Topic

Working in Groups

Working in Groups

Making change is a collective endeavour that can bring many challenges! One of the biggest stumbling blocks can be the group itself: passionate individuals trying to work together. These resources will help you set a group up well, tune it up if it already exists, make decisions together, navigate conflict, and develop skills to be an effective participant and facilitator.

Two women sit together in conversation.

Active listening roleplay

A process guide for training workshops focused on working in groups, communication, conflict resolution, community organising and conversation frameworks. The objective of the session is to practice active listening and assertive communication.

Cover of Original Power's Building Power Guide - features a drawing of a turtle in red.

What makes a good leader for social change?

A training process guide to provide a space for people to think about the role and qualities of leaders in social change. Leaders for social change model the way; inspire a shared vision; challenge the process; enable others to act; and encourage the heart.

Cover of Original Power's Building Power Guide - features a drawing of a turtle in red.

Community Resistance Timeline: A training guide

This is a training process guide to introduce participants to each other, connect their own history to a larger history of social change, identify local tactics, and to rethink what success looks like. It is an excerpt from Building Power: A Guide for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders Who Want to Change the World.

Over a dozen hands reach into the middle of a circle, making the 'all in' symbol

Consensus Decision Making

Consensus is a nonviolent decision-making process that aims to create the best possible decision for the group. The input and ideas of all participants are gathered and synthesized to arrive at a final decision that is acceptable to all. Through consensus, we are not only working to achieve better solutions, but also to promote the growth of trust and respect within the group.

A view of from a vantage point in Mount Buffalo, with rolling forested hills framing a valley, in which there is a small clearing.

Work less: You’ll get more done

Overwork has heavy costs. Working longer hours is dangerous and ineffective. But poor management, the subconscious, workplace culture, and work volume, can each be a barrier to better workplace practices. Thankfully though, these barriers can be overcome.

The Tyranny of Structurelessness

Joel Dignam reviews Jo Freeman’s “The Tyranny of Structurelessness” which explores some of the key structural problems facing groups. Recognising that power dynamics are present in all groups Freeman proposes formal structures, transparency and accountability.

Photograph of two people standing on pavement, taken from above. Written on the ground is 'Passion Led Us Here'.

Retain volunteers with intrinsically motivating work

Civic associations depend upon volunteers to get their work done. Joel Dignam distils insights from Ruth Wageman and Richard Hackman’s “Designing work for individuals and for groups” from Perspectives on Behavior in Organizations.

A diagram with three organisers at the centre. From each organiser arrows go to a Leader, from the Leader there are arrows to 5 team members.

How to Structure Teams for Organising

Joel Dignam reviews Marshall Ganz’ treatment of structure as a craft of organising. As Ganz notes “Developing leadership requires structuring the work of the organization so it affords as many people as possible the opportunity to learn to lead.”

Photograph of a group of people having a meeting.

On Conflict and Consensus

Making collective decisions and navigating conflict and are core activist skills. Conflict is usually viewed as an impediment to reaching agreements and disruptive to peaceful relationships. However, it is the underlying thesis of Consensus that nonviolent conflict is necessary and desirable.

A stack of balancing rocks on a seashore

Principles of Co-operative Conflict Resolution

Navigating conflict is a core activist skill. These tips from peacebuilding have the potential to depolarise and de-escalate tense and challenging situations. This is an excerpt from the Nonviolent Community Safety and Peacebuilding Trainers’ Manual which is also available for download on the Commons.

Photograph of multiple coloured plastic balls.

The Pt’chang Games List

Games are great for energising a group, lightening the mood, promoting playfulness, and building morale. This list is an excerpt from the Nonviolent Community Safety and Peacebuilding Trainers’ Manual which is also available for download on the Commons.

A group of people sit together around a table.

Maintaining Group Morale and Motivation

Group morale is a key contributor to the success of a group, increasing cohesion, reducing burnout and preventing activist turnover. Build team relationships; resolve conflicts and improve communication; and celebrate success.

A group of friends stand with arms around each other looking out across a valley.

Activist Support and Debriefing

Activists need to individually and collectively deal with feelings such as loss, grief, frustration, anger and despair. We can set up our groups to provide support to each other including emotional support, support for action, and educational support.

Close up photo of three hands holding small autumn leaves.

Group Strategies to Prevent Stress and Burnout

A group’s culture can have a big impact on the likelihood of stress and burnout for members and staff. It’s possible to create a group culture that supports self-care, balance and sustainable work loads and patterns.

A city scene at night. There are bright lights and people walking with their features blurred. Arrows are painted on the road, pointing downwards.

De-escalating Conflict

Many conflicts get worse than they actually need to be because the participants lose control of themselves and retreat into self-reinforcing patterns of attack and counterattack. Here are some suggestions, drawn from the literature of conflict resolution and psychotherapy, that can be used to de-escalate conflicts.

Two transmasculine people sitting together and having a serious conversation

Giving and Receiving Feedback

‘Feedback’ is a communication to a person or a group which gives that person information  about how they affect others. It is important to be able to give feedback in such a way that people can hear it, take it in, evaluate it, and change behaviour which affects their relationship with others.

A genderqueer person sitting on a therapist's couch, listening

Active Listening

Active listening is a fundamental skill for peacebuilding and social change. It is more than hearing, it involves processing what has been heard and skilfully selecting a response. Active listening serves to encourage the person to tell more and most importantly, communicates to the person that you are interested and listening.

Photograph of the first General Assembly of Occupy Melbourne, October 15 2011. A large gathering of people in City Square with signs.

Facilitation at Occupy Melbourne

Insights about facilitation from the very challenging General Assembly process at Occupy Melbourne. This article will be of interest to facilitators and others learning about group process, as well as people keen to find out about the Occupy movement. These reflections were written two weeks after Occupy Melbourne kicked off in October 2011. 

Cover of the book 'The Starfish and the Spider. Features a drawing of a starfish.

Decentralisation: The Starfish and the Spider

Joel Dignam reviews Ori Brafman and Rod Beckstrom’s ‘The Starfish and the Spider’. The book delves into ideas and language around decentralisation with useful examples from history, social movements and commerce. It also includes practical tips for putting decentralisation into practice.

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