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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

Organizing cooperative activity

 

Introduction

Extension work can help farmers participate more competently in the process of change in various ways. By providing indirect service, extensionists help farmers link up directly with supportive resources. Through farmer training, farmers learn new skills, knowledge and practices in order to increase their agricultural options.

Organizing cooperative activity, on the other hand, can help farmers on a different level:

• Cooperation is a form of capital farmers do not normally have alone, with which they can address bigger or more complex problems and gain access to a wider range of supportive services.

• Cooperative activity (especially formalized cooperation) institutionalizes changes (new skills and access to new resources) in the form of work companies, pre-cooperatives, co-operatives, etc.


Access to ag support services

 

Cooperative activity concentrates and focuses the most readily available and useful resource each small farmer has - personal skills and resources. Cooperation transforms the personal resources of each person into powerful tools for change and growth. The process of cooperating can transform the people themselves too. Because extension workers wish to help small-scale farmers solve practical problems and grow as people, organizing cooperative activity is a most important skill.

Organizing cooperative activity must be done with great respect for local institutions, customs and cultural norms. Cooperative activities can affect the local balance of influence and authority. The decision to organize should be made by local people themselves for their own purposes. Small-scale farmers can find themselves exerting new-found influence on local events when engaged in organized cooperation. As the most numerous producers in the agrarian economics of developing countries, small-scale farmers need to participate actively in local ag development and change. It must be done sensitively, however.

Institutionalizing change is a very slow process. Appropriate levels of cooperation are planned for various stages of development. At all times, extensionists strive to organize farmers in order to develop collective problem-solving ability, a long-term goal.

There is a wide range of cooperative activity which farmers share. They vary from informal endeavors between family members or friends to formal institutions involving many farmers. A list of the common kinds of informal and formal cooperation among small-scale farmers includes:

informal

sharing a shovel

 

working together on each other's farms

 

sharing water rights

 

joining a seasonal work company

 

renting a truck together to market a crop

 

renting and stocking a storage building

formal

joining a dues-collecting farmers' co-operative

 

Any group of people engaged in cooperative activity goes through a process of group growth. (In Chapter Five, under "Forming Associations" there is a TOOL describing the stages of group growth in detail).

When extensionists organize cooperative activities, they must understand and guide this process. Extensionists can tell the difference between a collection of individuals, a group and an organization. Each has a specific purpose, requires an unique level of cooperation among farmers, and calls upon a special skill on the part of the organizer. Managing group dynamics is an important part of organizing cooperative activities.

Organizing must be distinguished from both "facilitating" (providing indirect service) and management (planning, carrying out and evaluating work). Facilitating is linking farmers and resources directly -- solving problems. Organizing, on the other hand, has two purposes, -- creating capital and insitutionalizinq change. The avowed goal is to create something which lasts. at farmers do with it is up to them.

Bringing farmers together, an extensionist must employ several skills underlined below: In order to understand the collection of individuals who seek to cooperate, the extensionist must assess "self-interests" and local problems. When these interests and problems are analyzed, leaders and the extensionist can define unifying or common issues, to act upon cooperatively. The issues must then be transformed into cooperative tasks which farmers agree to do together Once it becomes clear what needs to be done, the extensionist helps farmers define roles and agree on responsibilities so each task will be done.

In order to discuss these issues and decide how to act, the extensionist develops skill in planning and carrying out meetings and managing group dynamics. So that local people learn organizing skills, an effort is made to train leaders throughout. If the opportunity presents itself, an extensionist may help farmers form associations or co-operatives, the ultimate goal of organizing.

In order to initiate cooperative activity which is not dependent on the organizers, the extensionist's role must be clearly defined and strictly limited. Organizing is a very strict and disciplined form of helping. The extensionist must never make a decision for participating farmers and insistently return the responsibility for each task to the farmers themselves. As an organizer, the extensionist can only consult or assist farmers.

Limiting and defining the helping role like this is never easy, especially because this stance contradicts the persistent expectation that extensionists perform direct services. Organizing is said to follow after direct and indirect service and farmer training for this very reason. The time must be right. Farmers must have the skills and interest to be self-reliant. The extensionist and her farmer friends must work long and hard to change the expectations which colonial extension activity created. Organizing for the future can then begin.

Volunteers who have laid this groundwork for successful organizing can seriously address the issue of working themselves out of a job during the second year of their tour of service. On arriving in a village, an ag extension volunteer represents a new village resource or capital, which can be institutionalized by focusing existing farmer resources through organizing. The beneficial innovations accepted by farmers in a village can be institutionalized too by organizing cooperative activity.

Organizing cooperative activity can lead to greater farmer access to support services. Beneficial change can be institutionalized and twoway communication between researchers and farmers can be greatly improved. Organizing is therefore an extremely valuable extension skill.

 

Assessing self-interest and problems

OVERVIEW

Whether an extension agent is working with a particular existing group or has been asked to help a group organize itself, or has identified the need for a group in a community in order to accomplish a certain goal, the first step in each case must be an assessment of people's interests and problems. This assessment identifies the motivations for cooperative activity. In the case of a simple form of cooperation like sharing a tool, the assessment effort is limited to a quick check to make certain the tool is available, the people involved are agreeable, and a way of sharing can be agreed upon readily.

However, as the type of cooperative activity becomes more ambitious, there is an increased need to study the unique interests of potential participants. Each farmer has a particular set of interests which motivates her to act. People cooperate for a variety of reasons, but, generally speaking, everyone participates in those activities from which they derive some benefit. This is a definition of self-interest. Therefore, cooperative activity must meet the needs of those who participate in order to succeed.

Just as important, however, is an assessment of the problems facing the community. Problems often lend themselves more easily to one type of solution than another. For example, when heavy rains threaten the tiny rice seed beds which thirty farmers individually have made on their own farms, the best solution to the problem is to ask each farmer to open the dikes of his or her rice field which lead to the drainage canal, or, if it is a real emergency, to rush around and do it oneself.

