Topic 2 Work groups

When we are immersed in a participation process we find ourselves with multiple situations and circumstances that surround and influence it. Care must be taken not to be marked from the beginning and lose a certain independence that can be beneficial to facilitate the process.

Naturally we come into contact with all those people and individuals who, to a greater or lesser extent, are involved in it, participate in it, or observe it from a distance. The contact and relationship with these individuals acquire different dimensions depending on their interests, commitments, occupations, etc. of such social actors.

The Motor Group (MG)

It is a mixed team of people, made up of volunteers from neighbours and technicians. It is about meeting with some stability with some people (three four at least) with whom it is possible to work continuously, in weekly or biweekly sessions. It is not necessary or recommended that they be representative people, since some of them can separate us from others who see them with bad eyes. It is better for little-known people, like some ladies who are in adult education or some young people who want to learn these technical devices, or people who, in general, have free time and desire, and it is not for reasons of prominence or rivalries.

This group of people is both a source of information (they help us collect data about their environment and existing relationship networks) and the core of the process, actively participating according to their interest, availability, attitudes, abilities and training, in the different stages of the process. For their part, the people who provide technical support in the process inside or outside the Motor Group, as it is organized, will debate the various stages of the work, both in relation to the contents and the methods.

Group dynamics can be done, coming from both Popular Education and Sociocultural Animation, since these allow the group to get to know each other, strengthen itself as such and self-organize its own process. Socio-dramas, role-playing games, etc., are fun and very interesting ways to provoke self-criticism and bring groups together. But there are plenty of flexible ways to self-organize, even without meetings, walking around, or doing specific tasks.

The Motor Group must remain open to new incorporations, so we will make the invitation on all those occasions that arise.

Doing a “drift“, “video-walk” or “transect” can help to make contact with sectors of the population that are not so organized, but that may be interested in the participatory process. These techniques, which have been normally used in the so-called Participatory Rural Diagnosis (PRD), allow systematizing the first feelings that people have about the territory they inhabit.

It consists of walking through a neighbourhood, a town or a rural area, with local people who can tell us what we are seeing, and exchanging our impressions or questions with them. It can be done by planning a recording with a camera, for example, so that this serves as an excuse so that those who accompany us, and also people or groups that we meet, can give their first opinions, etc.

(from left to right) Image 1: Drift of architecture students in the Palma Palmilla Workshop. Image 2: Drift through Malaga capital. Cartac research group (audiovisual record, in photographs and notes). Image 3: Systematization of a drift. Cartac research group at the Invisible House in Malaga.

The fact that we listen and do not judge the opinions that they give us, that we share a conversation without pretensions from those who know more, etc. are elements to create a good environment of initial trust. Apart from the information that we are obtaining, which is always good, we can record it in a notebook or route card.

All this is a material that can be analysed to see ourselves and the people, and establish a first analysis of the pains of each one. As it is very useful to get to know each other as a group and to know the prejudices that each one of us has, these self-analyses at the beginning can be a way to have a good time and open up about each other’s interests. Watching a recorded “role playing” session or a walk with local people can be a reason to agree on basic ways of working together.

It is not about making very deep psycho-dramas, but a game that allows us to bring out more or less hidden “double languages” and, if possible, laugh as a group to create certain trust. Reflecting in a group on gestures and non-verbal expressions can give a lot of play.

The Monitoring Commission (MC)

The Monitoring Commission can be present the promoters of the investigation, public bodies, team technicians, the Motor Group and all the people of the place or the subject who feel representatives. This Commission is kept informed of the progress and development of the participation process. The Commission meets regularly at the end of each of the key phases of the process, every month or every few months.

The Monitoring Commission is an essential part of the participatory process, acting as a supervisor of the negotiation at certain key moments. It is in these informative sessions where the first results obtained are compared and where the attitudes and reactions that they arouse are pressed, making possible a first projection of the self-diagnosis or of the solutions or actions that could be put in place. It is a place of basic agreements.


