Facilitators Seek Feedback Via Fishbowl

In the fall of 2006, CoHo Ecovillage started using a sociocratic selection process to fill roles in the community.

The Facilitation Team coordinated a review of the process at a January 2010 community meeting.   A fishbowl technique was used, with folks in an inner circle speaking and those in an outer circle listening.  The facilitator kept a queue of folks in the outer circle who wanted a chance to speak and when someone left the inner circle, the next person on the queue rotated in.

The Facilitation Team members launched the initial inner circle discussion with a “replay” of a discussion they’d had about the topic at a recent team meeting.

In the sociocratic selection process used by CoHo, all steps take place in a community meeting.  First the skills for a specific role/job are reviewed, members at the meeting write their nominations on a slip of paper (people can also nominate themselves), and people share why they believe there is a good match between the nominee’s skills and the skills needed for the role.  Next comes a change round, with people able to shift their support to a different nominee, sometimes as a result of information shared in the first round.

The Facilitator proposes a nominee to fill the role and then leads another round asking if there is consent for this person or if there are concerns about the nominee filling the role; the nominee is the last to speak in this round.  If there are concerns, there is discussion about options, like helping a busy nominee to transfer other duties so they would have time for the new responsibilities.  If the concerns are resolved and the nominee accepts the position, the selection is completed.  If not, the facilitator can suggest another nominee or start a new round of nominations.

During the fishbowl conversation, a range of reactions to the process were shared.  The ability to select officers in a timely manner (it had sometimes taken months prior to the use of this process), the transparency of the process,  and the opportunity to learn more about each other’s skills were cited as positives.  Concerns were expressed about sharing hesitancy about a nominee in a group setting, the (not so?) subtle pressures for a nominee to accept a position, the role of the facilitator in selecting the final nominee (the number of nominations does not necessarily dictate the outcome), and the difficulty in knowing neighbors’ skills.

Suggestions to modify the process were also shared.

In final rounds inviting input from everyone, members shared their reactions to the topic and to the use of the fishbowl technique.


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Posted in Decision Making, Facilitation, Meetings and tagged .