On the other hand, if a small common milking parlor is to be built for a village goat project, it makes sense to organize the livestock farmers to mix and pour the cement floor, build the walls and raise the tin roof together. In the second instance, the scope of the problem is greater than any one farmer's resources, and the benefit of the effort is to be shared among the farmers involved. Studying the nature of community problems, the extensionist can determine whether the effort involved in organizing cooperative activity is worthwhile, and whether cooperative effort is the best means of achieving the solution to the problem.

In order for cooperative activity to work at all, it must be both concretely linked to participants' interests and clearly the most practical way to solve a pressing problem. Otherwise, the barriers to cooperation - mistrust, rivalry, competing interests overwhelm the best of efforts. Cooperation, as inspiring and powerful a force as it is, relies entirely on the motivation of each individual participant. Without focused, committed personal motivation, cooperative efforts fail.

As part of this initial assessment, it is important to pay particular attention to hierarchical structures and interest groups already functioning within a community, for several reasons. There may already be a group which addresses the problem the extensionist and people have identified. Perhaps energy should go to enhancing this effort before embarking upon a new one. Secondly, without a stamp of approval from interest groups and leaders, a new cooperative activity cannot progress very smoothly and probably will not outlast the extensionist's presence in the community.

Knowing the other cooperative activities going on in a community, the extensionist can estimate the amount of competition there will be for participants' time. Also, existing groups are the building blocks for cooperation now and for more sophisticated forms of cooperation in the future. Often the easiest way to solve a problem is to follow the local pattern of activity. (A representative list of interest groups in rural communities is included as an ILLUSTRATION and TOOL following this INTRODUCTION.)

Almost every group at work in a community will have leaders. As the extensionist is observing groups as they work, she should discern who leads them and how that leadership works. This yields clues as to how to organize the leadership of a new cooperative activity, and identifies potential leaders who might be able to participate in the new work.

Finally, it is important to remember that things change. People's interests, the membership, existence and even the leadership of groups are dynamic and open to change. Initial assessments must be constantly updated to gauge these shifts.

ILLUSTRATION

Field notebook entries made while assessing the people's interests and problems in a community where a cooperative peanut marketing venture is contemplated:


Notebook

Existing groups in a community may include:

village elders

elected local authorities

a hierarchy among women (or men)

an agricultural decision-making group

male and female societies or clubs

informal work groups

religious organizations

educational organizations

thrift, credit or savings societies

parent-teacher associations

self-help associations

farmers associations

health committees

youth groups

marketing cooperatives

A partial list of problems that lend themselves to cooperative solutions:

• marketing ag products

• transporting ag products or inputs

• grain storage

• irrigation, wells (water systems)

• farm land development

• building construction

• other public works projects (bridges, dams, etc)

• wholesale inputs procurement

 

Defining issues and tasks

OVERVIEW

As a result of assessing the problems and personal interests of members of the community, the extensionist begins to discern the more pertinent themes which dominate the situation. He begins to see how these concerns overlap or fit together, how the various views of a community problem shed light on those things which a group may be able to address. The extension worker analyzes personal interests to see if there are any common concerns. These issues are really the meeting point between a big problem and personal interests. For example, a grain farmer has a strong sense of responsibility for and pride in maintaining and storing clean, servicable tools. His village is wondering whether to build a community storage building for tools and seed grains. The store can become a strongly-supported issue to the farmer, because a community problem and several personal interests are addressed by the store.

Once motivating issues are identified, they must be transformed into action plans. An action plan is a series of tasks which a cooperating group defines with the help of the extension agent. The tasks are the steps in a practical problem-solving strategy. Large problems, like "inflation" or "lack of income", are often overwhelming in scope and size. Their very scale paralyzes people and reinforces fatalism and powerlessness. When large problems are broken down into motivating issues and even further into concrete tasks, however, they become manageable.

The extensionist helps farmers or community people spell out tasks which are:

immediate

(something which can be addressed right now)

specific

(something you can almost literally put a finger on)

realizable

(within the capacity of a normal person to do)

unifying

(something which brings people together)


Breaking down

 

The manner in which the extension agent facilitates this process appears fairly informal. But, when organizing, the extensionist tries to make every conversation count. Each encounter with community people is an opportunity to bring an issue and tasks to light. While working to make conservations a forum in which problems are reduced to more manageable issues, the extensionist must seek opportunities to bring people together to share their emerging common concerns. "Did you know that Mrs. Smart feels the same way you do?" and "Have you checked with anyone else on your street?" are questions the organizer asks at this point. In Chapter Four there is an illustration of the process of directed questioning by which an extensionist can help a farmer reach a conclusion by following the logic of a series of questions. That technique can be applied here to good effect.

As issues are being clarified and communicated to various people in a community some specific tasks emerge and exert their influence on people. A cooperative activity is waiting to be born. When people feel a need to meet together to verify the issues, it is time to set up an action plan and to assign tasks to be completed.

ILLUSTRATION

PROBLEM:

Hungry-season rice shortage

PERCEPTIONS:

Kadi says she has two bushels of rice left but she knows it will run out before the harvest, and she has 12 people to cook for each day.

 

Momodu worries because he is trying to complete his new house before the rains come again. HP must find enough rice to feed the work crews or he won't finish on time.

 

Samba knows that her rice will be ready to harvest in two months. She doesn't know what will happen. If she eats all her rice, she won't have seed for next planting, not enough to pay her son's school fees.

 

Ishmael is the village chief. He knows that if the hungry season shortages are bad, he cannot expect repayment of seed rice and money loans he extended to farmers last season. He also will be affected.