Composition Characteristics Participation in the process Commitment of the participants Group dynamics Role of expert technical personnel
• Mixed team of interested people (neighbours, volunteers and technical staff)
  • Group under construction for work
  • Construction of group identity for a specific task
  • It is the protagonist but at the service of the process
  • Source of information
  • Self-training
  • Prepare analysis and diagnosis
  • Preparation of Work Plan
  • Commitment and responsibility with the process
  • Greater probability of getting involved in the action
  • Source of information
  • Self-training
  • Prepare analysis and diagnosis
  • Preparation of Work Plan
  • Animation
  • Training
  • Information
  • Orientation
  • Conflict resolution
  • Administration representatives
  • Process Promoters
  • Representative associations
  • Motor Group
  • Stable but infrequent work meetings
  • Active participation in the supervision and monitoring of the process
  • Initial negotiation
  • Information sessions at the end of each phase
  • Discussion of diagnosis and negotiation of proposals 
  • Availability and responsibility in monitoring the process
  • Strengthens their involvement in the negotiation and dissemination of diagnoses and proposals
  • SWOT
  • Panels of experts
  • Audiovisual material
  • Graphics
  • Brainstorming
  • Etc.
  • Information
  • Negotiation
  • Awareness
  • Evaluation

An attempt will be made to converge the different sets of latent sensitivities detected in this start-up process (generate consensus regarding the demand on the subject that is believed to be central and the objectives to be set).

This can be done with a technical device such as carrying out a SWOT among those attending a Monitoring Commission.

It is a matrix that allows us to define and contextualize a problematic situation in a locality based on four analysis frameworks: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. It is convenient to work in small groups and then take it to a plenary meeting, to be able to discuss the meaning of what has been built in each group and finally among all of them..

One way to apply this technique can be the following:

The topic/object of the process is raised clearly and concisely. From here the group will talk, through a brainstorm, about the positive or “successful” aspects, whether internal (Strengths) or external (Opportunities) that relate this topic to the territory. The ideas on which you agree are written on a panel.

Subsequently, also through brainstorming, the negative or “risk” aspects are written, internal (Weaknesses) or external (Threats), which is also important to take into account, and the consensus is also put on the panel.


DESCRIPTION OF THE PROBLEMATIC SITUATION: In a peripheral neighbourhood with serious deficiencies in the locality “X” there are outbreaks of racism and attitudes of rejection between the Spanish community and groups of immigrants who have recently arrived and are growing. Citizen organizations open a debate around the conflict and think about how to act on it. The elements to be incorporated into the SWOT analysis could be the following:

CIRCUMSTANCES INTERNAL (What depends more on our possibilities)


  • Racist positions and attitudes within the social organizations of the area.
  • Lack of knowledge of the phenomenon of immigration and of the cultural referents of the immigrant population...


  • Existence in the area of ​​citizen organizations oriented towards and/or with experience in solidarity action.
  • There is a small nucleus of immigrants already settled in the community and who carry out a positive work of intercultural mediation.
EXTERNAL CIRCUMSTANCES (Which depends on other factors that we do not control)


  • Possible aggravation of the latent conflict between the neighbourhoods due to information on TV.
  • Use of the conflict by local political groups.


  • Neighbourhood festivities as an opportunity for meeting and playful coexistence.
  • The School as a space for communication and intercultural education.
  • Etc.

A SWOT variant that may have similar or other applications is the SWROTP technique, where the elements are: Strengths, Weaknesses, Resistances, Opportunities, Threats and Potentials.

In this new matrix, it is possible to use in a single technique the visualization of the positive and negative aspects of the problem or topic of study, together with the formulation of the actions that could be carried out, alone or with others, to that those identified elements are favourable to us, whether they are weaknesses, resistances or threats, or so that we maintain and reinforce them if they are strengths, potentialities or opportunities.

Both the SWOT and the SWROTP can, in turn, be expanded to cover the actions necessary to undertake the different elements detected. This can be particularly useful when circumstances make it advisable not to prolong the process over time (short cycle) if we want to obtain participatory results (when we work with some groups in certain circumstances).

EXAMPLE OF SWROTP. Matrix made by technicians from a public institution in relation to their professional work