Transition Network made a shift to shared governance in April 2018, supported by Université de Nous & Hum, drawing on sociocracy and holocracy and the principles that guide our movement.
More information about our ways of working (click on the down arrows to expand)
We are exploring ways to:
- distribute power, resources and responsibilities transparently within our organisation and across the wider international network of which we are part;
- work more skilfully and resiliently in a complex and fast-changing environment;
- include a wider range of perspectives and experiences in our decision-making while also creating space for autonomy and creativity; and,
- learn about, and model, the change we want to help bring about in the world.
Trustees and staff hold equivalent power in this process which is informed by feedback from the Transition Hubs group and people in the wider movement. Our purpose statement is not designed to be static, but will adjust over time. We use it to guide all our decisions and actions, collectively and individually.
Each circle has its own purpose and accountabilities and someone who holds the lead link role. The lead link is not a manager, but keeps an overview of whether the circle is delivering its part of the wider organisational purpose and coaches/supports other roles in the circle to make their own contribution. All roles in the circle exercise equivalent power and each has sovereignty to decide what’s needed and possible.
Each January, our primary circle (made up of staff and trustees) reflects on what’s happening in the world and across our movement
This is a moment when we reconnect to, and review our organisational purpose and agree areas of focus for the coming year. We know we can’t respond to all the needs and possibilities that we see around us, so we make decisions about where we will concentrate our collective efforts and resources for the next period. We don’t have to wait for January. When the Covid 19 pandemic hit, we agreed revised areas of focus in April 2020 and reorganised ourselves accordingly.
The primary circle elects one or more member to act as lead link for the heart circle and it is the lead link who chooses who will occupy the other roles in the heart circle (with lots of consultation, but this is an area where we see value in some vertical decision-making). The heart circle connects, and resolves tensions between, the different parts of our organisation.
We move in and out of roles according to what best serves our organisational purpose. Many of us are holding more than one role and are members of more than one circle. At the moment our organisational structure looks like this. We currently have a flat pay structure and a transparent process for adjusting hours of work.
We have moved away from the concept of a long-term strategic plan which we don’t see as sufficiently responsive to the fast-changing complex environment in which we work. Instead, each role and circle has sovereignty to find their next steps, guided by our collectively agreed organisational purpose and areas of focus. We move forward by sensing what’s needed and possible, taking a next step, listening for feedback and adjusting as required. There is an expectation that, wherever possible, people will actively seek input from those impacted by their decisions and those with relevant expertise, whether within or beyond the team.
We look for solutions that are “good enough for now and safe enough to try” rather than for perfection, trusting that we will be able to make further changes as and when more information emerges or the context changes.
Circles hold regular ‘sorting meetings’ at which tensions between roles are identified and processed. A tension is a sign that something needs to be adjusted or unblocked for a good next step to be possible. These meetings are designed to be relatively short and snappy – if something needs more discussion, we will agree the relevant roles to take this forward.
Any member of the circle can request a governance meeting if they see a need to adjust, delete or create roles. Such changes require the consent of all members of the circle.
Sometimes tensions reveal a need for deeper, more strategic conversations, perhaps to resolve differences or a lack of clarity about the approach we are taking or the allocation of time and other resources. When this happens, we organise a strategy meeting and do our best to create space for creativity, visioning and different ways of knowing so that we can find a good way forward together.
We have adopted processes drawn from sociocracy for the important moments when we want to engage the collective intelligence of the team and ensure collective ownership of the outcomes. Consent is not the same as consensus. Instead of pursuing the illusion that there is an ideal or optimum outcome, we recognise that there is always a constellation of possibilities and we just need to find a way forward that is good enough for now and safe enough to try.
While there is space for the group to help shape any proposal, we then move away from pursuing our personal preferences and focus only on whether a particular decision or nomination would jeopardise our collective purpose or our individual participation. Objections motivated by this desire to protect our joint endeavour are treated as a gift and the whole group looks for ways to resolve them. This often results in resilient, tailored outcomes that none of us would have necessarily predicted at the start.
Our Trustees retain responsibility for ensuring that the charity is complying with the law, managing its finances well and acting in accordance with its charitable objectives. Trustees meet three times a year to review and approve key decisions and satisfy themselves that the governance model is operating appropriately.
We collaborate across difference and distance. At the moment, we’re focusing on developing our skills around giving and receiving feedback and designing processes to build conflict resilience.
We hold whole team meetings where we step away from our operational roles, share more of what’s going on in our lives and how we’re feeling about work and explore together some of the challenges of working in this field. We know that it’s important to build relationships and trust across a team that works remotely – we’re currently investing time in 1:1 ‘buddy’ meetings, a weekly team drop-in session and a weekly virtual team lunch.
Read more about our culture-building work, including our relational agreements here.
We take time to reflect at the end of each meeting as well as when we reach the conclusion of projects and key processes. We explore what has gone well, what’s been challenging, what we’ve felt, what we’ve appreciated, what we’ve learnt and what we might do differently in the future. We’re often tempted to rush or skip these processes and we nearly always feel the benefit when we don’t!
Shared governance requires us to work in ways that feel quite different from what we may have experienced at other times in our lives, so we do our best to be compassionate with ourselves and others and cultivate curiosity about what we’re learning together.