Evolution of Governance in Auroville
The evolution of governance in Auroville has witnessed the exploration and experimentation of various models over time. While Auroville’s governance structure has not followed a linear progression through these models, different elements and aspects of each model have been explored and adapted based on the community’s needs and values. Here’s a brief overview of how these governance models have been considered in Auroville’s evolution:
Phase of Meritocracy:
In the initial five years of Auroville, Mother was physically present and perhaps made merit-based selection, as can be seen through her decisions regarding Roger, Dayadand, etc. She laid importance on goodwill, expertise, experience, and competence in leadership positions. Individuals with the necessary skills and qualifications were chosen for specific roles and went about delivering results depending on best of their abilities. Otherwise, in general, the residents’ took whatever role they liked. Unless, specified by Her, specifically.
Phase of Socialism/Communism:
After Her passing to different realms, the residents were affected by the usual ailment, being human. Mistrust, misunderstanding, and mismanagement grew wild, and without the resort to Mother, Aurovilians revolted against the previous leaders. Perhaps, they were inspired by principles of equality, cooperation, and collective ownership. Elements of socialist and communist governance, such as communal living, shared resources, and a focus on community well-being, have influenced the initial phase of Auroville’s development. There were the so-called “Pour Tous meetings” (For All Meetings). Perhaps, this is when the Auroville residents “discovered” their collective ego.
Phase of Anarchy:
In those days, the resources were short, and given the temperature, tempers were even shorter. The principles of equality soon got replaced by egoality. Everyone might have felt, ‘Apun ko lagta hai, apun hi Divine hai’ and slowly anarchy might have crept in, wrapped with the meaning of self-governance and as a resistance to hierarchical authority. The emphasis on personal freedom, random-responsibility, and decision-making through shouting fests and fistfights aligned with certain narrow principles of anarchy.
Phase of Democracy:
After 1988, with the intervention of the parliament through an Act, it dawned that anarchy cannot continue for long, and as result democratic system of governance was sought. Where decisions were made through the participation of the people, and for a decade or so the residents found a new toy to toy with. The Resident’s Assembly, WC, FAMC, etc. were conceived and born during those wild days.
Phase of Oligarchy:
In the phase of democracy, as the name suggests, demography expanded. When the number of new members increased, the entrenched powerhouses were not ready to share the hard-won governance with the newer players. Perhaps, this is when the oligarchy (rule by a small group) emerged and created rules, regulations, guidelines, codes, mandates, policies, etc. to win and rule with a quorum of 5%. This meant a few could play musical chairs across multiple floors and multiple buildings in the newly built Town Hall then. Till 2021.
Phase of Technocracy:
After the arrival of a seasoned bureaucrat, in June 2021, she has slowly brought in and explored the elements of technocracy, where decision-making is based on the ‘so-called’ expertise and knowledge of technical specialists. Now, Auroville’s technocratic considerations and appointments are carried out top down, through the ever-present Secretariat, and almost never-present Governing Board. The buy-in for this model in the community is extremely low, and thus the ecosystem required to implement the incredible out-of-the-world ideas of the technocrats of Auroville are non-existent. Thus, defeating the purpose for which they’re appointed in the first place.
Phase of Participatory Democracy:
In reaction to the rigid and opaque technocracy, some residents have resorted to participatory democracy, which emphasizes active involvement and participation of ‘all’ community members in decision-making processes. This has been a significant aspect of Auroville’s underground governance model which is closed and exclusive in essence. The engagement of residents in the nomination, feedback, and selection processes, as well as the emphasis on community input, boasting a participatory approach, is carried out within the closed coterie of trusted and loyal residents.
Well, all the above need to be put in context that Auroville’s governance is an evolving experiment which is the expression of a higher consciousness working to manifest the truth of the future. By whatever means, our society innately seeks to create a harmonious and inclusive environment that fosters individual growth, collective well-being, and the realization of Auroville’s broader ideals.
