Cover Image
close this book Agricultural extension
close this folder Organizing cooperative activity
View the document Introduction
View the document Assessing self-interest and problems
View the document Defining issues and tasks
View the document Clarifying roles and responsibility
View the document Meetings
View the document Group dynamics
View the document Training leaders
View the document Forming associations

Forming associations


If an extensionist helps a group of farmers successfully take part in cooperative activities following the guidelines described in the previous subchapters, the group will likely feel it has a definite identify and purpose. If the activities become important enough to be regularly-scheduled, the group has achieved the status of an association or a cooperative organization.

Because cooperatives so rarely succeed, and rarer still survive, the word "cooperative" is not always associated with successful, conflict free group activity. The word 'association' has a less emotional history and has a more appropriate meaning for extensionists working with small-scale farmers. Associations are groups which have a thematic connection (such as small-scale farming) that crystallizes into cooperative activity when conditions are right. In rare instances these associations do indeed take on continued formal organizational structure, but most do not.

Usually an opportunity to form an association of farmers exists when there is a long-standing history of shared interests and experience among farmers, and some relatively permanent form of cooperation is involved, like a community farm or store. This on-going cooperative interest becomes an impetus for continuing cooperative effort. As long as it serves member needs, the effort will continue.

In order to ensure the continuation of the cooperative association, the extensionist must make sure that the leaders and membership have the skills and training to keep things going. In this instance, the TASK-PERSON scale is tipped almost completely to the person side. The extensionist must be willing to work on every task in such a way that she is passing on skill. The association needs this infusion of new human resources to carry on.

The financial and material needs of an ambitious association are not small either. Here the extensionist can help make the connection between the association and outside resources which the association's new influence can command. It is imperative, however, that the extensionist maintain a clear role as facilitator only, providing indirect service, leadership training, and behind-the-scenes advice. Otherwise, in its zeal to take on new challenge, the association can lapse into a kind of meta-dependence, where the high stakes of cooperating are safely protected by the extensionist's efforts. When the extensionist leaves a situation like that, the effects are disastrous, and the loss of confidence engendered is incalculable.

In order to form an association, farmers and organizer merely transform the process of cooperating into a regularly-repeated, formal procedure. The degree of formality is a matter of choice and scale. The larger the organization, the more formal it must become to maintain order. When a group of farmers work with an extensionist to form a lasting farmers' association, they are exercising their ability to participate in the process of change to its fullest extent.

For ILLUSTRATIONS, see previous sections.


See ICE Co-ops



The Stages of Group Growth

During every group interaction, three types of needs are present: individual needs, group needs, and task needs. The length of time spent on each type of need depends upon many variables, a major one being the phase of group development.



Personal Needs


getting oriented to the group, finding out whether one's personal needs will be met



Group Needs


developing useful membership roles, ground rules, procedures, and group structures as needs emerge



Group Task


focusing on the agreed-upon objective(s)

The following diagram shows different stages in the evolution of a group:

Evolution of a group


Explanation of the Phases

Phase I

Task: Orientation

In the first phase, the needs of group members are to be oriented to the task, that is, to define the task, specify issues, identify expectations, and explore the nature of the work. From this members develop a common understanding of the group's purpose that begins to answer the questions: Why are we here? What are we supposed to do? How are we going to get it done? And, what are our goals?

Personal Relations: Testing and Dependency

In the first phase, participants generally act as if they depend on the leader to provide all the structure. They look to the leader to set the ground rules, establish the agenda, to do all the "leading," while the group members acclimate themselves to the setting. Feelings involved are excitement, apprehension, and confusion. Group members exhibit behavior to test what behavior is acceptable and what is taboo, and begin to establish boundaries, to consider themselves as individuals vis-a-vis the group, and to define the function of the group and the leader.

Concluding Phase I

This phase generally concludes when there is general agreement that the goals are achievable and that change is possible -- whether it be changing behavior, making a decision, or solving a problem.

Phase II

Task: Organizing to Get Work Done

Organizing to get work done involves a number of group decisions. These include:

• Establishing work rules

• Determining limits

• Defining the reward system

• Setting the criteria for the task

• Dividing the work

• Assigning individual responsibility for particular tasks

Personal Relations: Intragroup Conflict

Participants bring to a group activity unique perspectives and many unresolved conflicts with regard to authority, dependency, rules, and agenda. The result is that groups experience interpersonal conflict as they organize to get work done. The conflict may remain hidden, but it is there.

The variety of organizational concerns that emerges reflects the interpersonal conflict over leadrship and the leadership structure, power, and authority.

Awareness of the possibility of change that was begun in Phase I, becomes a denial of the possibility of and the need for change; group members adhere instead to one or another extreme. The feeling level is marked by dependency on old ways and resistance to take the resks that work and change require.

This polarizing effect of early group interactionis documented in the work of Myers and Lamm (1975). After some initial effort to alter previously held positions, group members revert to their previous, pregroup stance and fight to maintain it. This phenomenon, variously described as regression or resistance, seems to occur when the group is perceived as an arena wherein deep-seated values, beliefs, and world views can be challenged. During this pahse, the atmosphere is tense and much work is accomplished.

Concluding Phase II

This phase concludes when group members have struggled enough with each other to resolve, partially, their personal relations concerns (similarities to and differences from other group members, authority, dependency, and leadership) and have agreed upon how they will organize to do the work. This allows issues to emerge that are sufficiently important for the group as a whole to consider.

Phase III

Task: Information Flow

Participants begin sharing ideas and feelings, giving and soliciting feedback, exploring actions, and sharing information related to the task. This is a period during which people become gradually more comfortable about being part of a group. There is an emerging openness with regard to the task.

Personal Relations: Group Cohesion

It is during the third stage of development (assuming the group gets this far) that the participants, having resolved interpersonal conflict, begin to experience catharsis and a feeling of belonging to a group. This enables the group to focus on the task. Different points of view enrich the group process.

This phase is marked by the emergency of a "both/and" attitude on the part of group members, which replaces the "either/or" thinking of Phase II. Power and authority are seen as residing both in the group and in its members. In many theories this is the central period of group development.

During this stage there is sometimes a brief abandonment of the task in which a period of play, an enjoyment of the cohesion being experienced, takes place.

Concluding Phase III

When it becomes apparent that there has been learning in the form of new insights and new solutions to problems, the group moves into phase four.


Phase IV

Task: Problem Solving

During Phase IV, the group's tasks are well-defined, there is a commitment to common activity, and there is support for experimentation in solving problems.

Personal Relations: Interdependence

Stage four, which is not achieved by many groups, is characterized by interdependence in personal relations. Interdependence means that members have the ability to work singly, in any subgroup, or as a total unit.

The group's activities are both collaborative and functionally competitive. The feelings are focused on enjoyment of the here and the now. A reflective, meditative silence coexists with playful and pleasurable interaction with others. The tassk seems completed and there is a need for closure, repose, and quiet.

This movement is marked by integration and celebration. Much work is accomplished; previously difficult issues are simply and easily resolved. There may be attempts by some members of the group to "freeze" change and the group may decide to stop its work here.

Concluding Phase IV

If it develops the awareness that this apparent end point offers the possibility for a new beginning, the group may begin at this new starting point and work through each of the four phases in a somewhat different fashion.