|Education for Health (WHO, 1988, 261 pages)|
|Chapter 5: Health education with groups|
There are two main kinds of group. Those that are very well organized, such as farmers' cooperatives, are formal groups. Those that are not organized, such as the people attending market on a particular day, are informal gatherings.
The following are some characteristics of formal groups.
- A formal group has a purpose or goal that everyone in the group knows, accepts, and tries to achieve by working together with the others.
- There is a set membership, so people know who belongs and who does not.
- There are recognized leaders (group members who have the special responsibility of guiding the group towards achievement of its goals).
- There are organized activities such as regular meetings and projects.
- The group has rules that members agree to follow.
- Attention is paid to the welfare of the members.
The people in an informal gathering have some feature in common, but no special goal that they are trying to achieve together. For example, most of those attending a preschool clinic are women (with their children); their common feature is that they are mothers and that each is concerned about her child. Of course, once the group is assembled at the clinic, it may set out to accomplish a certain task, perhaps one suggested by the health worker.
The following are some characteristics of informal gatherings.
- There is no special membership or feeling of belonging.
- People come and go at will.
- While people of importance in the community may be at the gathering, it has no special leader. In fact leadership may come from outside the group. For example, the nurse at a clinic may provide leadership to a gathering of patients.
- Usually no special activity is planned by the people themselves; like people coming to watch a football match, everyone just happens to be in the same place at the same time.
- No special rules apply.
- There is usually more concern for self, and less for the welfare of the other people present.
The purpose of formal groups
Formal groups fulfill two major needs:
The need to accomplish a task
In most formal groups people work together to plan projects, organize activities, and solve problems. A farming cooperative may be working towards buying some new farm tools. A social club may be planning a party for the next holiday. People choose to work in groups because tasks can be accomplished more easily if several people work together.
The need to belong
Human beings want to feel that other people like them and accept them. People also want respect from others. One reason why people come together in groups is to get a feeling of being liked, accepted, and respected by others.
A group is successful if it can meet both of these needs for its members. If a group can never solve a problem or plan a programme, members will lose interest and leave. If people in the group are not friendly, always argue, or ignore the welfare of other members, there will not be much feeling of belonging. A successful group will make people feel welcome and at the same time accomplish tasks in a cooperative way.
Name as many formal groups as you can think of in your community. Do you know the purpose or goal of each group? Who are the leaders? What does one have to do, or be, to become a member? Can you tell who is a member and who is not? What are some of the organized activities of those groups? Do you know any of the rules the groups have for their members?
Name some informal groups or gatherings in your community? What
common features do people in these groups share? Are there common interests that
could form the basis of an educational programme?