POSSIBLE ISSUES:

The need for higher yields or double-cropping (shorter duration varieties)

 

The need for better storage facilities

POSSIBLE TASKS:

ISSUE the need for higher yields

 

large TASKS

1. Exact calculation of current yields and varieties

   

2. Troubleshooting yield-limiting factors

   

3. Soil test

   

4. Identification of locally-tested higher-yield variety

   

5. Meeting to present findings and decide what to do

   

6. Cooperative procurement of seed and management practices

   

7. Method/result demo for all farmers on head farmer's field.

   

8. Use of seed on farms

   

9. Cooperative seed procurement

 

Small tasks

• agree on variety and time frame

 

• collect pledges (price of seed) from farmers

 

• verify collection at meeting

 

• arrange transport for seed and buyer

 

• make appointment with seed seller

 

• procure seed and return

 

• distribute seed at meeting

 

• rest and recuperate

1. TASK CRITERIA FOR COOPERATIVE ACTIVITY Tasks must be:

• immediate

• specific

• realizable

• unifying

2. GUIDELINES FOR FOCUSING CONVERSATION ON ISSUES AND TASKS TOWARD ORGANIZING COOPERATIVE ACTIVITY :

• Concentrate on asking open-ended questions about the general problem you and the farmer are concerned about.

• Help the farmer see that the problem is common to other community members. Try to explore with her the extent to which the problem, especially a specific issue she holds as important, is shared by others.

• Focus on what this particular farmer thinks should be done and especially on what she would be willing to do to help.

• Test the farmer's interest in pursuing the issue by ending the conversation by asking some form of commitment pertaining to the issue at hand. ("Can see you tomorrow again about this?" "Would you see if we could chat with your neighbor about this tomorrow?")

• When the time is right, enlist the farmer's support in contributing to the contemplated cooperative activity.

 

Clarifying roles and responsibility

OVERVIEW

As group activities come together, their complexity usually comes into focus gradually. The previous ILLUSTRATION presents one level of tasks which are not specific enough so they are broken down again into even more concrete, realizable steps. As this long list of details unravels, the question of organization and keeping track of things comes to mind. How does a group make certain that a long list of tasks contributing to a larger cooperative activity is completed?

Essentially this a matter of planning. However, it is a special kind of group planning in which a variety of people are asked to carry out a number of different tasks. First of all, the list of tasks to be accomplished must be as specific, detailed and complete as possible. Participants have to agree that this list is exactly what they wish to do. The method by which each task is accomplished must also be clear.

Having finalized the list, the organizer begins a process of contracting, similar to that described in Chapter Three under "Working With Counterparts". To apply it to a group situation, the organizer begins by helping the participants clarify the purpose of their cooperation and the overall goal of their work. Then the participants might share expectations of their roles, what is to happen, and how things are to be done. In a discussion following, carefully monitored by the organizer/extensionist or a trained counterpart, various expectations are verged and adjusted to fit together into a rough work plan. The work plan is finalized through negotiation of the specific points in the work plan - what is to be done, by whom, how and when. At this point people should match their skills and interests with the tasks listed to do. The organizer asks participants to review these details and agree on them and the overall plan of work. Finally, the organizer asks each person involved to commit herself to a specific role and set of responsibilities within the cooperative activity. A time is set to meet to do the work, and another time is agreed upon to evaluate the results of the work.

The formula for this process is fairly simple. But the effort involved in group decision-making of this kind, especially among those new to this way of working, is enormous. It requires great patience and many hours of preparation. Participants must be ready to do this, and issues/tasks must be clear enough beforehand for this contract to evolve smoothly.

This rigorous process of role and responsibility clarification is important because unfamiliar forms of cooperation are often mistrusted until proven profitable to participants. Even in villages where family and communal cooperation is a norm, it is hard for individuals to perceive the value (for them) of other common efforts. Traditional cooperation has proven its usefulness over generations. If a West African farmer shares his bounty at harvest with his extended family and chief, the odd lean year will not be as problematic, because they will reciprocate. The pattern of contribution and return is well-understood and trustworthy in this instance. But cooperative efforts outside the strict circle of tradition require a special investment effort.

Furthermore, cooperative activities are sometimes poorly organized (especially by impatient or inexperienced outsiders). These result in disappointments which reinforce suspicions about common efforts. By rigorously planning the manner in which participants play their parts, the organizer helps allay these fears and demonstrate the fact that everyone is contributing in an equitable way. The plan becomes a reference point for mediating disputes or clarifying misunderstandings. It also serves the practical purpose of keeping track of who does what, when.

It is here, during the discussion of tasks and roles, that the extensionist must learn to say "NO". The organizer's task is to organize cooperative activity. Participants do the cooperative tasks. If the organizing has been successful to this point, the extensionist's role is to remain in the background, to depart from center stage. The extensionist takes total responsibility for assessing the need for cooperative activity. She assesses interests and problems, identifies common issues with people, begins to see tentative tasks emerge, and, most importantly moves people toward coming together to decide on tasks, role and responsibilities. At this meeting the organizer should be behind the scenes, if her organizing efforts have been successful. When farmers look to her to solve the problem they themselves consider addressing though cooperative effort, the extensionist says "NO".

For the most part this set of agreements is made in discussions with participants. The organizer plays the role of bringing people together and asking the questions which stimulate group decision-making. In rural communities in developing countries the community meeting is a familiar forum for such discussions. The importance of the spoken word in situations like these is due to the fact that literacy is not often widespread and oratory is a time-honored skill. Oral contracts, witnessed by others, are often the most legal and binding commitments in village communities. The organizer must learn what the most appropriate form of agreement is in his situation, and conform to it. The cultural appropriateness of contracts gives them added weight and influence.

ILLUSTRATION

Excerpt from a conversation between Bill Moyers, TV interviewer, and Myles Horton, founder of Highlander Research and Education Center in Appalachia:

MOYERS: Was this place, Lumberton, North Carolina, when the four guys came after you with the guns and you made your best speech?

