What is embodied leadership? Learn how the Post Growth Institute combines an asset-based approach with sociocracy and lean processes to establish a radically progressive, post growth organization.
Donnie Maclurcan returns in this episode to discuss the radical, embodied practices he employs as Executive Director of the Post Growth Institute. Learn how PGI uses an asset-based approach, sociocratic governance, and lean processes to create trust, safety, and virtuous cycles. Recorded live in San Francisco, Donnie and Jenny discuss PGI's cutting edge practices such as silent meetings, a long hiring process, a policy of "no shit work", rest week, defining ones own pay rates, and much more. It's a provocative, eye opening conversation that should not be missed.
Covered in this episode:
"Donnie Maclurcan (DM): I think our bodies, and I feel that our bodies, have a lot to tell us that gets cut off in a Western patriarchal, capitalistic, neocolonial system that values and emphasizes a disconnected rationality over an embodied, somatic, connected heart, mind, body experience."
[00:00:27] Jenny Stefanotti (JS): That's Donnie Maclurcan, Founder and Executive Director of the Post Growth Institute. You might recognize his voice from our recent episode on post-growth economics.
This is the Denizen podcast. I'm your host and curator, Jenny Stefanotti. In this episode, Donnie returns to share the cutting-edge practices that he employs at PGI. We discuss the back story and the genesis for the organization, how it's evolved to where it is today, how he employs an asset-based approach, and how that completely transforms people's sense of safety within the organization.
We also talk about the philosophies that he employs around being overdoing and around no shit work. Practices such as silent meetings, defining their own pay rates, and rest week. And how, through a combination of his asset-based approach, the consent-based decision-making processes that they employ, and the lean philosophy that he applies to everything that they do, that PGI is able to employ virtuous versus vicious cycles in the workplace. And so, he talks about what that means.
It's totally revolutionary. Totally eye-opening. This is a recording from a live event. And I watched people say "wow" and "holy shit" as he was talking. This is the first time Donnie's talked about this even though he's been doing this for over a decade at PGI. I'm very excited to put this very provocative conversation out that hopefully will inspire many people to run their organizations differently.
As always, you can find show notes and additional information on our website, www.becomingdenizen.com. There you can also sign up for our newsletter where we send our weekly content to your inbox. Subscribers are also invited to join us in online courses that we do together as a community. We also share announcements from our many partner organizations doing adjacent work in the space.
This is such an amazing conversation. I'm so excited to share another facet of Donnie's vast wisdom. And with that, let's get to the conversation.
[00:02:28] JS: All right. Why don't we start with, tell us a little bit about the origin story of PGI?
[00:02:34] DM: It's 2010. There is a guy in Australia who puts up a million-dollar prize for someone under the age of 30 who can take to the mainstream the idea of an economy that doesn't rely on growth. I've been connecting with people via Twitter in different parts of the world and through the blogger sphere at the time. And I put together a somewhat counter-proposal to this idea of a solitary hero under the age of 30 that can come up with some kind of post-growth theory. And I say let's form a collective and invite nine other people to join. In fact, half of them were over the age of 30 and half of us were under the age of 30. With the idea that if anyone won the award, we'd split it. Put half into the organization and split the other half with the ten of us.
And so, these nine other people I'd never met before in real life. None of the other people had met each other in real life. No one knew each other except two of them had had some interactions online. And this was 2010. When we loaded Skype, the video feed across six countries immediately went down.
And that was the beginning of a very different journey. Because from then on, this group of people around the world held our meetings typed and in silence. And from that very, very initial change in approach came something surprisingly profound. Because what happened was the traditional power dynamics that come with voice and visual were all of a sudden changed.
Now, interestingly, in our team, we had a number of people that would later go on to describe themselves as more introverted or with introverted tendencies. And it's precisely when – if those of you who remember Skype back in the day, when someone was typing, you would see a little pencil moving.
And our rule that we brought in very early on with this group of strangers was that no one would continue with an agenda until the pencil stopped moving, which for people with more introverted tendencies created a very different space to an environment where someone might be speaking out loud, chairing a meeting and asking, "Is anyone got anything else to say?" And hearing a few seconds of silence and then rolling on with the agenda.
We would sometimes have that pencil moving for a couple of minutes and then see a single sentence come out. And that was valued. It was a space where that was safe. And so, the power dynamics changed dramatically. And then we built on that in terms of the next step that goes into this asset-based approach. That was just some of the initial bit with the feed going down. And then what happened next was even more exciting.