Need for a new Governance model
The above-mentioned governance models have been tried at various times and none seem to be fitting Auroville’s requirements precisely. They all have pros and cons. Perhaps, what we need is not an imported model, but a conscious governance model that fits the specific needs of Auroville. In truth, none of the existing models will work for us, as we’re trying to tread unchartered waters here. We need to evolve our own governance model to suit our needs.
The proposed governance model, referred to as Aurocracy – a participatory action model, incorporates elements of various yogic disciplines (Raja, Jnana, Bhakti, Karma Yoga) and emphasizes the importance of discipline, knowledge, devotion, and action. The governance model described in the given scenario combines elements of meritocracy and collective decision-making. It includes specific processes for WG member selection and functioning. Here’s an overview of the model:
- Residents cannot directly nominate themselves or others for the WG membership.
- Individuals interested in membership of a working group must first work in it for a minimum of one year as a team member, and the experience cannot be from more than five years in the past.
- Nominees must commit full-commitment to the working group. No other part-time or full-time engagements for utmost attention to serve Auroville. (This will ensure efficiency and quicker decision-making)
- Residents can nominate themselves or others with at least one year of working experience as a team member of that WG, before applying for the membership. (For eg. Before applying for ATDC, the nominee should have worked in ATDC’s office in some role. This would ensure a deeper understanding of the work.)
- The Auroville Council scrutinizes the applicants and shortlists eligible candidates. (Only to ensure the above criterias are met)
Presentation and Feedback:
- Shortlisted candidates are required to make a presentation on how they will contribute to advancing Auroville’s interests in that particular WG. (Let’s say there are 20 applicants to ATDC, they may have to come up with interesting and creative ideas to prove their mettle and capability)
- Residents can attend the presentation in person or watch it online and provide qualitative feedback within a week.
- Nominees may need to incorporate the feedback or provide valid reasons for disregarding it and make a final presentation. (The ones who fail to do this will be removed from the shortlisted list.)
- The final selection of working group members is made through a draw of straw method or another random selection process. (Continuing with the same example, irrespective of the impressiveness of the presentation, everyone stands a chance.)
- Typically, 5 or 7 members are selected randomly. (Again, they may not be the best ones, but it doesn’t matter. We all are one here and there is no competition. As it was a random selection, there is no resentment or disappointment. Anyone could have been the winner. A great equalizer. If the ones with the best ideas get in, they’ve their role cut out and can go implement. And, even the ones whose ideas were not great, can simply invite the co-applicants to share the ideas and implement. In fact, might include them in the project them)
Facilitation and Role/Project Assignment:
- Once the working group is selected, a facilitator can be involved to align all the new members and assign responsibilities. (This is necessary, as all the 7 members of ATDC might have various ideas and some even conflicting. In fact, the 7 members can even invite the 13 other co-applicants who didn’t make it and try to integrate their ideas too. The facilitation also will ensure that the WG has a definite comprehensive and cohesive roadmap in place before starting working together.)
Working Working Group
- The working of the WG may mainly entail taking policy decisions, resource mobilisation, work assignment and facilitation, monitoring and evaluation, etc. (For eg. ATDC may pass resolutions to award the DDP project to right team or experts, instead of holding the work inhouse)
- Working Group members are not allowed to take up any power/role/project themselves. (ATDC doing DDPs, Crown, WTHC, etc. has only resulted in delay and wastage. At the same time, the MM lake team independent of ATDC could quietly finish the test lake, almost without any noise.)
- They work closely with the Resident’s Assembly Service (RAS) to identify and select interested residents who can fulfill specific roles or projects. (It is the job of the RAS to ensure the residents enlisted in the RoR are indeed serving Auroville. It is their job to nudge the residents to take up responsibilities and contribute to the progress of Auroville. It is RAS’ responsibility to ensure the new entrants to the RoR are properly oriented towards the purpose and propose multiple possibilities to serve Auroville, motivate and align the existing / continuing Aurovilians to contribute according to the best of their abilities. And, facilitate those who wish to leave Auroville.)
This governance model aims to foster participatory action, far beyond participatory planning, emphasizing the importance of discipline, knowledge, devotion, and action. It includes elements of merit-based selection, community feedback, and randomization to ensure a fair and inclusive process. The involvement of a facilitator and collaboration with the RAS supports coordination and the distribution of responsibilities within the working groups.