HORTON: Oh, yeah, that's-I had some experiences there, that was very educational to me.

MOYERS: What happened that time?

HORTON: I was trying to get those people to make a decision. Because the big thing is to get people to have confidence they can make decisions. I was doing pretty well, so they made all the plans, and committees were set up, and they'd made all the decisions. I just sat with them, and encouraged them to make decisions, but it got pretty rough. And it looked like it was about to fail. The committee got pretty desperate, they weren't so sure of themselves. So they came up to my room one time and said "We got to talk about plans." And they talked it over and said, "Myles, you got to tell us what to do. We've just gone as far as we can." and I said, "You've got to run this union, so you might as well learn. You learn when it's easy, and you learn when it's rough. And if you don't learn to make tough decisions, you know. I learned. I get the learning experience you don't, I need it less than you do. You need the learning experience. I can get along without you know. So you've got to make the decision." They said, "but there's 2,000 people involved in this decision." And I said, "Sure, that's why you, you know, it's rather important decision but you've got to make it. " And one guy say, you know, "You've gotta, you gotta make this decision." I said "No, no, I --" And he says, "Now you're not at Highlander running a school, you'v got to do this." So I said, "No, you've gotta make it." So he just pulled -reached in his pocket and pulled out a gun, and he said "You sonuvabitch make this decision right now". (laughs) I came nearer to going back on my principles of education than I ever did in my life.

MOYERS: But did you stick firm?

HORTON: Yeah, I did, I said "Well", I said you know, "You can win this round, but you still won't know how to make decisions after you get through."

1. See Chapter Six under "Planning" and "Carryring Out Plans".

2. See Chapter Three under "Working With Counterparts".

3. See the following subchapter "Meetings" and "Group Dynamics".

DECISION-MAKING PROCEDURES

(from US Dept of Health & Human Services, Training of Trainers Manual)

Many decisions are made in groups before full consideration has been given to the effects these decisions will have on other members. Some people try to impose their decisions on the group, while others want all members to participate or share in the decisions that are made.

• Does anyone make a decision and carry it out without checking with other group members (self-authorized)? For example, does anyone decide on the topic to be discussed and immediately begin to talk about it? What effect does this have on others?

• Does the group drift from topic to topic? Who topic-jumps? Do you see any reason fo this in the group's interactions?

• Who supports other members' suggestions or decisons? Does this support result in the two members deciding the topic or activity for the group? How does this affect others?

• Is there any evidence of a majority pushing a decision through over other members' objections? Do they call for a vote (majority support)?

• Is there any attempt to get all members participating in a decision (consensus)? What effect does this seem to have on the group?

• Does anyone make contributions that receive no response or recognition? What effect does this have on the member?

 

Meetings

OVERVIEW

Even after all the footwork detailed in the previous sections, meetings do not just happen. The process of assessing interests and problems and defining issues and tasks is the most important part of initiating meetings, however. Meetings actually are the end result of this long process, even though they often signal the beginning of cooperative activity. This footwork is the organizers' responsibility, while the meeting itself is the forum in which the organizer transfers all responsibility for group cooperation back to the group, through local leaders.

The end result of the preparation process is a series of individual commitments not only to come to a meeting but to participate in specific ways as well. Each member of a cooperating group has something to offer, some skill and some overriding interest to pursue. This potential energy source is harvested for the group's cooperative needs by means of the commitment the organizer hears from each participant. Having solicited and orchestrated these commitments along with the issues and tentative tasks to be discussed, the organizer begins to plan the meeting with local leaders. A "map" of the terrain of the probable discussion is made. A formal map of this kind is called an agenda.

Planning a meeting involves deciding upon the subject matter to be discussed, setting up the logistics of the meeting itself and clarifying the process by which decisions will be made. The subject matter is dictated by the issues and tentative tasks which have envolved through individual discussion of the overall problem. Priorities can be established by answering questions like: What specific thing is it best to accomplish in this meeting? What is possible in the time allowed? What will be presented as the specific purpose of this meeting?

The logistics of a group meeting must be well planned so they contribute to rather than detract from the meeting's success. Determining the number of people to come and the type of meeting it is to be, leaders can decide where the most appropriate site may be. The time, place and date must then be set, considering competing interests and local custom. The participants should be asked if the logistics (especially time) suit them, so final adjustments can be made.

The organizer and leaders should make sure there is maximum participation, no one is left out, and items are considered carefully and systematically. An understanding of how groups work and make decisions is crucial to guiding the meeting process. The following subchapter "Group Dynamcis" explores this in depth. At this stage leaders try to define steps the group can take which will bring people through fruitful discussion to agreement on the tasks and roles they will take on. Leaders leave room in this plan for variations and options which the group may exercise, because meetings never go exactly as planned, and arbitrarily tight control which is not sensitive to the needs of participants can hinder group efforts considerably. The plan of how things may go is a tentative and fluid guide by which leaders can keep the meeting on track while adjusting to needs as they arise.

An agenda or list of the steps of the meetings and topics to be discussed should be devised and shared with participants if possible before the meeting commences. In the case of oral cultural situations, this can be done informally by word of mouth, although written agendas are also common. By sharing the agenda beforehand, each participant is clued in to how he or she fits into the meeting. "Oh, this is where I can say my thing." A shared agenda may also be used as the meeting guide without being an arbitrary source of power. The agenda can be discussed, adjusted and agreed upon to begin meetings, in order to assure group allegiance.

By sticking to an agreed-upon agenda based on rigorous organizing footwork beforehand, a meeting can progress fairly smoothly. Each meeting takes on its own characteristics and nature, however, and going with the flow of things as they come up (as long as they are not too far off the subject) helps a meeting move toward its conclusion. Leaders function best when they balance the need for orderly progress with an ability to adjust to the way ideas and topics come up spontaneously. Meeting are most successful when they are lively and well-paced.

