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INNOVATIONS

INNOVATIONS

COMMUNITY GOVERNANCE

Goals of Innovation: The EcoVillage Community Association, as a community of homeowners, requires a system of governance that allows and fosters residents to build community and respect the Earth. The community desired an effective and efficient system of governance in which there are not winners and losers, but rather a true building of community through resident involvement with the interests of all equally served.

Description: For about two years, the community used consensus to make its decisions. Although respected, this proved inefficient and exhausting, and led to serious concerns among homeowners. The group discussed other ways by which they could self-govern. It wanted something more than decisions being made by a pure majority vote. Without a better system of governance, it was possible that the ideals, goals and harmony espoused by EcoVillage would be seriously compromised.

The group was willing and committed to find a way of governance that fit the community's situation. After discussion and review of options, it was decided to try a system of decision making where power was vested into committees of people who regularly interact with one another and have a common aim. Each member of the committee is guaranteed a voice that cannot be ignored in the managing the organization. This system, known as sociocracy, is used in corporate enterprises. It allows participants to give and receive effective leadership while remaining peers.

The principle of consent governs the decision-making process. A policy decision can only be made by consent, that is, if nobody raises a reasoned and paramount objection against it. Introducing sociocracy was a relief. The group became more efficient and subsequently has been able to make many difficult decisions in harmony with one another. For details of how sociocracy is adapted for Ecovillage, click on the Governance link on the left side of this page.

Obstacles: The main obstacle is that participants have to become educated about the governance system, especially those new to EcoVillage. But the system is included in the community's Declaration of Governance and approved by the county as legally binding. However, under Virginia State Law, the community does have a provision for a supermajority for certain decisions, if a decision by consent cannot be made.

Cost Information: The community has not done a formal analysis to determine the cost of adapting this system to EcoVillage. However, a consultant was retained to help with the process.

Additional Benefits/Drawbacks: When the community made the transition from consensus to sociocracy, comments went from "This meeting is too long" to "This was magical". This is why I joined community. It stands to reason that EcoVillage is much farther along in pursuing its goals than if the old system of consensus had been left in place.


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