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Topic 3 The role of methodologies in working with groups

The way to do things is very important. To motivate participation and group processes, not only are the contents important, what we do, but also the way in which we do it must be taken into account. That is why the facilitation of participatory group processes requires that close attention be paid to the methods that will be used, as well as the principles that support them.

There are some key principles to consider when supporting the choice of work methodologies and guiding the technical work. Before facing the work of group facilitation and specifying the methodologies that we will use, it is important to think and agree as a team on the methodological principles that will guide the practice. Here are some general principles that can guide practice:

  • Ensuring equal access to information: it is important that all the participants have had easy access to it and that they handle the same information. This will allow us to decide on equal terms. To do this, it may be necessary to resort to different tools: bulletin board, information point in the group, calls, etc.
  • Maintain and ensure good internal communication: the channels of communication and transfer of information must be fluid and well known by everyone.
    It is convenient to clarify when working in a group what these channels are going to be so that everyone knows them. Likewise, active listening and the ability to express opinions must be trained in the group.
  • Create a climate of trust and safety: generate a climate of trust and group security, which facilitates participation without fear of giving an opinion, of being different, etc.
  • Equal dialogue: It is the basis of any participatory and democratic process. It implies expressing one’s own opinion and actively listening to the opinion of others to obtain new ideas, agree, think of alternatives, resolve conflicts, etc. It is important that all people are on the same level of power and hierarchy in the dialogue, helping to generate horizontal relationships in the group based on equality, contributing to the rotation of roles and tasks, etc.
  • Promote egalitarian decision-making processes: take care that everyone takes part in decision-making so that it is as democratic as possible and that minorities do not feel excluded.
  • Equality in diversity: always promote the principle of equality of all participants while also respecting diversity within the group.

Once the principles have been chosen, they must be grounded in specific tools and methodologies. As has been said before, the tools to be used in the group process are of great importance, since through them these practices will be incorporated as values ​​and principles within the group and will tend to be transferred outside of it.

A methodology is the set of steps to reach a concrete result. Participatory Methodologies -PM- are “a methodology that makes it easier for people to share the knowledge they have about the world, with the aim of reflecting on possible alternatives to the problems that have been previously identified together”.

The MP seek to promote the different ways of acquiring knowledge -intuitive and relational- in people, and that in this way they can have a broad vision of reality. A participatory methodology promotes a sense of community and makes it perceived as competent. Its intention is to have people as a source of information and as a source of reflection on problems, involving them in solving them, and they try to offer adequate tools so that individuals can think of alternatives based on the diagnosis.

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The practice of this type of methodology and forms of interaction encourages and generates other types of relationships based on co-responsibility, cooperation, equality and horizontality, and therefore also promotes another idea of ​​society, which puts the person at the centre and that generates projects that arise from the needs and desires of the communities themselves.

Participatory Action Research (PAR) and popular education offer a good battery of techniques to carry out diagnoses in a participatory manner. Both disciplines have elements that give prominence to the participants and opt to significant learning through experience and transformation of reality.

In both, participatory workshops are frequently used where the group builds and systematizes knowledge of reality through some techniques that are facilitated by a facilitator.

TRADITIONAL METHODOLOGIES PARTICIPATORY METHODOLOGIES
People are “alienated”, they don’t know, they don’t see Shared meanings from which social practices take place are made to emerge
It starts from an unequal knowledge-power relationship. From my place of knowledge-power I devalue the knowledge of the other Horizontal power relations are fostered. The other contributes to me from their place and their vision
Knowledge is in the hands of experts Knowledge is built from of what the thematic experts contribute
and experiential experts
Be aware of others It is built with the others
You speak on behalf of others, you think for others It is spoken from one
Projects are generated based on what is believed that others need A common project is built
The change rests solely on the knowledge acquired by the specialists Change lies in relationships
You are invited to participate in “our project” There is participation in the definition of a problem, in the elaboration and management of the project