A meeting should always end with a summary in order to remind participants of concrete results and commitments made. The last thing with which to end a meeting, business-wise, is an agreement as to the time and place of the next meeting As for the style of meetings beyond these suggestions, local custom and hat t should dictate the details. American college students find it normal to sit in a circle and act as equals without a real authority figure. In some communities tradition dictates a clear line of authority and a formal process of discussion involving spokespeople, parliamentary procedure or other conventions. These various styles must be respecfully employed, tailoring the suggestions made here to fit into any cultural patterns. That kind of sensitivity can itself lend weight to the process of group decision-making and contribute to the overall success of cooperative activity.


Steps in decision - making model


Review check sheet for leaders of meetings

How to lead the meeting (Kenya/AID Ag Extension Manual)

1. Open the meeting.

(i) Put the group at ease.

• Se at ease yourself.

• Tell the story.

• Relate to current events.

• Use well modulated, low voice.

• Make introductions.

(ii) State objectives and explain plan.

• A clear statement starts off the meeting with proper direction.

• State overall objectives.

• State immediate objectives.

• Let the group make every decision possible.

(1) Who will take the minutes?

(2) How long will the meeting last?

(3) What about tea breaks?

(4) Are individual notes necessary?

(5) Are questions permissable?

(6) Are special speakers needed?

(7) Will individual assignments be made?

(8) What form of summary will be given?

(9) Will mimeo summaries be mailed to members?

(iii) Arouse interest.

• Develop friendly attitude toward the group.

• Establish a need for their thinking and cooperation.

• Associate objectives and subject with the group's experience.

• Point out personal benefits.

• Use friendly competition.

• Use visuals, etc.

2. Present the facts

(i) Present the: facts clearly.

• Clear thinking precedes clear expression.

• Present one idea at a time.

• Relate ideas.

• Use language for group level.

(ii) Stimulate and direct discussion.

• How would you do it in your district?

• Where would you get the information?

• What evidence is there that this is true?

• Give us an example of what you mean.

• If this is true, what shall we do?

• When shall we put it into effect?

• Who is most concerned in your district?

• How would Mr. X's idea work?

• Why is it necessary to do this?

NOTE:

The above questions are samples of how to encourage discussion. Your questions are better, but design them to fit the situation and to bring out the facts.

(iii) Keeping discussion moving.

• Use chalk board for the objectives.

• Re-stating the objectives.

• Asking questions.

• Appoint someone to study questions which are doubtful as to use.

• When the purpose of the meeting is accomplished bring it to a close.

(iv) Encourage thinking by every individual present.

• Do not allow one or two persons to dominate the discussion.

• Keep a participation chart.

3. Weigh the facts.

(i) Help the group weigh the facts.

• Condense ideas into short statement.

• Weigh actions against objectives.

(ii) Get group acceptance.

• Use blackboard to list objectives.

(iii) Summarize frequently.

• "Let's see where we are now"

• Use questions to sharpen the facts on the objectives.

• Use questions to steer the group.

4. Sum up.

(i) Summarize agreements or conclusions.

• The chairman is reponsible for "nailing down. the conclusions.

• Get down in writing the cold facts concluded.

(ii) Indicate the action needed.

• What is going to be done about it.

• Where are we going from here?

• Get the group to indicate action needed.

(iii) Make follow-up assignments.

• Who is to do the work.

• Write down the assignments.

• Appoint a committee for further study.

• Request special reports from individuals.

• Write up, distribute and file minutes.

• Report the meeting to the press.

• Inform absent members of actions.

• Assign responsibility for future meetings.

(iv) Close on time.

• Think of your audience

• If it runs over time; excuse those who must go.

• Unfinished business can be carried on at future meetings.

• Do not plan to do more than is possible in the time scheduled.

 

Group dynamics

OVERVIEW

Groups exist for a variety of reasons and have different methods of pursuing their purposes. Often, several of the functions described below are performed within one group. For example, an educational group may impart information and give practice in skill acquisition. Rarely does a group concern itself with a single function. These functions of groups are:

• Imparting information. A group performing this function emphasizes passing information among group members, or between a resource person and the group.

• Skill acquisition. A group concerned with this function emphasizes the acquiring of abilities. While an information imparting group, as described above, would stress the knowledge of theories or techniques, a skills acquisition group focuses on the practical application of this information. An example of this kind of group is a workshop where participants learn and practice new counseling techniques.

• Actualization. This group focuses on the members themselves. It stresses feelings, awareness, and self-expression. Consciousness-raising groups and groups practicing values clarification are two examples of actualization.

• Setting objectives. The focus of this kind of function is on choice and commitment--on making a decision. The group is choosing among alternatives in order to take a stand, develop a policy, or select a specific direction of action. An example of setting objectives is when a group passes judgment on recommendations of a subcommittee.

• Task performance. A task group is one whose function is to do a job, whether it be a specific job (develop a new curriculum for a new school) or a general job (increase public understanding of pollution). The first three kinds of functions are education; the fourth kind of function (setting objectives) involves characteristics of both educational and task groups.

Dividing lines between these categories are not always sharp. A group's purpose may vary from meeting to meeting, or may involve a combination of the above types. For instance, a committee appointed by a mayor to recommend guidelines for developing youth programs in the city may act first as an information-imparting group as it studies existing programs. It may resemble an actualization group when members try to identify and understand human needs. It is setting objectives when it selects which needs are most relevant and what programs are most worth supporting. Finally, it is a task group as it prepares a proposal to return to the mayor. As leaders plan for facilitation, it is valuable to keep in mind the functions of the groups they will be working with.

All human interactions have two major ingredients--content and process. The first deals with the subject matter or the task with which the group is working. In most interactions, the main focus is on the content. The second ingredient, process, is concerned with what is happening between and to group members while the group is working. The group process, as it emerges in this course, encompasses tone, atmosphere, participation, styles of influence, leadership struggles, conflict, competition, and cooperation. In most interactions, very little attention is paid to process, even when it is the major cause of ineffective group action. Sensitivity to group process will better enable trainers to diagnose group problems early, and deal with them more effectively, and will enable trainees to be more effective participants.