[00:05:37] JS: Well, and so, I want to talk about your approaches that are overarching to the way that you think about and design your org. And then we'll talk about practices and processes. But let's start with that approach, asset-based. You've talked about this so many times in our conversation. So I'd love to hear how this applies to PGI.
[00:05:55] DM: There's this body of work. Some of you may have heard of things like appreciative inquiry. For me, it was asset-based community development I learned from people like D. Brooks and Peter Kenyon in Australia. This approach to community development where you begin by looking at what's working.
In fact, probably the easiest way I find to describe this approach is actually through the lens of international development. For those unfamiliar with international development, I'd say there are probably two primary approaches historically that have played out. The first is the missionary approach where people, often white folk, would come into certain communities with a sense of what they felt needed to happen and then they would push for that to happen.
From the 70s onwards, we saw more of a capacity-building approach where the idea is that you go into a community and you listen. And the thing is what are you listening for? Usually you're listening for a problem so that you can have that saviorism come through again.
The asset-based approach, as you'd apply it to international development for example, is quite different. It says go in. Listen. Build rapport. But listen first for strengths so that you can actually reflect back what you see working in a space.
It's this approach that begins with what's working in order to go into the problems from a space of emotional and psychological safety. When we begin with what's working in processes, in conversations, in the way we engage with teams, we start with the creative neocortex rather than being in the back of the flight, fight, freeze in foreign spaces.
And this emotional safety means that trust can come more easily. It means that you can actually move into problems and go underneath some of the trauma layers that are often associated with reactionary responses. And so, how we applied this in the very early days of the institute was I asked the group, in the very first call, "What do you think a group of strangers from around the world who are trying to work on possibly one of the biggest topics around: “How do we thrive within ecological limits? How do we respond to the challenges that we're seeing that the economic growth paradigm and the capitalist paradigm are pushing through? How do we actually work towards being and doing differently in that kind of system?”
And the responses to “What would we do in the first few months?” when I asked that question were pretty typical. Well, we try to work out what we want to do. And what our name is going to be? And what other programs we might be wanting to bring forth? Et cetera. And I said that makes a lot of sense. Would you trust me enough to do something quite different? And probably because I'd convened the group, they trusted me enough to do that.
And so, for the first six weeks, all we did was work out a series of questions, eight pages of questions, that would elicit strengths from within this group of ten people. What are you passionate about that has nothing to do with these things? What languages do you speak? What cultures, memes and histories do you have experience with? What physical items would you be willing to put into this group? Et cetera. What networks do you have access to? Which journalists do you know? Et cetera. Et cetera. What social media presence do you have across different areas?
We didn't once, in six weeks, not once, with a group of strangers coming together to try to work out “How do we create an economy that's beyond growth?” – we didn't once talk about economics. We didn't once talk about technology, population. Nothing at all. All we did was map strengths.
After six weeks, we came back. We shared the map that we had all come up with separately among the groups. So we had about an hour to read through these maps of everyone's assets they were sharing. And we came into a space together in that Skype call that was something that I've never experienced ever since.
It felt like meeting the deepest, most connected family that I've ever had. The trust was off the charts. These people – we had tapped into this glimpse of the breadth and depth of human beauty just by asking these questions with people starting from this space with strangers of what is it that we'd like to bring into this space?
We wrote our charter in three hours collectively that's still on our website. We wrote our starting positions, still on our website 13 years later, in two hours. This is ten people who don't know each other who've got economic backgrounds, ecology backgrounds, no backgrounds in formal education. The kind of people that you might say that a good facilitator is going to require a week to get to some consensus on these issues. But the human experience when you feel so safe can be so different.
We talk about – and this is from new economy coalition movements and lots of black activism – you'll hear the expression slow is smooth and smooth is fast. We went slow. We sought to deepen into relationship first, so that the typical power dynamics that often emerge when you start a new project, especially with strangers, or even not. When you show up in a space and start with “What do you do? And what do you do?” And the positioning, and the insecurities and all these pieces that can come up aren't there. It opens a very, very different creative space that ends up being a gateway into embodied practice in many ways.