Aurocracy may also prove to be a possible solution to our current logjam. The folks in the Town Hall will never agree to a number based governance model, as one can easily predict the results. On the other hand, even if the TH WG agrees to work with Aurovilians of opposing views, the appointment process has to go through the Secretariat and wait for Office Orders from GB. This is not going to be easy to accept for the Kailash folks. The above-mentioned selection process may mean that those with ideas from both sides will present, and the random selection process will ensure that there is no foul play. Whatever is the eventual composition of the team, can be considered as the divine play and work with the given team.
Remember Her words…
“At any rate, they should get together. Then I will see.”
“And yet we must find a way for all these solutions to work together.”
“We have to bear in mind that we are starting from the present state of humanity. So you must face all the difficulties; you must find the solution.”
“This fact is so obvious that a simple and ignorant peasant here is, in his heart, closer to the Divine than the intellectuals of Europe.
All those who want to become Aurovilians must know this and behave accordingly; otherwise they are unworthy of being Aurovilians.”
“We shall work for a better tomorrow.”
“Auroville is for those who want to do the Yoga of work.
To live in Auroville means to do the Yoga of work. So all Aurovilians must take up a work and do it as Yoga.”
“Enlarge your consciousness and aspire for the satisfaction of all.”
“Auroville must not lie. Everyone who aspires to be an Aurovilian must make the resolution never to tell a lie.”
“We must “be” in all sincerity.”
“But for so many years they have been here. It must be proved, it can’t be a feeling or an idea or something like that, there must be a concrete proof.
I have read this question to S.S., because we have spoken together at length, insofar as we feel that certain decisions must be made to try and improve the situation in Auroville.
They will protest at first, but we must remain firm: “This is how it is.”
We must find the people capable of doing this, with the required strength of character, and once we find them, they can be given the authority, and if the others don’t like it, they’ll have to leave!
But when a difficulty comes, you must take heart and face it courageously.
We must strive for Order, Harmony, Beauty and… collective aspiration—all the things which for the moment are not there.
We must rise above personal reactions, be exclusively attuned to the divine Will and be the docile instruments of the divine Will—we must be impersonal, without any personal reaction.
We must “be” in all sincerity.”
Benefits of the new Governance model
The new governance model – Aurocracy – proposed in the previous description has several potential advantages:
Slay the tyranny of numbers:
By implementing a system where residents cannot directly nominate themselves or others to membership positions, the model aims to address the potential negative aspects of majority rule or the tyranny of numbers. This helps ensure that membership positions are not solely determined by popularity or voting power, but rather by a combination of experience, qualifications, and commitment.
Divine anarchy to play its role:
“Men must become conscious of their psychic being and organise themselves spontaneously, without fixed rules and laws―that is the ideal.”
The nomination, presentation, selection, facilitation, and action can all become an occasion for us to become conscious of our inner psychic being and act spontaneously.
Work experience and knowledge as the base for decision-making:
Requiring individuals to have a minimum of one year of work experience in a working group before being eligible for membership positions ensures that decision-making is informed by practical knowledge and familiarity with the group’s dynamics. The model promotes a meritocratic approach. This can lead to more effective and informed decision-making processes.
Wider population willing to work in working groups:
By making work experience a prerequisite for membership positions, the governance model incentivizes a broader segment of the population to actively engage and contribute within working groups. This can result in a more diverse pool of candidates and a greater sense of ownership and commitment among residents.
Reduced Influence of Popularity or Political Campaigning:
The model’s selection process, including the involvement of the Auroville Council and random selection methods, can help minimize the influence of popularity or political campaigning. This reduces the risk of individuals being chosen based solely on charisma or campaigning skills, ensuring a fairer and more impartial selection process. The model reduces the influence of external factors, such as lobbying, special interest groups, or media influence, on the selection process.
Community Input and Feedback:
The model encourages community participation and feedback through residents’ attendance at presentations or providing feedback online. This fosters a sense of inclusivity and allows community members to have a say in the selection of members and provide valuable input for decision-making. It promotes a sense of collective ownership and involvement in the governance process.