Verbal participation is one indication of involvement. Leaders should look for different participation within the group.

• Who participates more than others?

• Who participates less?

• Do you see any shift in participation, e.g., frequent participators becoming quiet, infrequent participators suddenly becoming talkative? Do you see any possible reason for this in the group's interaction?

• How are those who remain silent treated? How is their silence interpreted--content, disagreement, disinterest, fear, etc.?

• Who talks to whom? Do you see any reason for this in the group's interactions?

• Who keeps the ball rolling? Shy? Do you see any reason for this in the group's interactions?

Influence and participation are not the same. Some people may speak very little yet they capture the attention of the whole group. Others may talk a lot, but are generally not listened to by other members.

• Which members are high in influence? That is, when they talk, do others seem to listen?

• Which members are low in influence? Is there any shifting in influence?

• Do you see any rivalry in the group? Is there a struggle for leadership? What effect does it have on other group members?

Influence can take many forms. It can be positive or negative; it can enlist the support or cooperation of others or alienate them. How a person attempts to influence another may be the determining factor in the other's receptivity. There are at least four styles of influence that frequently emerge in groups.

• Autocratic--Does anyone attempt to impose her will or values on others or try to push them to support her decisions? Who evaluates or passes judgment on other group members? Do any members block action when it is not moving in the direction they desire? Who pushes to "get the group organized?"

• Peacemaker--Who eagerly supports other's decisions? Does anyone consistently try to avoid conflict or unpleasant feelings from being expressed by pouring oil on the troubled waters? Is any member typically deferential toward other group members (thus giving others power)? Do any members appear to avoid giving negative feedback, i.e. will they level only when they have positive feedback to give?

• Laissez-faire--Are any group members getting attention because of their apparent lack of involvement in the group? Does any group member go along with group decisions without seeming to commit herself one way or the other? Who seems to be withdrawn and uninvolved? Who does not initiate activity, or participates mechanically and only in response to another member's question?

• Democratic--Does anyone try to include everyone in a group discussion or decision? Who expresses her feelings and opinions openly and directly without evaluating or judging others? When feelings run high and tensions mount, which members attempt to deal with the conflict in a problem-solving way?

A major concern for group members is the degree to which they are accepted by the group. Different patterns of interaction may develop in the group that give clues to the degree and kind of membership.

• Are there any subgroups? (Two or three members may band together for a period of time during which they consistently agree and support each other. Or several members may consistently disagree and oppose one another.)

• Do some people seem to be "outside" the group? Are some "in?" How are those "outside" treated?

During any group discussion, feelings are frequently generated by the interactions between members. Although these feelings are rarely discussed, the tone of voice, facial expressions, gestures, and many other forms of nonverbal cues can help observers understand what participants are feeling.

• What signs of feelings do you observe in group members (anger, irritation, frustration, warmth, affection, excitement, boredom, defensiveness, competitiveness)?

• Do you see any attempts by group members to block the expression of feelings, particularly painful feelings? How is this done? Does anyone do this consistently?

There are certain functions that should be carried out in order to get work done. The leaders will improve their understanding of the process if they take a look at how these functions are accomplished.

• Does anyone ask for or make suggestions as to the best way to proceed or to tackle a problem?

• Does anyone attempt to summarize what has been covered or what has been going on in the group?

• Is there any giving or asking for facts, ideas, opinions, feelings, feedback, or searching for alternatives?

• Who keeps the group on target? Who prevents topic jumping or going off on tangents?

These functions are important to the morale of the group. Their performance (or the lack thereof) can maintain or destroy good and harmonious working relationships among the members. When properly carried out, these functions can create an atmosphere that enhances each member's ability to contribute maximally.

• Who helps others get into the discussion (gate openers)?

• Who cuts off others or interrupts them (gate closers)?

• How well are members getting their ideas across? Are some members preoccupied and not listening? Are there any attempts by group members to help others clarify their ideas?

• How are ideas rejected? How do members react when their ideas are not accepted? Do members attempt to support others when they reject their ideas?

The way a group works creates an atmosphere that, in turn, is revealed in a general impression. Trying to capture this impression in words will give the leader some insight into what people do and do not like about the group environment.

• Who seems to prefer a friendly congenial atmosphere? Is there any attempt to suppress conflict or unpleasant feeling?

• Who seems to prefer an atmosphere of conflict and disagreement? Do any members provoke or annoy others?

• Do people seem involved and interested? What is the atmosphere like?

• Are group members overly nice or polite to each other? Are only pleasurable feelings expressed? Do members agree with each other too readily? What happens when members disagree?

• Do you see norms operating about participation or the kinds of questions that are allowed (e.g., "If I talk, you must talk," or "If I tell my problems, you have to tell yours")? Do members feel free to ask each other about their feelings? Do questions tend to be restricted to intellectual topics or events outside of the group?

What the group is talking about is content. How the group is handling its communication, i.e., who talks how much or who talks to whom, is group process.

In fact, the content of the conversation is often a good clue to what process issue may be on people's minds when participants find it difficult to confront an issue directly.

When an extensionist and the local leaders who act as her counterparts in organizing group activity have a clear understanding of groups dynamics, they stand a much better chance of facilitating successful group endeavors and maintaining harmony among those involved.

ILLUSTRATION

The island people have been meeting on the first Wednesday of every month at two o'clock for the few years since it had been organized by Ernie Camphill, the dynamic leader who used to work here. It had been some time since he had the time to work with island folks. Rachel, the new county agent, comes over on the county boat wondering what to expect.