[00:11:34] JS: Amazing. I really appreciate that. You know, last week's episode was about trust. And it's come up a lot in recent conversations. I just talked about it in the grief conversation too – and it's come up a lot. Just in general – just the importance of building that social relational fabric first.
I really am also curious about the approach that you employ, being over doing. I love this one. Let's talk about it.
[00:12:00] DM: Well, it's interesting. When I reflect back on my own experience as a volunteer or in workplaces around the world, it's been my experience that, when I would enter into a new role, the first thing that I might do is think about how can I contribute? So much of the time people who are interested in social change, et cetera, are entering spaces with this approach of what can I do? Putting your hand up and saying, "How can I help? What can I do?"
It takes quite a bit of readjustment for a lot of people when in our initial – we do a five-week onboarding process to explore whether or not it feels right for you and feels right for us, to deepen into relationships. Before we do any hiring, there's this process.
And in our exploratory calls that we have with people, which we now have a commitment as an organization, that anyone who says they'd like to explore working with us, we offer a call. And so, we have this 30-minute call. And it begins with a grounding. A short breath, which again is another way to see if something's right for people. That's very much a part of our culture, is to take a breath as an organization.
And then after that, we go into this strengths-based exploration that's not setting you up for the possibility of an extractive relationship. Instead of asking people something that they're good at, we instead ask people what's one thing or a couple of things you're passionate about that has nothing to do with your work.
Opening up that space to connect in that more human way that might feel a little more safe rather than “I'm at a job interview and I've got to say the right thing in order to be seen for the skills that I have.” Et cetera. Et cetera.
We then will often talk about that culture having just experienced it with people. And we will talk to this idea that, in the Post Growth Institute, when you join, you don't need to do anything for as long as you want. You can just be in the space. You can observe. You can share thoughts if you'd like. But this sort of obsession, like I need a project, I need to show my value, my worth. Your value is by being there.
This piece is easier for some to take in. But as an organization, we have a website. We have programs. We have things we do all around the world in communities. We have global events. We have blog work. We have a fellowship. We have all these things. But we spend more time being than doing.
In our meetings, for example, it's happened not once but a number of times, that in a two-hour meeting we will have a grounding process at the beginning. Let's say there's fifteen people in the meeting. Two-hour meeting. We'll then do a check-in. And it's happened that that check-in sometimes will stop with someone. Maybe the fourth person in. And they will spend an hour and a half checking in.
Now this is an organization where certain people are on the clock. We've got limited finance. And yet, that for us is the most important. That is the most post-growth thing that we can do, is show up in relationship if someone needs support in tending that relationship.
And let me tell you, slow is smooth, smooth is fast. If there's a part of people hearing this going,"Yes. But we can't do that in our startup culture.” Like the thought of having a two-hour meeting and you get to the business that needs to be "done" at the 1 hour 50 mark? “No. People are going to freak out. There's absolutely no way that can happen."
Well, I'll tell you that if you give it a try, you might be surprised at just how much productivity your organization has. Each month, we do an open meeting for the 36 members of our team to come and see what's been happening across the organization. And every single time, someone says in the learnings and appreciation section at the end, "I cannot believe how much gets done in this organization."
But 20% of our meetings, I would estimate, occur in silence. We have one whole meeting that is silent. But 20% of every meeting is silent. We go fast because we go slow. We pause. Every single time someone proposes something, the next thing that happens is that the facilitator will say, "Let's take a minute to reflect on how you feel about that proposal." After the minute, the next thing that said is, "Would anyone like more time?" Someone says, "Yes, I'd like more time." "Okay. Let's take another 20 seconds." The next thing that gets said, "Would anyone like more time?"
Sometimes I've seen it go six times where people say they'd like more time. We do not move forward until everyone is ready to move forward. Because for us, that's what participation truly means. And if you're in an organization where you're ramming conversations through, then you're probably facing situations that are going to have definite effects on productivity and certainly affect the relationships and trust that you have within the group.
Slowing things down significantly. Pausing. Always giving the spaciousness because extroverts, like me, have a field day when you ask me a question on the spot. But people with more introverted tendencies, that's when you talk to people about this who say, "I classify myself as more introverted."
They'll talk about – sometimes if you really create the space, they'll talk about what feels like the violence of how conversations often occur. How it physically feels so horrible to have someone ask you a question, not rhetorically, and then have someone immediately jump in with their answer.
