The consent principle is the way of decision-making in which the arguments for taking a decision are central, which is expressed by the fact that none of the members has a paramount and well-founded objection against that decision.*
Consent is not consensus — it does not mean that everyone agrees. It means that nobody is aware of a risk that we cannot afford to take. The circle decides about policy and delegates the execution to the members. This means delegates clear domains with freedom to decide.
A circle is a semi autonomous team of individuals who determine policy according to the Sociocratic method for the realization of a common aim.*
Each circle defines its policy and decides by consent to use other decision-making methods. The key to the principle of Circles is that the circle members have a common aim and a circular governance system of leading-doing-measuring-leading etc.
A circle has a link with the next higher circle in such a way that at least two persons, the functional leader and at least one elected representative from the circle, belong to the next higher circle and participate in the higher circle on an equivalent basis.*
While most companies have a linear top-down organizational structure, with managers providing links from one level of the organization to the one below, Sociocratic organizations use a second link bottom-up. The operational leader role provides guidance and prioritization top-down from the higher circle to one below it, The representative measures if the decisions in the next higher circle can be executed in the lower circle.
The Principle of Election by consent provides an important counter-balance. While we can delegate almost any decision to operational roles or processes, using a policy decision made with consent, the one sort of decision we cannot delegate is the election of an important role — particularly the representative. Representatives must be chosen by consent of the circle which they represent. This ensures that the organization is woven together by a web of consent, and that power flows in circles through the entire organization.
* TSG Standard: Patterns for application, Anchoring of SCM in legal terms