Despite his old age, he is still working every day to spread the ideas of sociocracy. This is important, says Gerard Endenburg, because there is a great need for an alternative to democracy. ‘Democracy is a great invention, but it is at its end. That is where sociocracy comes in’
Gerard Endenburg (1933) is siting behind a table in his office in the Sociocratic Center in Rotterdam, The Netherlands and he is smiling. He is notably enjoying having this conversation. That is because it is about his life’s work, the sociocratic circle organisation. “I am still working on it, seven days a week, every day,” he says.
Without waiting for a question, he begins his story. A story that starts with the war year of 1943, when his parents took him on their bike to Bilthoven, to the community school of Kees Boeke. ‘Why did they do it, I do not know. I forgot to ask.’ He was in the same class as then royal princess Beatrix, and learned about living together in a completely different way than is customary in society. Decisions were made during a monthly gathering, not by a majority, but with the full consent of all. ‘It was a strange school. In 1948 they send me away because I was too much of a technician, they said. But then no other school would have me.’
In 1950, Endenburgs parents started a business and he started working there in 1959. ‘For me, that was the place to examine how you might apply Boeke’s ideas in a business.’ At that time, there were a lot of experiments with the democratic organisation, but they all fell short in the eyes of Endenburg. ‘Democracy is a great invention, but it is coming to an end. Because it is about winning or losing: when the majority wins, the minority all ways loses. It’s either or. I step away, and I choose and, and.’ But according to Endenburg sociocracy is not an alternative to the autocratic or democratic organization, but rather a supplement. ‘That’s the biggest misunderstanding about sociocracy: it is not anti-hierarchical. Hierarchy means nothing else than order, and there is nothing wrong with that. The problem arises when people start behaving accordingly. Place a ladder, and everyone is concerned with the question: how do I get to the next step? And once they get there, they become prisoners of the system. With sociocracy you keep hierarchy in place, but we make it correctable.’
In 1970 Endenburg introduced sociocracy in his company. ‘Sociocracy consist of four rules, of which the first three are the most important. It starts with the decision, which is taken by consent. That means that no one has an objection to the proposal. Then there is the circle, which always consists of three roles: a client, a performer and a feedback. Third is the double link between the circles. And fourth: the election of a representative, which can only be done after an open discussion. We have noticed that if you do not do this, they still get elected democratically and with this, the minority is still overruled by the majority.’
That is the greatest danger when introducing sociocracy, Endenburg noticed: that it is half done. “Our experience is that often only consent is introduced, but not the other principles. First, the double link is omitted. But without this double link it cannot be done.’ Even in his own former company, the adjacent Endenburg Electronics, the double clutch is no longer intact. ‘People are even laid off,’ says Endenburg indignantly.
Yet, sociocratic thought enjoys an increase of interest, partly due to the popularity of the related holacracy. ‘This mister Robertson has contacted me once, but he never really made clear where he got his ideas.’
The insidious is the apparent simplicity of Sociocracy: ‘It is so simple, and many people think it is. They are using it in a way that makes me think: no!’ Yet Endenburg is not pessimistic. ‘I look ahead. And sociocracy is the only way to move forward.’
Here you can find a nice scheme of the difference between holacracy, sociocracy and even sociocracy 3.0.
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