In his own words:
Sociocracy is a simple yet extraordinarily effective method for communities to self-organise. A method for good enough decision-making; it generates equivalence, is highly effective, minimises time spent in long discussions, and insists on transparency.
Sociocracy gives supremacy to “argument,”that is, reasoned and paramount objections to proposals are welcomed as emergent wisdom seeking expression into the shared consciousness of the group. This wisdom helps to shape and design policy that reflects the combined creativity of the whole.
No decision can be made without consent, including people being elected in to roles. The process has built-in safety mechanisms, including feedback and evaluation loops. This ensures a group of people, working together, dynamically steer and adjust their course as the community’s inner needs and the outer environment changes.[However, as Priest explains, sociocracy is distinctly different from “consensus,” which may be useful in relatively homogenous groups with a single issue agenda, but not in contexts where people are grappling with a plurality of diverse but interconnected issues, in an atmosphere that hopes to foster the expression of minority voices that might otherwise go unheard.]
Priest further explains:
The big issue with consensus is its lack of effectiveness in communities where there are diverse aims, rapidly changing circumstances, complex relationships, and differing needs. Whilst consensus can be extraordinarily effective in single-issue action groups, communities tend to overlook the criteria for consensus when choosing a decision-making method: (Consensus is best used where this is a small homogeneous group that is cohesive and cooperative, and with an already-established shared purpose and already-established trust.[Outside of these contexts, Priest argues, sociocracy can offer a better way.]
Sociocracy’s “Consent Decision-Making” method is a breath of fresh air for anyone who wishes to maximise the creative potential of the whole and reduce time spent in long and potentially unproductive meetings. It will appeal to those who appreciate the transparency and equivalence that consensus seeks to guarantee but who long for more effectiveness too. It also ensures that every voice is heard and that all wisdom within the group can be utilised towards shaping decisions that will affect its members.
Excerpted from the SociocracyUK blog entry: Stepping Beyond Consensus in Communities – A New Paradigm in Governance and Decision Making