Collaboration and Effective Teamwork:
The involvement of a facilitator and the emphasis on collaboration within the working group can lead to improved teamwork and coordination. By aligning the new members and assigning responsibilities, the model promotes efficient and effective decision-making processes, leading to better outcomes.
Balanced Power Distribution:
By not allowing working group members to take up power/role/project themselves, the model promotes a more distributed and balanced power structure. This prevents concentration of power and ensures that decision-making authority is shared among a broader group of individuals. It can mitigate the risk of dominance or favoritism and foster a sense of collective responsibility.
Efficiency, Adaptability and Focus:
By committing full-time to the working group, members can dedicate their attention and efforts solely to the group’s objectives and responsibilities. This can enhance efficiency and effectiveness in achieving desired outcomes. The model’s emphasis on aligning new members and assigning responsibilities with the help of a facilitator allows for adaptability and flexibility within the working groups. This can accommodate changing circumstances, evolving priorities, and the diverse skills and interests of the residents, resulting in more agile and responsive governance.
As members are selected based on their demonstrated commitment and experience within a working group, they are more likely to be accountable to the group and its objectives. This accountability can contribute to a higher level of responsibility and dedication among members.
The requirement that the one-year experience be within the past five years ensures that members have recent engagement with the working group. This helps maintain a focus on current challenges and opportunities, promoting a forward-looking and adaptive approach to governance.
Reduced Polarization and Partisanship:
The random selection method for choosing working group members can help reduce polarization and partisanship. It avoids potential divisions based on political affiliations or personal biases, contributing to a more harmonious and cooperative environment.
Continuity and Stability:
Requiring a minimum of one year of experience within a working group before seeking a membership position promotes continuity and stability in governance. members have a deeper understanding of the group’s dynamics, challenges, and goals, which can lead to more consistent decision-making and long-term planning.
Development of Leadership Skills:
By requiring individuals to work in a working group for a minimum of one year before seeking a membership position, the model allows aspiring members to develop essential skills, such as teamwork, communication, and problem-solving. This can contribute to the growth and development of future members within Auroville.
Collaboration and Networking:
The involvement of the Resident’s Assembly Service (RAS) in the role/project assignment process encourages collaboration and networking within Auroville. It creates opportunities for residents to connect with each other, share resources, and contribute their skills and expertise to various projects or roles, fostering a sense of collective progress and growth.
In summary, the new governance model – Aurocracy – offers a holistic and conscious approach to governance, tailored to suit the specific needs and aspirations of Auroville.
Our Masters on Governance
FROM SRI AUROBINDO
Ideal of Human Unity / Forms of Government
Or it might be something like the disguised oligarchy of an international council reposing its rule on the assent, expressed by election or otherwise, of what might be called a semi passive democracy as its first figure. For that is what the modern democracy at present is in fact; the sole democratic elements are public opinion, periodical elections and the power of the people to refuse reelection to those who have displeased it.
The Ideal of Human Unity / The Drive towards Legislative and Social Centralization & Uniformity
Certainly, democracy as it is now practised is not the last or penultimate stage; for it is often merely democratic in appearance and even at the best amounts to the rule of the majority and works by the vicious method of party government, defects the increasing perception of which enters largely into the present day dissatisfaction with parliamentary systems. Even a perfect democracy is not likely to be the last stage of social evolution, but it is still the necessary broad standing ground upon which the self consciousness of the social being can come to its own.
It does not follow that a true democracy must necessarily come into being at some time.
War and Self Determinism
Ancient liberty and democracy meant in Greece the self rule—variegated by periodical orgies of mutual throat cutting—of a smaller number of freemen of all ranks who lived by the labour of a great mass of slaves. In recent times liberty and democracy have been, and still are, a cant assertion which veils under a skilfully moderated plutocratic system the rule of an organised successful bourgeoisie over a proletariate at first submissive, afterwards increasingly dissatisfied and combined for recalcitrant self assertion.
