Article 5: Self-organization through the governance process

Intent: A safe environment where everybody can make improvements to the governance of the organization based on actual situations and behavior. The default answer to any change is yes unless there there is “proof” it will be harmful to the organization, which is rare. The goal here is to Build and change, measure the actual output, and learn from it. And most of all, to keep repeating that cycle of improvement.

The governance of a circle can only be changed through the governance process described here.

5.1 Who may participate in the governance process

Circle members consist of the Circle Lead(s) of the circle and all Role Leads of the roles in the circle. They represent their roles in the circle's governance process. If a role has more Role Leads, you can limit how many of them may represent the role in the governance process in a policy.

Any circle member may request an election to the role of Circle Rep at any time. Unless a policy describes a different mechanism, the election follows the integrative election process (see Article 5.3.5).

Only circle members are eligible for election, and only one person may fill the role unless a policy says otherwise.

Circle Lead cannot also be the Circle Rep of the same circle. The Circle Rep becomes a member of all broader circles, except if a circle has a policy that representation is governed differently, but at least as good. The Circle Rep has a set purpose and set accountabilities that you may not change or remove. You can make additions and change or delete these additions. (Article 5.1.1)

The Facilitator facilitates the governance process, and the outcomes are recorded and shared by the Secretary. Any circle member may request an election for the roles of Facilitator and Secretary at any time. This election follows the integrative election process (see Article 5.3.5).

Only circle members are eligible for election unless a policy says otherwise. (Article 5.1.2)

5.2 What the governance process is about

This is what you can do in the governance process (and nothing else):

  • Create, modify or delete roles
  • Create, modify or delete policies
  • Move roles or policies to a subcircle because they fit better there.
  • Move roles or policies from a subcircle to the circle because they don’t fit in the subcircle (anymore)
  • Holding elections for an elected role.

A policy can only be about the following things (Article 5.2.1):

  • Limiting authority of roles
  • Granting authority to roles
  • Granting or limiting authority regarding the domains of the circle
  • Changing a rule or process in this constitution (if explicitly allowed)

A policy applies by default to all subcircles, subcircles thereof, etc., unless the policy states otherwise. A working arrangement that modifies a rule or process in the constitution only applies in the circle that adopts it, except if the working arrangement says something else.

5.3 How to amend governance

Any circle member may make a proposal to change governance. You do this by sharing your proposal in writing with other circle members; you are then the proposer. Others may then ask clarifying questions, provide responses and share concerns. If a concern meets the criteria described below (in Article 5.2.1), we call it an objection, and the person sharing it is the objector.

If each circle member indicates there is no objection, then the proposal is adopted, and the governance is changed. If there are objections, the proposer and each objector find a way to address them. You can make a working arrangement to agree on a time limit, after which everyone who has not responded is assumed they have no objection. If a proposal is handled asynchronously, any circle member can ask the proposer to bring the proposal into a governance meeting.

When making a proposal or objection, you may only represent the roles to which you are Role Lead or Circle Rep or from which a Role Lead has asked you to represent temporarily.

5.3.1 When is a proposal valid

Intent: Only act on actual, real tensions

For a proposal to be valid, the proposer must be able to:

  • Describe the tension behind the proposal
  • Give an example of the tension in the present or past.
  • Explain how the proposal would have reduced the tension in the example

If a proposal is not valid, the Facilitator should reject the proposal.

5.3.2 When is an objection valid

Intent: The default answer to change is “Yes”! Only object if the change will really be harmful.

For an objection to be valid, the objector must be able to justify why it meets all of the following criteria:

  • The circle would be less able to fulfill its purpose or accountabilities (”harm”).
  • The objector would be less able to carry out the purpose or accountabilities of any of their roles in the circle.
  • The concern would not be there without the proposal.
  • The concern would be a consequence of the proposal, or in the case of a possible consequence, the circle would not be able to adjust in time to prevent harm.

An objection to a proposal that breaks the rules in this constitution is always valid.

5.3.3 How to test an objection

The Facilitator can test whether a concern is a valid objection by asking if and how it meets the criteria above. While doing so, the Facilitator may only assess whether a reasonable justification is given, not whether the justification is correct. If the reason for the objection is that it breaks the rules in this constitution, the Facilitator may ask the Secretary to rule on that. If the Secretary rules in favor of the objector, then the Facilitator must accept the objection.

5.3.4 How to integrate objections

Integrating an objection proceeds as follows:

  • If someone asks for it, the Facilitator must review an objection, and if it does not meet the criteria, they must reject the objection.
  • The objector must make an attempt to come up with a modification to the proposal that would eliminate the objection, but still address or solve the proposer's tension. If this is not the case, the objection is voided.
  • Other circle members may ask clarifying questions about the tension behind the proposal. If the proposer does not at least attempt to answer them, then the proposal is dropped.
  • If the objector comes up with a modified proposal, then the proposer should explain why it would not resolve the tension and provide an example. If not, then the proposal lapses.

