Sociocracy can be traced back to 1851, when Auguste Comté suggested to apply the scientific method to society, states states would be governed by a body of sociologists. In his opinion, this future, although not yet achievable, would be inevitable.
A few decades later, Lester Frank Ward, used the word ‘sociocracy’ to describe the rule of people with relations with each other. Instead of the having sociologists at the center, he wanted to give more power and responsibility to the individual, he imagined sociologists in a role as researchers and consultant.
In 1926, the Dutch reformist educator and Quaker Kees Boeke, established a school based on the principle of consent. Staff and students were treated as equal participants in the governance of the school, all decisions needed to be acceptable to everyone. He built this version of sociocracy on quaker principles and practices, and saw sociocracy as an evolution of democracy.
Gerard Endenburg, also a Quaker and one of the students in Boeke’s school, wanted to apply sociocracy in his family’s business, Endenburg Electrotechniek. He created and evolved the Sociocratic Circle Organisation Method, integrating Boeke’s form of sociocracy with engineering and cybernetics. In 1978 Endenburg founded the Sociocratisch Centrum in Utrecht (which is now the Sociocratic Center in Rotterdam) as a means to promote sociocracy in and beyond the Netherlands. Since 1994 organizations using the Sociocratic Circle Organisation Method are exempt from the legal requirement to have a worker’s council, since equivalence is built-in.
During the late 1990s and early 2000s, several non-Dutch speaking people came across sociocracy, but it wasn’t until 2007 when Sharon Villines and John Buck launched their book, We the People, that sociocracy became widely accessible to the English speaking world, and from there has began to migrate into several other languages.
Sociocracy has proven to be effective for many organizations around the world, but it has yet to become viral. In 2014, the Sociocracy 3.0 Movement formed with the mission to make sociocracy available to as many organizations as possible through the creation of Sociocracy 3.0., a free and open version of sociocracy integrated with lean and agile thinking.