Another illusion was that the growth of democracy would mean the growth of pacifism and the end of war…
Man refuses to learn from that history of whose lessons the wise prate to us; otherwise the story of old democracies ought to have been enough to prevent this particular illusion.
War and Self Determinism
The future does not belong to that hybrid thing, a middleclass democracy infected with the old theory of international relations, however modified by concessions to a new broader spirit of idealism.
The future destined to replace this present is evident enough in some of its main outward tendencies, in society away from plutocracy and middleclass democracy to some completeness of socialism and attempt at a broad and equal commonalty of social living, in the relations of the peoples away from aggressive nationalism and balances of power to some closer international comity.
The Idea of Human Unity / The Peril of the World State
Democracy is by no means a sure preservative of liberty: on the contrary, we see today a democratic system of government march steadily towards an organised annihilation of individual liberty as could not have been dreamed of in the old aristocratic or monarchical system… it revives now only in periods of revolution and excitement often in the form of mob tyranny or a savage reactionary or revolutionary repression…
Sri Aurobindo / Evening Talks, 1926 / Purani
I am at present speaking against democracy. That does not mean there is no truth behind it – and I know it, yet I speak against democracy because that mentality is against the Truth that is trying to come down.
FROM THE MOTHER
On Thoughts & Aphorisms 341 -343 (Karma)
Democracy was the protest of the human soul against the allied despotisms of autocrat, priest and noble; Socialism is the protest of the human soul against the despotism of a plutocratic democracy; Anarchism is likely to be the protest of the human soul against the tyranny of a bureaucratic Socialism. It is chimerical to enquire which is the better system; it would be difficult to decide which is the worse.
A turbulent and eager march from illusion to illusion and from failure to failure is the image of European progress.
Agenda 10 April 1968
If there is no representative of the supreme Consciousness (which can happen, of course), if there isn’t any, we could perhaps (this would be worth trying) replace him with the government by a small number—we would have to choose between four and eight, something like that: four, seven or eight—a small number having an INTUITIVE intelligence.
All the intermediaries have proved incompetent: theocracy, aristocracy, democracy, plutocracy—all that is a complete failure.
Agenda, August 16, 1969
In an undated note, Mother once wrote: Democracy was necessary and useful a hundred years ago, but now we must go beyond it if we want to take a step forward towards a new creation.
Agenda 27 July, 1968 (conversation)
Satprem: The Press is asking for a few texts to fill blanks in the forthcoming Bulletin.
The Mother: Take from Sri Aurobindo, not from me! Everything from Sri Aurobindo
Satprem proposes the following text:
Sri Aurobindo: Overmind is obliged to respect the freedom of the individual….
Oh, that’s a revelation! I didn’t know that.
Sri Aurobindo: …including his freedom to be perverse, stupid, recalcitrant and slow. Supermind is not merely a step higher than Overmind—it is beyond the line, that is a different consciousness and power beyond the mental limit.”
Do you imply that the Supermind will not be obliged to respect the freedom of the individual?
Sri Aurobindo: Of course I do! It will respect only the Truth of the Divine and the truth of things.
The Mother / On Auroville’s Organization
We want an organization which is the expression of a higher consciousness working to manifest the truth of the future.
Mother’s Agenda, 1966
Scores of people have come for Auroville…. Instead of working, they spend their time talking… They’ve already begun discussing what the city’s political situation will be …And one of them wrote to me yesterday, saying he couldn’t take part in something that wasn’t purely ‘democratic’… So I answered him this: Auroville must be at the service of the Truth, beyond all social, political and religious convictions… but above all…it would be better to build the city first!
Mother’s Agenda, 7 Feb, 1970
The anarchic state is the self government of each individual, and it will be the perfect government only when each one becomes conscious of the inner Divine and will obey only Him and Him alone…
Someone from Auroville wrote to me that he had come here to obey only himself and he found there were rules and laws. And he said: I won’t do it! I am free, I refuse to do it… so I wrote to him..
“One is only free when one is conscious of the Divine…”
Charter of Auroville / The Mother
But to live in Auroville, one must be a willing servitor of the Divine Consciousness.