These are some of the subtle sort of spaces that we seek to bring in anti-oppressive practice. Ways that actually open space for inclusion and participation. And essentially, there's the ability through these strength-based approaches, through this being overdoing that can alleviate those fears of, "Yeah, but the world's falling apart."
Yes, you can do both. You can actually be in relationship with yourself, with each other and get plenty done. But it's the starting off with the value of just being together that's so critical.
[00:18:29] JS: Makes me think of Charles Eisenstein, The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible. It talks about we have a tendency to be like the sky is falling, it’s so urgent and I just have to just do it, and do it with my whole self. And is that the world that you want to live in? Is that the world that you want to create where we are instruments for something? Right?
And I know, Rosie, when we first wrote our description of what Dent at the time was, she was very insistent that when we were describing that envisioned society, that the word caring was there. We said just, regenerative. And she's like caring needs to be there.
As a student of Riane Eisler, I know she's profoundly influenced you as well. I deeply appreciate, just that caring is so baked into your practices, which I think is so important. Seeing people as whole people and not as instruments for even the most important problems that we face. And I also just deeply appreciate how those practices make more space to be inclusive in the voices, in the conversation.
I love this one. What about no shit work? Can we talk about no shit work?
[00:19:38] DM: Yeah.
[00:19:38] JS: Isn't there always some shit work? Or do you not see a shit work if you work at PGI?
[00:19:43] DM: Well, one person’s trash is another person's treasure, right? We have a somewhat spoken rule of no shit work. Essentially, if you don't like something that is being proposed for you to do or that you're doing and you thought it was going to be not shitty and it starts feeling shitty, you just say, "I don't want to do it." And then we see if someone else wants to do it. And if not, it becomes a discussion topic as to what to do about it.
I've not ever encountered someone not just stepping in and saying, "Actually, I love that kind of stuff." That's the beauty of having an experience that opens up in the early stages, the breadth of one's yearning, is that the person who's got the accountancy background doesn't necessarily become the treasurer.
You recognize in people, there's often yearnings for all sorts of aspects. And then if you give them – let me go sideways for a second. I don't know if anyone has heard of what someone once shared with me. And I'm forgetting this person's name. The Goldilocks zone of learning.
The Goldilocks zone talks about thinking of the Goldilocks fable of the not too small, not too large, just right, gives the ingredients for how you get people addicted to learning. And quite simply, it's two ingredients. The first is that people need to be experiencing things at their edge. Not too over-stimulated. Not too under-stimulated. Sort of like a flow state approach.
And the second ingredient is they have to be having fun. People who are having fun and are at their edge in their experience have a dopamine response where they get addicted to the experience.
In the Post Growth Institute, we seek to create that. To be in the Goldilocks zone. We have a shitload of fun. So much we – whether it's an online meeting where we're throwing in GIFs or GIFs. Or having random check-in questions like the one we had the other day of what item, if you could, would you take if you were on a submarine for a year? And people just blew it out of the water because one person brought their whole gym set in. Another person brought an expandable cooking set. Just these kinds of things that just bring levity to these times.
And so, when you have these two pieces together, there's fun and the edge, which is what we're talking about embracing tonight. These opportunities for you to be exploring areas that might feel vulnerable but you're in a safe container.
What we find is that there's enough interest in different things to go around. There's no shit work. There's no work that someone wouldn't find valuable. Because the work then becomes in an environment where you're addicted to the experience, it becomes then a vehicle for maintaining the relationships that you're experiencing. A vehicle for doing work. But there's that wonderful redirect of – I think it's from a book called Better Off. An MIT tech individual who went and lived with the Amish. And they taught him that we've got the expression the wrong way around. It's not, they say, "many hands make work light". It's "many –" oh, now I'm forgetting the quote.
[00:23:01] JS: Many hands make light work?
[00:23:03] DM: Yeah. It's not “Many hands make light work.” It's “Many hands make work light.” That's what they say. Because the Amish, when you show up at the front door, they don't say, "How are you?" They say, "How can I help?" And so they build relationships through their work environment.
That difference between many hands make light work, right? The productivist aspect. Versus many hands make work light, which is the relational aspect, is what leads you to a space where there's no shit work both in terms of your ability to say I don't want to do this and in the ability of people saying, "Well, I'll pick it up because I'm enjoying the experience and I can see how I can learn at my edge in that way."
