Understanding Trillium Awakening Governance

Trillium Awakening offers a path supported by two autonomous entities: the Trillium Awakening Teachers Circle (TATC) and the Institute of Awakened Mutuality (IAM).  Each has a structure tailored to its purpose and its own form of governance.

We invite you to explore this page to learn more about our organizational structure. If you sense a “tension” in our work (a gap between present reality and potential future), please visit our governance site to see the roles we’ve defined to carry out our purpose. To learn more about Holacracy, visit HolacracyOneMedium, or contact our Secretary.

Trillium Awakening Teachers Circle (TATC)

The Trillium Awakening Teachers Circle was originally incorporated in 2005 as the Waking Down Teachers Association (WDTA), a 501(c)6 nonprofit professional association. In December 2015, the WDTA changed its name to Trillium Awakening Teachers Circle (TATC), and its members now offer Trillium Awakening educational offerings and coaching services, which are informed by principles from the Waking Down teaching.

During its first few years, business matters were largely handled by the entire membership, with each teacher having one vote, and a three-person board serving as president, secretary, and treasurer.

As the WDTA gradually grew to include dozens of teachers, conducting business by consensus proved increasingly unwieldy, and in 2011 the organization began experimenting with Holacracy, a progressive form of governance.

Holacracy is a distributed authority system – a set of “rules of the game” that bake empowerment into the core of the organization. Without relying on parental heroic leaders, everyone becomes a leader of their roles and a follower of others’ roles, while processing tensions with specific authority and accountability through dynamic governance and transparent operations.  Holacracy harnesses the conscious capacity of members to sense “tensions” — dissonance between what is (current reality) and what could be (the purpose of the organization). Without clear and effective channels for processing tensions, they fester into frustrations, burnout, and disengagement. Tensions are useful to the extent they can be processed into meaningful change. Holacracy provides several explicit channels for organizations to process tensions.

In 2012 the TATC formally adopted Holacracy as its operating system. Actions and projects are managed by the Trillium Operations Circle (TAOC), a volunteer group that meets monthly via video conference. TAOC members attune to the needs of the organization and the work it conducts by sensing tensions – the gap between what is and what could be — and defining roles with authority to address them. Role-fillers are given wide latitude to energize their accountabilities. The inquiry “Is it workable for now?” helps keep work flowing, as decisions can easily be revisited when future tensions surface. Role-fillers are free to seek input from others, and may also be required to do so through specific governance.

TAOC members are assigned roles suited to their skills and interests by the Lead Link—one of Holacracy’s core roles. The Lead Link also has authority to allocate resources and add or remove circle members. The entire TATC elects the lead link annually.

Currently, most TATC functions and projects are energized by the TAOC, while key issues of interest to the full membership, including approving mentors and interning teachers, are determined by a majority vote of all teachers. Transitions to interning and full teacher status are determined by a majority vote of full teachers.

We invite you to check out the roles currently energized by TAOC members (who are sometimes assisted by “energizers” outside the circle) at our governance records page. You can click on a role’s name to see its list of accountabilities, and contact the role-filler if you have questions relevant to the function of that role.

Institute of Awakened Mutuality (IAM)

The Institute of Awakened Mutuality was incorporated in 2005 as a 501(c)3 nonprofit educational institution, and was authorized to receive tax-deductible donations. IAM was managed by its staff and board of directors. In 2021, the IAM was dissolved and most of its education offerings were transferred to the Trillium Awakening Teachers Circle.