Sortition within cooperatives

I am conducting a research project on sortition in cooperatives, and am wondering whether anybody in this community has come across any research or practice in this domain. The only work I am aware of is Terry Bouricius’s article titled “A Better Co-op Democracy Without Elections?” Thanks in advance!

13 Responses

  1. HI Simon

    I did a paper on ‘Coops and Lotteries’ which you can find at (scroll down to 2006)

    This was mainly about actual Coops sharing benefits amongst themselves, randomly. This could include deciding who becomes MD.

    My starting point was a paper by Kremer (1997) Why are workers co-operatives so rare? NBER Working Paper 6118, where he argued that Coops should be much more widespread, but generally lacked a “Neutral Arbiter” to resolve disputes. This created tensions which led to break-ups of the Coops.

    Of course, as we well know, the Lottery — blind chance –, if used appropriately would be just the ticket as the neutral arbiter!


  2. p.s. I’m glad to see that Terry Bourcious’s article also advocates ROTATION.

    It’s good to recall that the ancient Athenians thought in terms of lottery plus rotation. Many commentators here forget the rotation part of Sortition.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Simon, you might want to talk to people at the Democracy Collaborative –

    They may not be thinking about sortition, but they know a lot about the workings of coops and they are very interested in democratic management.


  4. Hey Simon – I can’t provide any examples myself but I can alert you to this lovely individual – David Boyle – – a Brit who knows a lot about cooperatives old and new. I’ve met him once, a few years back, in relation to my work to do with politics and journalism.


  5. Hi everyone, thanks for the great tips and suggestions. Much appreciated!


  6. One other angle… I’ve had some discussions with advocates of “platform coops” (imagine something like Twitter or Uber being a coop owned by its users)… who have an interest in using sortition in their governance procedures, because elections would be ridiculous among millions of users who have almost no interaction and don’t know each other. I am not aware of any actual implementations… We are at the stage of spreading awareness of the concept.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I agree (with Terry). Sortition could be used also to select advisory councils in public sectors, it seems to me, e.g. regular users of public transport, public health insurance holders, members of a public library, for similar reasons. The advice might not be binding but should at least be considered and discussed by the authorities involved. This goes back to John Burnheims proposals, of course, but is more reformist, does not claim to abolish the state etc.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Great, thanks Paul and Terry.


  9. Dear Simon,

    I am trying to exactly do that, build a coop to promote sortition where the executive board would be sorted.

    First obstacle I encountered, in many countries (France or England) the executory board must be elected (legal obligation). A turnaround is to all agree to vote for an executory board designated by chance. After a majority agree to that we can proceed to the vote to elect the executory board.

    I disagree with “It doesn’t make sense to select ongoing boards of trustees directly by lot, because the commitment level needed and investment of time is so great.” Depends on the size of the NGO and it also depends on the list on which we sort.



  10. I just finished reading “coop and lotteries” in full. It is a pleasure to read this great piece of work. Their work on the Cavil system used by a coop in Durham coalmine is fascinating. I like how they show that random selection (of where the people are allowed to mine) is chosen because inherently fair even if its costs a lot in apparence (imply that miner need to change exploitation point regularly).

    A sentence also rang my bells: “Worker coops lose their competitive edge, says Kremer because of their democratic structure.”. Maybe they need a stochocratic structure :)


  11. Dear Romain, fascinating stuff! Would be great to connect with you about this eventually. I’m juts finalizing my reading for the project. Would you mind sending me the citation for the book you speak of? I couldn’t find it based on a quick search on google. Cheers!


  12. Dear Simon? Looking forward to speak with you and about your project. The book is “La Stochocratie.: Modeste proposition pour que le peuple de France soit heureusement gouverné grâce à l’instauration d’une sélection politique aléatoire.” ISBN-10: 2251390294 It is a bit overpriced on Amazon and sadly I do not have a copy (but would love to).


  13. Dear Romain, thanks for the citation. Will see if I can track it down in the library. Will be in touch via e-mail. Cheers!


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