[00:23:39] JS: I appreciate that distinction between transactional and relational. That comes up an awful lot in our conversations also.
I want to talk about some of your practices. We talked about silent meetings already or the silence interspersed in your meetings. How do you start things? You talked about it a little bit. Silence and then check-in. Let's talk a little bit more about that.
[00:24:00] DM: Well, first of all, not everyone's ready for silence, right? When you're working with people, there are times – and in our organization, people are prepared for that. We begin often with some kind of grounding that encourages people. Someone facilitating that. Encouraging people to really drop into their bodies. Recognize the lands that were on, the histories. And to connect with how they're feeling internally.
I'm going to make a bit of an out there comment here that I feel like a lot of what I engage with in terms of meditation practices that I see, I feel like there's something that's a little off with the way that the inner landscape is described as I sense it anyway.
Often, I'll hear people talking about stilling their mind or stilling their bodies. At the Institute, what we seek to do is slow down enough so that you can actually be observant of the activity inside. Not the stillness. You're not seeking to stop anything. Instead, you're seeking to observe just how incredibly active the inner landscape is at all moments.
Giving people the space to actually ground into their bodies. Often, we're coming from other meetings, et cetera. And to acknowledge or recognize for themselves how they are showing up. What am I feeling right now? Oh, I'm feeling that rage in the bottom of my belly. Or I'm feeling that pain in my right shoulder. Or whatever it is. And then to actually have a safe space to come in and express that along with some fun prompt usually.
You say, "I'm feeling really shitty today. It's the fourth day of my period." And whatever it is. And then there's the other side of it, which is the prompt, that gives you a chance to – so you can be real. And that piece could – the check-in piece about how you're feeling might go on for minutes and minutes. And then you might just say, "And my answer to the prompt is this," or whatever.
Of course, in all of these spaces, they're invitations. Sometimes people pass, et cetera. That slowing down. While everyone also knows – this is the piece about not everyone's ready for silence. Everyone already in our organization has the agenda there.
For those who might freak out at the, "Gosh." If they're new to the process, et cetera, and like, "How long does this go on for? And like when are we going to get to the real stuff?" Et cetera. There's the agenda. Showing what's coming up, et cetera. And people will then review the agenda and get consent on the agenda before we move forward.
It's this balance. It's this dance between structure and spaciousness, right? That moving in and out. And the facilitators in our organization are always holding that tension. Ensuring that there's – in improv theater, we call it coloring and advancing. The scenes are both advancing. But they're not just advancing, they're also coloring. But they're not just coloring. They're also advancing, right? This kind of dance.
And the piece about the silence then continues through. As I mentioned, if a question is asked anytime we're voting on something, for example, and we use the sociocratic process that we might touch on in a little bit. When you're saying, "Does anyone have any objections to this proposal?" Before that vote goes through, it's “Let's take 30 seconds of silence to see how you're feeling about this proposal?” And then, “Does anyone have any objections?”
That kind of slowing down, again, it's incredible what the human body has to teach us. You mentioned before, or what I've shared with you in the past, that I've never been in an economics class in my life. People often say, "Read this book. Read this book." I read one book last year, and it was fiction.
To me, there's so much in here that can come from hearing an idea and then checking. Is it resonating? How does that feel? What does your body tell you about it? Having conversations in organizations where you slow down enough to actually check in with, "Oh, there's a proposal. How does my – oh. Oh. Wait a second. Is that my stuff? Or is that – okay, they're giving me time to – oh, relaxing through. Oh, actually that feels – no. There's something missing there." And then you put forward your objection and you add a piece to the proposal, for example.
How often do we get these moments to slow down enough to actually feel into our bodies in ways that allow us to feel like, "Okay, I can sense my response to that." That's part of how we process as an organization.
[00:28:21] JS: I think it also teaches people to re-establish that connection. So many people are so disconnected from their bodies and the wisdom in it. I mean, can you speak a little bit more to – we talked about embodied practice in the organization. I know we're touching on it. But I want to ask the question explicitly because it's so important. What do you mean when you say it's an embodied organization? And what other practices do you put in place around that? Or have we covered it?
[00:28:48] DM: I feel that – well, there you go. The language of I feel, for example, is another way that it's not as if we're ever correcting people or trying to show people other ways. We're naturally embodied people. The systems and structures especially in a capitalistic patriarchal system draw us up into the supposed rational headspace of logic, et cetera, often then taking us into these disconnected spaces.
