Starting and Managing a Self-Help Group (Part 4)

Welcome to the final part of our this series on starting and managing self-help groups. If you missed the other parts, click on any of these links: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3. Now last week we focused on relationships and membership and this week we will focus on how to manage arising issues in the group as well as terminating the group.

1. Achievements

  • What is it feasible to achieve? Take into account:
    *Your members’ situation.
    *The size of your active membership.
    *What resources you have, initially.
  • What do you want to achieve?
    *Goals – the overall aims of the group. You and your members must determine this. Even if groups share the same problem, the goals they set themselves may be very different; e.g. all members feel welcomed and supported.
    *Objectives – these are the smaller and more precise aims the group sets itself in order to reach a goal. They may vary over time, and change as the group changes; e.g. meet monthly with a social programme and events.
    *Set priorities – these will evolve as compromises between various points of view of group members. They should be a realistic way of appreciating that the group will probably want to do a lot of things, and that people’s views will differ on what should be done first.

2. Conflict

  • Some conflict is likely to be a part any group, including a self-help group, where feelings may be running high, and there are expectations within a group.
    *The bigger the group, the greater the potential for conflict.
    *It’s how it’s managed that is the key; it must be treated effectively if the group is to survive.
    *Do you need guidance in conflict resolution?.
  • Assumptions:
    *Conflict can only occur if the people involved are interdependent.
    *Conflict is rare if relationships are tenuous.
    *Results of conflict become more serious as group members become closer personally.
    *Conflict faced and managed creates real potential for growth.
    *The larger the number of healthy conflicts, the greater the stability of the organisation.
  • Difficult behaviour:
    *People talk too much; dominating.
    *People who over-intellectualise, preventing members from handling nitty gritty issues, or making progress.
    *People whose body-language indicates that they are disinterested, or bored.
    *People who wander off the point of discussion.
    *People who continually interrupt, or talk over others.
  • Response:
    *Build support from other group members.
    *Build on contribution of others to develop discussion.
    *Interrupt the speaker.
    *Challenge the speaker to be specific.
    *Clarify what the difficult person has said.
    *Avoid being defensive in your criticism.
    *Don’t compete with this difficult person.
    *Break groups into smaller groups.
    *Get individual to be precise about their criticism/complaint.

3. Ending a Group

  • A group ending is sometimes the reality; it can be better to end well than to have it fizzle out.
    *This could be due to:
    *Lack of meeting place/resources.
    *Apathy among members.
    *Rural area, “scattering”.
    *A key dominant member leaves.
    *At some point a decision needs to be made.
  • Could members disperse to other groups? With more groups around the country, hopefully it will be possible to find a new group to join, which is not too far from the finishing group.
  • Perhaps specific publicity would be an option, to inject new blood into a group, thus averting any shut down.