At fifteen minutes to two the children begin filing out of the one room school house where the meeting is to be held. Slowly some of the island folks drift toward the school. The chairman and the secretary sit in the front. County community service workers like Rachel sit in the school chairs facing them. Nothing happens for a while. Finally, the coop meeting being adjourned, a few more island folks come in. The chairman opens the meeting in his soft voice and the secretary reads the minutes of the last meeting. After a few moments of silence, the secretary asks if someone from the island would please move to accept the minutes. The majority of those attending the meeting are visitors and don't realize that is what should happen next. Finally a motion is made and seconded.

The chairman asks if there is any ''old business". A woman asks a question about land taxes, even though neither the old minutes or present agenda mention taxes. A ten minutes discussion of taxes sidetracks the meeting. Finally, the chairman asks for any new business. After a pause, several of the community service people rise to speak about the purposes of their visit and items of interest to them. Two islanders leave. Of the remaining islanders present, three stand against the wall near a side door. One sits in the front row attentively, but she is on-call with an emergency unit so she looks worried.

An older woman who is president of the island co-op reports that the coop needs a considerable loan. She asks the island association for help. This prompts a tall, angular island woman to rise from her position leaning against the far wall. She proceeds to speak eloquently and sarcastically about the poor motivation of the co-op and organization members. She asks how the organization can extend a loan when members do not even pay their dues. She pulls out her five dollar dues and give it to the secretary dramatically.

The secretary proceeds to call the roll of members dutifully. Several islanders leave before their names are called. Only a handful pay their dues. See what I mean? the tall women declares. The president of the coop wearily asks the meeting for a clear decision on her loan request. After another pause, the secretary reports that there is not enough money to loan even if members agreed to do so.

Rachel is confused. She is not even sure what the purpose or function of this meeting is supposed to be. Some participants came to impart information while others came for action. Rachel herself wonders, after seeing the islanders exhibit such alienated behavior, what the group's feelings are about their group. She notices that participation seems haphazed and limited; there is rivalry in the group; decisions are not made clearly; membership itself is in question. The group atmosphere seems vague and uncomfortable, and no one seems to be maintaining group cohesion or purpose very well. She wonders how open the chairman and secretary are to some suggestions about how to facilitate their group activities better. Even on an island where everyone is very close to begin with, Rachel realizes that groups do not necessarily work well together. She leaves, resolved to plan a way to help the island group function more effectively.


Group Growth Model

(Training of Trainers Manual )

GROUP GROWTH

(TOT Manual)

As a group begins its life and at several points during its growth, the loeader and members might individually fill out the following scales and then spend some time sharing the data that is collected. Through these scales, it is possible to get a general picture of the perceptions which various members have about the group and how it is growing. It is also possible to pick up areas in which there may be some difficulties which are blocking progress.


Group growth


Group growth - continue

 

Training leaders

OVERVIEW

Group leaders are not always the titular leaders one encounters in a community. Often leaders vary depending on the task or the nature of a group. Ideally leadership in group activities emerges as the process of planning and working together progresses. On the other hand, the extension worker should not take the training of leaders for granted.

During the early stages of organizing cooperative activity as problems and interests are being assessed, the extensionist should also look for people whom others follow. Opinion-leaders, skilled craftspeople or technicians, orators and charismatic characters can be identified. At this point it is useful to let leadership fluctuate and change naturally in order to minimize rivalry and to allow the most appropriate leader to arise.

In certain kinds of cooperative activities, specific qualities of leadership should be sought out. For example, when the activity is a field day to arouse interest in new practices among neighboring farmers, a charismatic, eloquent and respected farmer might best lead. On the other hand, if the activity is a tough physical task like digging out a fish pond or constructing an earthen dam, a forceful and hard-working leader might be best. The point is to become aware of potential leaders and to earmark them for specific leadership tasks as work begins.

Leadership in small rural communities must maintain a strong tie to tradition and local custom. Where women are typically in charge of a certain kind of activity for example, suggesting a man would be foolish. Similarly, leadership of cooperative activity works best when it parallels the lines of leadership in the local community. This minimizes rivalry and where possible avoids the issue of politics. Leaders, for this reason, should be chosen ultimately by group participants.

The process of training a potential leader in the skills of organizing is the same process as that of training a counterpart outlined in Chapter Three, "Working With Counterparts". The same three elements pertain: transferring responsibility, helping the person acquire skills, and defining clear and consistent roles. Skill and responsiblity are transferred by means of the same deliberate process as well:

• demonstrate and explain a task

• do it with the leader's help

• ask the leader to do it with the extensionist's help

• ask the leader to demonstrate it to the extensionist

• ask the leader to do it in a real situation

Group situations tend to exert considerable pressure on leaders learning new skills. That is why they often feel dependent on the organizer, feeling "I can't make any mistakes, not on this scale. " But as was illustrated in the previous section it is essential that, having prepared a leader adequately, the organizer learns to say "NO". For, as the organizer in that illustration says, "When will you ever learn to make decisions?"

Giving and receiving useful feedback is an essential skill when training leaders. They must feel free to come to the organizer both for help and helpful criticism, and to give the organizer feedback, too.

By training leaders to take over the roles of organizer and guide of cooperative activities, extension workers promote a lasting form of "competent autonomy" among farm communities. When groups of farmers can organize and carry out cooperative activities successfully, they have gone a long way towards discovering their own resources for growth and change.

 

ILLUSTRATION

On arriving in the village, the extension agent was introduced to local farmers at the monthly co-op meeting. President, vice-president, treasurer and other officers, as well as neighborhood leaders all greeted him. The agent found the co-op to be highly organized, and he wondered what he could help to accomplish. He found, after several months of observation and inquiry, that the co-op had been approached several times by a regional businessman to be the supplier of vegetables and grain to the market. Due to past experiences which failed, and to the limited market analysis skills of the co-op's leaders, the co-op had never considered the matter seriously, even though the extension worker was reasonable sure the co-op could profit enormously. The limit of the co-op leaders' skills and experience really seemed to restrict the group's ability to grow. The extensionist drew on his college economics background. He solicited the help of an amenable co-op officer, who had also studied economics. Together they calculated the cost/benefit of selling crops to the town market. They then sold a small amount, realizing a modest profit. The co-op officer talked informally to other officers and finally made a presentation to the entire co-op, explaining very simply what the market venture cost, and what the profit was. The co-op officers and members took the idea of working with the town market into serious consideration.

