.

  • Understand the WHY
  • Understand the common ground in the group
  • Understand the possible differences in the group

As the proposer(s)

  • Prepare your proposal well and asynchronously seek feedback from members before the meeting to reshape in a way which addresses concerns/needs
  • Know why you are making this proposal, express it clearly
  • Try to think in advance of ways which the proposal could be broken down into parts
  • Ask for someone to join you proposing it, it can be lonely and hard proposing changes alone

Everyone

  • Listen and share bravely: change is hard and there is often sadness and a little fear present with any change that is proposed. There needs to be space to express that, even if it doesn’t amount to a “critical concern” (a reason that you can’t accept the proposal as is)

As the ‘receivers’ of the proposal

  • Respect the energy and effort already spent by the people who are behind the proposal
  • Seek to find a way for the proposal to move forwards which feels safe for you

As the facilitator

  • Give space for people to express their sadness or difficulties
  • Break it down into achievable chunks – this might mean different roles. This might look something like this: 
    • “As a person who is interested in living at Lark Row, I want and I need….”
    • “As a person who is not interested in living at Lark Row, I want and I need…”
  • If there are particular divisions or factions involved in trying to make a decision, doing some FONT work first to get the ‘two sides’ talking, and enquiring into what is going on, will help flush out the central differences, and where the common ground might be
  • Another way of breaking a big decision down is to pass a proposal in principle with actions to work out the practicalities with a smaller working group
  • Look for easy wins – parts of the proposal which can be passed without ‘critical concerns’ – so progress is made. 
    • For example, in Outlandish’s recent discussion about how to pay members for annual leave (still ongoing) we first passed a proposal to pay for bank holidays (an easy win) and we also passed a proposal in principle to accrue   10% of our hours worked as leave, but without the detail of how that is paid for or managed. We formed a working group to further develop the details of how to fairly pay this 10% (based on business affordability, fairness to employees etc)
  • Notice where the energy is – there will be some people with lots and maybe some with none, it is safe and effective to pause a proposal and potentially form a smaller group to move it on (those with the enthusiasm and energy can carry it on)

 

What have your experiences been with running proposals? Any tips we are missing?