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Topic 2 Life and characteristics of the groups

Before continuing to advance in the role of facilitators of group participation processes, it is important to reflect a little on the life and characteristics of human groups.

Groups, like people, have their own life, their dynamics and their processes. As facilitators or dynamizers of group participation, it is very important to know the processes and life of the groups to take them into account when setting the objectives and the methodologies that we set with it, in short, to adjust the action and intervention to the characteristics of the group and its moment in question.

There are several ways of analysing and defining the life of groups according to various authors. Here we will follow the metaphor of “vital stages” to draw parallels with the stages that the group goes through and find keys to work on each of them, reinforcing the group growth process. The life stages of groups are shown below:

  • Baby stage: at this early stage, the group does not yet have a structure. Multiple questions arise, each person is testing the rest and assessing the convenience of joining the group. There are no emotional ties between people and there are doubts about the usefulness of the space.
  • Infancy stage: it is the moment in which roles in the group are established little by little. In addition, the initial expectations with which people arrived are contrasting with what they find. The group establishes rules of operation, mechanisms for making decisions and managing possible conflicts, and they learn to work together. The first affections are also established.
  • Adolescent stage: it is the moment of the affective explosion, of the group cohesion, and of the displacement of the group’s task to a second place. More open communication, the creation of a common language and the possible appearance of conflicts are also characteristics of this moment. The roles and leadership within the group are also being consolidated. The group gains a little more autonomy with respect to the technician or facilitator.
  • Maturity stage: it is the stage of greatest group cohesion and identity. A balance between affect and task is usually established, and the group reaches its moment of maximum effectiveness. Here the group already has established norms and mechanisms of operation, and regulation of conflicts, and reaches high levels of autonomy in its operation.
  • Closure: we often work on projects that have an end, and with it, the end of the group. It is important to know how to give a good end to the processes as they deserve. An ending with a strong affective and festive character will help to fix what has been worked on much more. In a good closure it is essential that people are aware of the achievements made.

These stages described are not something watertight or linear, that is, a group can move between one stage and another, return to a previous one, get stuck in one or mix characteristics of different stages at a time. The important thing is to observe this group to be able to identify useful traits to intervene in each phase of the process, accompany its evolution and the fulfilment of the objectives that have been set.