It's interesting your question. I'm noticing how it lands because I've never thought about it that way. I don't think we do anything more than what I said. It's more just that we create spaciousness for people to actually drop and then the rest comes. People find that they really enjoy speaking from that space.
I mean, we're a majority female – I think there's maybe 80% plus female-bodied individuals in our organization. And having worked across cultures around the world, I think female-bodied individuals get this a little more easily than us men. The intuitive comes. It's often linked with socialization, et cetera, and the differences across that.
But there's often a sigh of sort of relief when you find – that I hear from employees and volunteers, when they get to experience a space where they can actually speak to stuff that they've been feeling and not had the spaciousness or dealing with the oppression to not be able to explore safely. It's a relief.
And then from there, it just becomes a practice. We don't talk about it. We don't talk about embodied practice in the organization. It happens. We model it. And then people go, "This feels good."
[00:30:30] JS: It makes sense it'd be more intuitive for women, because men are taught that feelings are bad, right? Okay, this is a really interesting one. And I'm sure everyone's going to want to hear about it. You define your own pay rates. Let's talk about that.
[00:30:43] DM: 36 people on the team. 29 people on payroll. Simply put, I have a meeting, and this will now shift as we sort of move in further directions. We've just hired a Director of Personnel. They'll probably take this role on. But having deep trust in the organization. And I have deep one-on-one relationships with every single person working in the org.
December came around. We're putting together our organization's budget. I just have a meeting with every person one-on-one who's been working for six months or more and I just say, "What would you like your pay rate to be?" That's it.
Sometimes there's the need to prompt and say, "Take as long as you need." And other times people are already dropping in and saying, "Oh, this current rate feels good." Or, "Yeah, I'd love an extra $5 per hour or whatever." We have pay rates that range from $7 to $75 dollars per hour.
Now we work across 16 countries. In some cases, those rates relate to the costs of living and the purchasing power. But in the US, for example, our rates range between $20 dollars per hour and $75 dollars per hour.
What happens in an organization where trust is so strong, because it's a relational approach, is that we all trust each other to consider the organization's budget. And we seek to put everyone's individual needs at the center of the experience. Because if you're not looking after people and people aren't able to look after themselves, then how are you going to have an organizational culture that's strong? What happens then is we put the budget together with all of these pay rates. Everyone gets to see everyone else's pay rate.
[00:32:21] JS: I was going to ask that question.
[00:32:22] DM: In Australia, that's normal. I came to the US ten years ago and I discovered that people don't do that really. Well, we do it and it works. The budget went through with everyone really excited about it. And two people in the organization said, "I'd like to put my pay rate down."
[00:32:38] JS: You know, that's so interesting. Because one of the big questions I'm holding in our inquiry is how much is enough? What's my appropriate contribution to the value that I create in the world? And I think the answer to that is very much relative.
In a gift economy, which Denizen employees, and those of you who did non-violent communication, you saw this in practice, I offer something as a gift. And then I'm transparent about my needs. And you can assess based on your particular situation of the value that you got and my needs what feels appropriate.
But then another really important piece of that is relative need, right? And so, if you look at – we've talked about steward-owned, or foundation-owned companies, or co-ops, these organizations tend to be more stable when there's an economic shock because people will collectively choose to lower all of their pay rates so that people don't get laid off. There's another really interesting example of transparency around relative need and that happening in organizational practices. So, yeah.
[00:33:38] DM: Yeah. In fact, last December, when we were facing an organizational budget shortfall, one of our senior leaders in the organization said, "If it comes to it, I'll be going to zero. I'll move to volunteer." And likewise, I'm a full-time volunteer this year. Having been paid last year. Just because we don't have the budget for it. And I have the spaciousness to do that.
It's wonderful what happens. And it might sort of seem like a privilege to be having these kinds of thoughts. But when people's individual needs are met, it's wonderful what people are in a position to actually contribute to the collective.
I mean, it's just – this having looked at some of the universal basic income kind of conversations. I mean, what are we missing by the fact that so many people's basic needs aren't being met in terms of the creativity, the joy, the things that would be different in this world were those kinds of needs met. And it's nice to be in an organization where I get to see what it looks like. And it's astounding. It's astounding what opens up when those basic needs are met.