5.3.5 The integrative election process.

Any circle member may request an election for the roles of Circle Rep, Facilitator or Secretary. The Facilitator then follows this integrative election process:

  • Describing the role: the Facilitator describes the role to be elected, the election term and any other relevant information.
  • Nominating candidates: each circle member nominates the person they feel is best suited for the role (individually and silently, which are cast in such a way they don’t influence nominations).
  • Explaining nominations: the Facilitator shares the nominations, and each circle member explains their nomination.
  • Changing nominations: circle members may optionally change their nominations and explain the reason for doing so.
  • Proposal: the Facilitator counts the nominations and proposes the one with the most nominations. In case of a tie, the Facilitator chooses the one who nominated themselves, the one currently filling the role, or if non of this applies, select somebody randomly. The Facilitator can also go back to the previous step and ask all circle members to change their nominations to one of the candidates with equal votes.
  • Objection round: the Facilitator asks each circle member if they see an objection. If so, then the Facilitator can choose:
    • between a brief discussion to try to resolve the objection and come to a resolution or
    • Reject the proposal and propose the candidate with the second most nominations

You can set a time limit in a policy for nominating candidates or for responding to a proposal in an election. The facilitator’s role is to schedule new elections after a term has passed.

5.3.6 Who replaces the Facilitator and Secretary?

If the role of Facilitator or Secretary is not filled or available, then the following order will determine the replacement:

  • The one requested by the person to be replaced
  • The Facilitator or Secretary (so they replace each other)
  • The Circle Lead
  • A volunteer from the circle

5.4 Governance Meetings

In addition to dealing with proposals asynchronously (non-simultaneously), each circle also has regular governance meetings, which the Secretary schedules. If a circle member requests it, the Secretary can schedule additional governance meetings to resolve a specific tension.

5.4.1 Who may participate in governance meetings?

All circle members may participate in circle governance meetings. A Circle Rep may invite someone to help handle a specific tension.

5.4.2 Conditions for a valid governance meeting

The Secretary must give reasonable notice of a governance meeting. A governance meeting has no quorum. Anyone absent from the meeting is assumed to have no objection to all proposals.

5.4.3 How to conduct a governance meeting.

The Facilitator should follow the following process:

  • Check-in: share things you want to mention either to share or to let go and be present in a meeting. Other participants don’t respond to your check-in.
  • Agenda building & handling: the Facilitator sets an agenda with tensions and processes them one by one.
  • Check-out: share your reflection on the meeting and meeting experience. No responses.

You may ask for a time-out at any time, and the Facilitator may allow or refuse such a request. During a time-out, you can discuss the rules in the constitution or administrative things but not the content of an agenda item.

5.4.4 How the agenda is determined

The Facilitator sets an agenda during the meeting by asking everyone for agenda items. You may add as many items as you like, with one or two keywords per item and without explanation or discussion. You can add items during the discussion. The Facilitator determines the order of the agenda. Elections are given priority and proceed according to the integrative election process. All other items are handled with the integrative decision-making process.

5.4.5 The integrative decision-making process.

The Facilitator must apply the integrative decision-making process as follows:

  • Making a proposal: the proposer can explain the tension and make a proposal to address it. If requested by the proposer, others may assist in formulating a proposal, but there is no room for discussion in this step.
  • Clarifying questions: others may ask questions to understand the proposal or the tension better. The proposer may answer, but it is not necessary—no responses or discussion.
  • Reaction round: everyone except the proposer gives a response to the proposal one by one. No discussion.
  • Optional clarification: the proposer may respond or make changes to the proposal, but they do not have to. No discussion.
  • Objection round: everyone may share concerns, one by one, about adopting the proposal. The Facilitator may review these concerns against the criteria for valid objections or record them directly as objections. If there are no objections, the proposal is adopted. No discussion.
  • Integration: If there are objections, the Facilitator addresses them one by one according to the integration rules (see Article 5.3.4). Anyone may come up with ideas on how the proposal can be modified to remove the objection. An objection is addressed when the objector confirms that the revised proposal does not no longer result in the objection. The propser confirms that the updated proposal still solves the tension. Once all objections have been addressed, the Facilitator goes back to the objection round with the modified proposal.

5.5 What to do when a circle breaks the rules

When a circle exhibits a pattern of behavior that violates the rules in the constitution, we call it a process breakdown. A process breakdown is declared by the Facilitator or Secretary of the circle or of a super circle.

If a governance proposal does not lead to a solution within a reasonable time, this is also seen as a process disruption. (Article 5.5.1)

When a process disruption occurs, the following happens (Article 5.5.2):

  • The Facilitator is given the right to rule on the substantiation or relevance of arguments when reviewing proposals or objections
  • The Facilitator of the super circle is given a project to restore the normal process in the circle
  • The Facilitator of the super circle gets the right to take over as Facilitator or Secretary of the circle
  • The Facilitator of the super circle may, for the duration of the process breakdown, appoint an additional Circle Lead, whose decisions take precedence over those of other Circle Leads of the circle

These powers expire as soon as the circle is functioning normally. If a process disruption is unreasonably long, it is considered a process disruption in the super circle. (Article 5.5.3)