 

DESIRABLE LEADER CHARACTERISTICS: A SAMPLE LIST (TOT Manual)

Self-awareness, including a sense of the impact of his or her own behavior on others.

Ability to receive feedback from the environment.

Ability to encourage the taking of risks without humiliating participants.

Ability to deal with own feelings and the feelings of others.

Undertanding and ability to manage group process.

An ability to make appropriate interventions, especially feedback, even when it is perceived as painful.

Ability to make clear presentations.

Ability to establish objectives and to move a group towards them.

Group facilitation, including the ability to let the group work on its own.

Cultural sensitivity to the many different ways of viewing things.

Ability to understand group process and the stages of group life.

Flexibility and adaptability in regard to the group's needs.

Planning and organizing presentations, the how and when of interventions.

Good delivery skills; stand-up skills.

Respect for needs of adult learners and ability to put adult learning theory into practice.

Holds all group members in "unconditional positive regard."

Has patience and paces self in accordance with the group's developmental phase.

Has communication skills.

Can deal with volatile material.

Can evaluate the training event.

Able to model behaviors that are taught.

Can allow criticism of self.

POOR LEADER CHARACTERISTICS: A SAMPLE LIST (TOT Manual)

Uses warnings and threats to get group moving.

Intervenes excessively.

Is the center of the process; does not allow group to work on its own.

Subtly or overtly insists on particular behaviors from group members.

Has little awareness of his or her impact on others.

Is not able to receive feedback.

Humiliates participants into taking risks.

Is unable to respond to process.

Avoids giving feedback when it is painful.

Poor delivery skills.

Gives unclear or disorganized presentations.

Lack of sensitivity to cultures or viewpoints different from his or her own.

Rigid and unadapting with regard to group's needs.

Unable to plan and organize events.

Violates needs of adult learners.

Does not expect to have respect or positive regard for all participants.

Poor communication skills.

Impatient and poor at pacing himself or herself.

Spends no time or is unable to evaluate a training event.

Is intolerant of any criticism directed at him or her.


Leadership Style

 

In the extreme leader-oriented (autocratic) style, the leader determines the problems and makes the final decision. He/she is often concerned that the group function efficiently and accomplish the tasks set before it. The process of the group, or how the members work together, is of little interest to the autocrate. This leader focuses almost exclusively on content.

In the extreme group-oriented (laissez-faire) approach, the group is allowed to determine the problems and to make the decisions. This leader keeps a very low profile and is content to let the group set its own course. To the laissez-faire leader, the end result is much less mportant than the question of how the group gets there.

In between the two extremes are any number of combinations of group and leader orientation. Most often, the style of a group leader is somewhere in the middle--such a leader might determine the area on which the group should focus and then will help the group work through the issue.

Although everyone has a style of leading with which he/she is most comfortable, conditions often exist that create pressures to adopt a more leader-centered or group-centered approach. Factors that generally favor greater leader involvement are the following:

• The urgency of the problem: When a decision must be reached quickly, the leader may need to make the decision. Decisions made by the leader are usually reached more quickly than are decisions made by the group.

• Lack of group skills: When a group has not developed a system for processing issues or is unclear about its goals, the leader is likely to assume a larger role.

• Expectations of the leader: In many groups, members have unrealistic expectations of what the leader can do for them. Sometimes the group will pressure the leader (as the "expert") to make decisions for them.

• Leader discomfort: The novice leader, especially, may feel uncomfortable when he/she perceives that nothing is happening in the group. A common response to this is to try to initiate some activity by taking charge.

Parallel conditions exist that promote greater involvement by the group.

• No time pressure: If a group has no time limits, the leader can afford to sit and wait until the tension level of the group rises and the group initiates its own activity.

• Group skills: When a group is established and the members trust each other and are comfortable in their roles, the leader often can stay in the background and let the group lead itself. But even this mature group may require direction from the leader if it becomes counterproductive.

• Group potency: When the group has developed a cohesiveness, the members often will not rely on the leader, but will look for leadership from within the group.

• Leader comfort: The leader who has been through uncomfortable situations before is likely to be less threatened when they recur. He/she may choose to sit back and allow tensions to build to the point where the group must examine the problem.

The question of appropriate leadership styles arises in every group. Of course, many factors are specific to each group (for example, the composition of the group) and these affect the style of leadership. But many groups also progress through stages where different functions may be required of the leader. For instance, in the early stages of a group, the leader may have to be more directive, setting norms and goals and helping the members get acquainted. The leader must be careful, though, not to establish a precedent where the members rely on him/her to resolve group issues. Then at a later stage, the leader may want to become more nondirective and let the group resolve its problems through procedures established since the group's inception.

No leadership style can be considered foolproof. A directive leader probably will be confronted with aggressive and blocking behavior and challenges to his/her authority. The nondirective leader will encounter demands for more structure by group members. The effective group leader must be aware of the different leadership strategies appropriate to the stage of group growth and to the problems the group is facing. Finally, he/she must realize that, even with appropriate leadership, tensions are bound to arise occasionally. Although these tensions can make the leader uncomfortable, they often are helpful in promoting group growth.

 

Forming associations

OVERVIEW

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.

TOOL

See ICE Co-ops

Packet.

1. THEORY OF GROUP DEVELOPMENT (TOT Manual)

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.

I

=

Personal Needs

--

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

We

=

Group Needs

--

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

It

=

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.