[00:34:44] JS: I'm curious about harmony restoration. We talked about, okay, you check-in. And then you say, "How are you doing?" Do you have any defined practices around when two people in the organization have an issue? Are there protocols around how that gets resolved? We're talking, actively talking, about this with Denizen. And so, I'm curious if you have something at PGI around that.
[00:35:02] DM: Yeah, it's a great question. I mean, it's been up for us as an organization. We've had a series of situations over the last few years that came after many years without much tension at all. And we're just in the process of developing some of those processes.
But here's the first thing. In an organization that's seeking to act from sort of an embodied space where, essentially, what happens is when there's tension, a council is called. That council is then seeking to – from a space of embodied response. Not just intellectual. Okay, this person said this. This person said this. But like feeling into, intuiting what's actually going on here.
With the checks and balances of a sociocratic process where you get to propose something. And if you've got an objection, say, "I can't live with that." With sort of the support of others, you get to actually feel into things.
We'll often have, for example, a tension. And a council will explore the issue and then we'll say, "Everyone, take a moment to check in on how your feeling about what's really going on here? Is there validity in both perspectives? Is there projection happening?" Et cetera.
And it's amazing. because, pretty much always, that council, whether it's four people, eight people, will say the same thing. We might even get people to write things down so that they don't feel influenced by others' perspectives. And they'll say the same things. They'll say this is predominantly this person's stuff.
That's a method that a lot of conflict resolution moved towards. From this idea that you could be held to account with your peers. Often, we move to like third-party mediation after like direct communication, et cetera. And I'm interested in what it looks like to do that differently from an embodied perspective. What does it mean to hold with tenderness?
Because that's the crucial piece here. When councils meet, they are putting everyone's interests at the center, right? We let go of someone last week, which is unusual for our organization. And it was a six-week process of exploring, "Can we make this work?" This disconnection between what was going on with that person and the organization's culture.
50% of the conversations that were happening in council were about how can we ensure this person's needs are met as best as possible in a process that looks to be heading in this direction? It's not to say that any of it's easy. It's not to say that then that person didn't have reactions and a lot of pain, et cetera.
But this goes back to almost this check-in. Like what happens when someone checks-in in a meeting and they're in a really bad state? We are coming from a space where no one there tries to fix that situation. What we seek to do is hold space, support. And likewise, when there's tension, if someone has after a review of things and an intuitive response from a council where they say, "Look, this, this and this needs to happen for you to come back into alignment."
If someone chooses not to take those steps, you hold that. You don't scold them. You don't judge that .You just say, "Okay, that's where you're at. That's your choice. And we respect that that's your choice. And it doesn't work for us."
It's this heart-centered approach but also doesn't slide into a heart-centered approach losing this valuable thing that I guess I'm harking back to, which is I think our bodies, and I feel that our bodies, have a lot to tell us that gets cut off in a Western patriarchal, capitalistic, neocolonial system that values and emphasizes a disconnected rationality over an embodied, somatic, connected heart, mind, body experience .
[00:38:44] JS: Let's go a little rapid fire because there are a couple other things I want to touch on. Rest week. Let's talk about rest week.
[00:38:50] DM: Simply that there are, in the calendar in most years, five months with five Mondays. And so, any month that has five weeks of Mondays, the fifth week is a rest week. And that just means no one has meetings. That's it.
[00:39:05] JS: I like that. Okay. I think this is an extraordinarily important topic. And let's touch on this. And let's talk about some overarching processes that I think are relevant and then I want to open it up.
How do you make decisions? This is so important, right? We have so many conversations about different governance structures. We've talked about the kind of landscape of governance design.
One of my favorite quotes from our conversations on co-ops is you've seen one co-op, you've seen one co-op. Because every situation can be really unique. But I do feel like, often, there can often be a rush to decentralized decision-making prematurely for its own sake. A lot of people are working on Web3 space. I'd really love to hear about how you think about decision-making.
[00:39:50] DM: I'll keep it brief. And I'll try to tell you the things –
[00:39:52] JS: This is important. You don't need to keep it too brief. But – yeah. Somewhere in the middle.
[00:39:55] DM: All right. Sociocracy, right? You can search for it online. Some of you might be using it. Some of you might be familiar with it. There’re incredible groups like Sociocracy For All that offer amazing entry points into this kind of work and ongoing training.
