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Sociocracy Comes to India!

The discounted Qatar airline flight with stopover in Doha makes a budget trip to South India easily possible. The journey door to door from my hosts Ashok and Priya’s home on Vypin Island, Kochi, Kerala to my humble dwelling in the south west of England is 26 hours, still the duration of the trip isn’t much more that a journey to mid Sweden, or a more obscure location in Germany.

The straight forwards travel and low-ish cost is a good thing because the relative value of Rupee to Pound is hugely disproportionate. So offering Sociocracy workshops on a gift economy basis in India means that it becomes accessible to people who would otherwise simply not be able to afford to attend. Whilst not the path to immediate monetary abundance, this approach enables the word to spread further and I’m leaving India with my heart and pockets full of gratitude, excitement and wellbeing.

My journey began 18 days ago when I landed into Kochi airport at dawn and stepped out into a warm morning. My arrival started in typical India style when my Visa card refused to work in any of the 3 ATM’s at the airport. “Expect the unexpected in India” I’ve been told on many occasion by a delighted local!

I was grateful to have £30 in my wallet that I could exchange with vendors at the airport and whilst they happily sliced off a few extra rupees of value, they still gave me more than enough to cover the costs of my onward journey and enough change to eat for at least a fortnight if I knew the right places to go to.

My first destination was to Ernakulam, a polluted, busy, mosquito ridden district of Kochi. I headed by taxi to the Renewal Centre, a catholic / multi-faith venue, for a week long Indian International Non Violent Communication (NVC) Convention.

The event attracted an international audience with first class facilitation of a diverse range of workshops around NVC and related topics. The programme and wonderful food prepared by a team of hard working and committed volunteers helped to soften the hard edges of a rather basic and uncomfortable venue and the loving generosity and active engagement of the almost 200 participants, organisers, host staff and trainers, facilitated the rapid evolution of a thriving community spirit.

CNVC (Centre for Non Violent Communication) the international hub for supporting the development and sharing of NVC throughout the world, has a history of engagement with Sociocracy. Sociocracy has a lot of advocates in the CNVC community and the volunteer prep team for this particular convention had been using some Sociocratic practices in order to support with their decision making and governance whilst organising the convention.

That I came to be in India at this time is at all is down to the invitation of a generous and extraordinary character, my now dear friend, Shammi Nanda. I first met Shammi via an email exchange when he wrote to me in the Autumn of last year, asking if we could meet to talk about Sociocracy.

Shammi’s home is currently wherever he happens to be in a given moment, although using the word “be” is perhaps misleading to describe him because his activities and output outpace that of many whole teams of people that I’ve met, working for positive transformation in the world. Perhaps it is partly down to the fact that Shammi just gets on with it and puts inspiration into action in one smooth continuum.

Shammi often starts the dialogue with and between people once he’s already sown the seeds of a new concept, added some water and nurtured a few sprouts to grow. One case in point is the Magical Journeys initiative, to bring various people working for positive societal transformation to the Indian subcontinent and other parts of the world, to share best practice, disseminate innovative processes and build resilient networks for change.

It was under this umbrella that this trip of mine has taken place. And as I leave, Naresh Giangrande of Transition Town, Totnes, UK, is preparing to head out to India next for a 40 day programme to spread the word about the Transition movement (inner and outer), and once again, on a gift economy basis.

I was blessed to be able to attend the NVC convention and discovered that Shammi had made a good job of spreading the word amongst delegates and trainers alike about the fact that that I was coming. I was able to engage in many conversations throughout the week about the value of Sociocracy as a “power with” process for decision making and governance and I also offered a Discover Sociocracy workshop into the Open Space programme. Considering the rich array of other workshop options available, the 8% of attendees that came to my rather content packed 2 hour presentation was a good result and reflected the level of interest I discovered amongst people who share my longing for a more compassionate and loving human collaboration.

I was delighted to later be invited to attend the upcoming NVC Summerfest in Somerset, UK this July/August to offer further workshops in Sociocracy. It’s my view that much potential exists for a deepening synthesis between NVC and Sociocracy, both of which stand upon pillars of equivalence, transparency and effectiveness, and both of which can aid human beings to relate and create together in more harmonious and compassionate ways.

