A conversation with Simon Mont of the Non-Profit Democracy Network

Highly structured processes like Sociocracy, Dynamic Governance and Holocracy often meet resistance

When Tracy read Simon Mont’s article, “Autopsy of a Failed Holacracy: Lessons in Justice, Equity, and Self-Management” in Non-profit Quarterly, it made such a powerful impression that she shared it on her LinkedIn feed and in our FB page with the following:
This article helps me to find words and validation for the reasoning behind the direction we’ve been going with Circle Forward, drifting away from sociocracy and any prescribed methods, and toward a framework where people are the architects of their own governance systems.
We hold a container for them to consider their systems, different options, and dynamics of power; we provide guidance, and they design their systems and practices based on their values and the context, with safeguards that it can continue to evolve.


As the author says, “so long as we stay mindful…[w]e can use highly structured processes in some spaces and completely organic and fluid processes in others. We can experiment with different levels and types of structures to be able to relate in ways that meet the needs of the moment. Different groups can find the processes that work for them in relation to their tasks. With a variety of processes occurring throughout the organization, individuals will sometimes feel completely at home and other times will feel on edge. Such mixtures of safety and tension can create learning and trust.”


We are still learning all the time — the more we do this work, the more deeply humbled we are at the complexity and messiness of it, and at the same time, the more inspired we are that it is worth the effort!

Continual Experimentation and Adjustment are required as we transform culture in highly complex systems

When I read the article, I found the following passage particularly poignant, expressing a truth I’ve sensed but resisted as Tracy and I try to build a business and a brand in this collaborative governance space:

There is no new structure within which we can operate that will magically bring us the world we want to see. We have to try different strategies, see if they fit, and make adjustments within, around, and between us in order to find what we are looking for. New models promise a lot and rarely deliver. When this happens, we have to move forward—reinventing the reinventions, not reverting to the subtle tyranny of familiarity.

The more we work in this space where experimentation and continual adjustment continue to force us to accept feedback and learn from mistakes as much as “successes”, the more I find my footing in the Principle of Consent, which I did learn from sociocracy, but which I’m convinced we experience in the body, in our nervous systems, no matter the process we use for making governance decisions.  I’m sensing this Principle of Consent may be something we can stand on or perhaps look to as that “North Star” as we experiment our way toward equal distribution of power.


The article resonated so powerfully with both of us that I asked Simon if he’d be willing to make time to talk with us and allow us to record the call.
Click here to listen to our edited conversation.


We were all excited to discover how closely the work of Sustainable Economies Law Center’s emerging Non-Profit Democracy Network relates so closely to Tracy’s work with the Emerging Networks Governance Initiative and we expect to join our networks for deeper collaboration in the future.  As Simon says, “We appear to be looking at the same fire.”


If you’re organization or network is addressing systems-level change, you may be finding that that change needs to be addressed internally as well.  You’re welcome to contact us.  We love to talk about culture change through collaborative governance!

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