GROUP FORMATION AND DEVELOPMENT
by Phil Bartle, PhD
The tips included here are intended to supplement the skills and experience that you already have as a community mobilizer. What is emphasized here is not the traditional kinds of mobilizing for communal or community wealth generation, but mobilizing to form and activate groups that will handle credit for individual small scale entrepreneurs.
This document has four parts to it: (1) forming groups, (2) managing groups, (3) training in groups, and (4) meetings.
1. Getting Together:
This section provides some tips and ideas on forming groups for the purpose of wealth generation.
Groups are needed (a) to organize and guide the action, (b) for promoting and encouraging savings and investment, (c) for training members in necessary skills, and (d) for channelling the finance needed for the individual micro enterprises.
Definition of a Group:
For our purpose here, a group means some people (minimum of five) who come together on a free and voluntary basis, and with a spirit of co-operation expressed by mutual love and assistance, sister/brotherhood, justice and honesty; to work together for mutual social and economic benefit. In this case a group might be a women group registered with National Council of Women, District Community Development Department, a traditional credit rotation group, or an informal development group of individuals in a community.
The Need for Groups:
There are several reasons why people want to come together:
It is therefore important that people in low-income communities be motivated and educated to recognize the significance of collective efforts in solving problems that seem impossible with individual efforts, by voluntarily deciding to put their efforts together to help increase their access to training in business management skills, credit facilities, marketing facilities and appropriate technology.
Your job as mobilizer is to promote that motivation and action.
Forming a Group:
The main reason for a group to form is physical interaction based upon a common need or problem. The greater the extent to which individuals share activities the more they will interact and the higher the probability that they will form a group. Interaction enables people to discover common interests, likes and dislikes, attitudes, or sentiments.
There are other important factors which encourage group formation.
To form a group for wealth generation, the following should be well established:
Personal skills and attitudes of you, the mobilizer, in forming a group are also crucial to success.
The following are a few pointers. As a mobilizer, you need:
Getting a group formed takes time and skills. Mobilizers must pay frequent visits to the community where the group is to be formed and devote time to talk to the people and getting to know them. Attempts to move fast could result in failure. Successful and sustainable groups are hard to form.
The following steps should be followed to identify interested people to form a group in the community:
Members of a group may be of either gender, at least 18 years, with common objective (eg to become independent entrepreneurs), engaged in similar or related activity, and willing to come together and work together.
A group will be more viable and strong if its members are:
People with the following characteristics may contribute to the decay and failure of a group:
It is not your job to dictate who should and should not belong to a group. You guide the group in forming itself. Using a system of forming trust groups helps here. You ask the participants to write five or six other persons that they would be willing to trust with their money./p>
Persons with negative characteristics tend to be left our of such formed trust groups, and those with the positive attributes tend to be included. When any individual complains that they have net been included in any trust group, then you simply let them know that the reason is because they have not appeared on anybody's ballot.
2. Managing a Group:
How is a group managed? Forming a group is usually not difficult; the problem is how to manage the group to survive and grow to be strong, self-sustaining and permanent, leading to obtaining legal status.
A group has two categories; ordinary members and committee (or executive) members. It requires active participation both all these to co-ordinate and manage a group's business. Members may consider themselves outside the management. It is your job as mobilizer to ensure that they know the group is theirs, and that the leadership of the group is controlled by them collectively. Members are owners who delegate their powers of management to the group's executive or committee.
Let them know the following reasons why they must see themselves as part of the management of a group:
If members consider themselves outside the management of the group, this contributes to loss of transparency, and therefore to mismanagement and lowering of trust that will eventually destroy the group.
Members contribute input resources (funds, labour, products). They also formulate policies (eg what income generating activity to be taken on, amount of money to be contributed or borrowed and how to share profits).
A committee implements policies and plans for the members.
Returns of the micro enterprises are passed on to members for consumption or re-investment elsewhere and strengthening them for future returns to the group business.
3. Group Training:
There are two targets (beneficiaries) in group training:
As a mobilizer, you must train or arrange for the training of the whole group. The following are some, but not all, of the skills that must be transferred to all members of the group.
To support the best services to members and ensuring smooth running of business affairs, a group must perform some duties, including:
The small scale enterprises should be income and employment generating, viable and environmentally friendly. Members should be aware of their right to have the authority to control their group.
Your job as mobilizer is to let them know the following:
Members are liable for a group's debts in case the group fails to meet its financial obligations. When a member borrows, the rest of the group's membership co-guarantee that member and they are all liable for recovery of the loan.
Members' Role in Management:
Members participate in management in several ways, including:
Training Executive or Committee Members:
Executive or committee members need training in their special functions which involve special skills. Group members should be aware of matters pertaining to the committee of the group.
Members who become executive of the group are expected to conform to:
What is an Executive or Committee?
An executive or committee is a central body in a group which is elected by general membership to direct and manage the affairs of a group. It may include chairperson, vice chairperson, treasurer, secretary and ordinary committee members, usually not exceeding four.
Committee members should have or learn skills which will enable them to:
Leading means guiding and influencing people so that they can contribute to the organization and group goals. The task of leading is undertaken by a leader. See Leadership. Your job as mobilizer is to identify and encourage local leaders from the start.
A good leader has roles. Group leaders should be able to:
Characteristics of a good leader: A good leader should be:
Group meetings include times when members gather either periodically or at short notice to discuss an agenda.
A group that fails to meet ceases to be functional. Meetings should be regular, held at the same time and on the same day each week. All activities in the group revolve around the weekly meetings at which members share experiences, learn from each other and also receive education and training.
Meeting notes should be kept by secretary to remind the group of activities and discussions at previous meetings. It should be kept in simple language. You may suggest the format given below, or modify it according to local conditions.
Possible Meeting Structure
(Never conduct a meeting because, "That is the way it is always done; it is tradition, or it is the orthodox way." Organize your meetings according to the most effective method to obtain decisions by the group as a whole, or for effective action)
* The use of prayers must be done with sensitivity for community values and beliefs. Prayers should not be only those of the elite, educated or dominant faction of the community. They may be Christian, Muslim, Traditional, or combinations, depending upon the whole community. Where there is religious conflict, it sometimes is better to avoid prayers, saying that the mobilizing is a secular activity. On other (formal) occasions, it may be wise to invite more than one religious official, representing the various beliefs in the community. Be prepared for some sophisticated groups who find prayers (of any sort) offensive.
Building an Umbrella Organization:
© Copyright 1967, 1987, 2007 Phil Bartle