Essentially, it's a model that says in terms of governance decisions. Because it also relates to how you structure an organization. Our organization is flat. I'm the Executive Director, and that really means no one reports to me. In our organization, no one reports to anyone. It works in a circle structure. There are structural aspects.
But when it comes to decision-making, it looks like this. If this group here in front of us were in a room with a bunch of people sitting down. Now if this group of people sitting down, if someone was to put forward a proposal for how much longer tonight should go before we say it's officially over, for example?
Typical experience I've had is that that then becomes a shit show. Because a lot of people here are going to have a lot of perspectives on that. Some people need to leave early. Some people need to pick up their car before the parking meter clicks over. Et cetera. Et cetera.
In sociocracy, when someone leads with a proposal, which we also encourage in our organization to lead as soon as you feel comfortable with a proposal, right? When you're in the middle of a discussion, if you feel like you've got something you want to propose, go for it. So, "I propose that we leave here on time at nine o'clock as planned. Et cetera."
If someone disagrees with that – and in sociocracy, the benchmark is a little different. It's not if you disagree. It's “Can you not live with it?” Right? I can't live with that proposal. Then what happens is amazing. You don't debate it. Someone says I've got an objection. Everyone else says no objection. No objection. Someone says, "I have an objection."
Well, what happens next in our organization is we say, "Great. Is there anything we can do to change the proposal that would make it work for you?" "Oh, yes. I'd like it to be optional. I don't want a soul to have to stay until nine o'clock."
In other words, there was a clarification perhaps because the first person might never have meant that. And that's another piece of sociocracy, is it you start with clarifications, which is, by the way, in my experience, the number one reason that people have tension, is that they haven't clarified what the heck they're voting on. What they're talking about.
We always begin with silence, clarifications, et cetera. I'm talking about when you get to the stage of voting on something, it gives people the power to say, "If I can't live with that, what could I live with?" And then they just go in.
In our case, we're using Google docs, for example, they go in and they type in the changes they want. No discussion. And then it goes to vote with the new proposal. The speed with which if you're using an embodied process that's like, "Okay, can I live with that?" "No. No. Gosh." Because why? Because the cleaners are coming in at 8:55 and we need to be out before then. Right.
You put that piece and everyone goes – in sociocracy, when someone has an objection, everyone leans in and goes, "Ooh! What can we learn here? What's a potential blind spot? Oh, my gosh, the cl – thank God you remember the cleaner."
You come through these processes where the final vote where everyone's – we've had two vetoes. Everyone has the ability to veto in our organization. Everyone. You've just arrived today and it's your first day at work? You can veto anything, right? There's no power dynamic that's different in that regard.
Two vetoes in thirteen years. In other words, pretty much every proposal finds a way to go through, right? Think of that in your work experience. How many times things get knocked back and the emotional toll that has on people, right? "My idea got voted down four to three. Great. Now I feel like a piece of –"
There's a shift that can happen. Because when you then come to a conclusion where you've had participatory input, the outcome, the thing you've voted on in the end, it's a masterpiece. It's friggin’ beautiful. It's got the nuance that's needed. And if it does – sometimes the objection can be we don't have the people in the room who know enough about this to put it through. And so, then the proposal goes, "After we consider – after we reach out to so and so and get their approval or input."
There's not much you can't modify in proposals that can make it work for everyone. But there's pretty much always a way even – and this is the classic get out of jail. You've got a gridlock. Someone's like, "I'm never going to let this idea happen," which by the way that experience never happens in our organization. But it happens in some organizations.
And in sociocracy, you just then throw in an, "Okay. So can we put a time limit on this proposal? Let's trial it for a week," which is the lead into lean, right? You've got this proposal there. Okay, can you live with it being – we'll try it for a day. Oh, okay. If it's only for a day, all right. All right.
There're ways. Human beings can work together very functionally, very effectively, very harmoniously. The context, the container. The number one thing organizations need to do, in my opinion, around the world is work on their facilitation and take embodied facilitation training. Groups like AORTA offer this kind of work. Get into the embodied facilitation. Because the second you're in an embodied space, you're then able to be running lean tests all the time.
[00:45:09] JS: It's so amazing. Thank you for joining us.
[00:45:11] JS: Thank you so much for listening. And thanks to Scott Hansen, also known as Tycho, for our musical signature. In addition to this podcast, you can find resources for each episode on our website, www.becomingdenizen.com, including transcripts and background materials.
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