Whilst I loved the convention, I was more than ready to leave the mosquitos as my caucasian skin seems to lack the resilience to continually host meals for ferocious insects without paying the price of some unwieldy lumps and bumps.

So via a day to relax in the old town quarters of Fort Kochi I travelled on by Tut-Tuk to the venue for our main event, a 6 day Sociocracy retreat on the island of Vypin in a location where the nature can only be described as paradise.

Our home for these days was a makeshift Ashram built over the last decade by Swami Radha Krishna Chaitanya and friends. Swami (meaning monk) is an Ayurvedic doctor and Yogi. I felt such an immediate and harmonious resonance in the presence of Swami who radiates beauty, wisdom and loving humour in equal measure.

In a later conversation where Swami shared a stream of stories, each one teasing my consciousness to expand yet further, I discovered that like me, Swami has dedicated his life to passing on and making accessible as many valuable tools for transformation, wellbeing, and consciousness, as possible.

The ashram is built from whatever could be found, the consequence of which is a curious array of what could loosely be described as creative, architectural licence! There are 20 houses of differing kinds, most of them temporary because the creation of permanent dwellings in this ecologically sensitive location, nested between the Arabian Sea and the Mangrove backwaters, is not permitted.

A daily stream of locals visit Swami for treatment. His consultation with me entailed a pulse diagnosis, taking approximately 10 – 20 seconds, and the telling of several stories, after which he prescribed a combination of various potions, lotions and pastes that he and others prepare in a manner that would give a paranoid health and safety officer reason to need a treatment too!

It’s important to note though that Swami is no quack! He has a history of treating numerous conditions and ailments that no conventional doctor has been able to touch. The stream of people coming to his clinic are testament to this, and Kerala is a health capital of the world.

So I had the privilege to spend the next 7 days with a group of 13 people who’d come from around India and wider, to discover Sociocracy. We spent 3 days diving into the basics and then a further 2 days digging into the principles, learning how to teach the basics to others and discovering through practice the deeper implications that integrating Sociocracy into one’s life can have.

By the end of the workshop the participants had already begun applying their learning, organising themselves into a team with a proposal formed strategy to support the next steps in bringing Sociocracy into the minds and hearts of many more people throughout India.

Learning Sociocracy takes more than just a few days of training. It’s through exploration, practice and learning from experience that the greater evolution occurs. Still, 5 days of focused training is a good start for anyone wishing to immerse themselves in a sound foundational experience.

By the close of our time together there was a lively buzz of excitement, passion and anticipation amongst us all as we considered the transformational potential Sociocracy could have in this developing, vibrant and diverse region of the world.

As Shammi put it in a Facebook post he made about the workshop,

“....there was an amazing synergy in the group....seeing a community with shared vision of deepening sociocracy in India being born in front of my eyes...where all the voices are valued and the divine light is seen in all the people present...

thanks to the community who came there with openness and curiosity...and is now excited to take this gift back to their own communities.”

And as Ashok my host had to say,

“An Amazing Journey into the world of Collaboration & Intelligence Tapping with Equivalence, Effectiveness & Transparency amongst teams in any project setting!!

Thank you James and Shammi for bringing Sociocracy to India!

GSTF is humbled by the vision that Sociocracy holds for the world and is glad to be able to support this first step towards a beautiful sociocratic future!”

So now I’ve pencilled in a return trip. Already I’ve been asked by many people to visit their region when I come next, in order to share more about Sociocracy with various groups, schools and organisations. There are more invitations than I’ll be able to manage and this is after just one visit, so it will be important to look at how to support a core of people in India to become semi-autonomous and skilled enough in teaching others, as soon as possible. India is a big place and with a lot of people. The potential is huge. So is the challenge!

As I enjoy to point out though, within every challenge, problem or difficulty, wisdom is seeking emergence into consciousness. So I wonder what extraordinary wisdom and potential may lie nested within the myriad of challenges we collectively face?

As my flight makes its way over the Arabian Sea towards Qatar, I leave India for now with a sense of peaceful anticipation. It looks to me like Sociocracy has a very good chance of growing wings and taking flight there in the months and years ahead. Perhaps the same could now be true of everywhere though. It seems to me that people are ripe to learn new ways of living and organising together and perhaps, together, a new way may just be possible.

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