Purpose of the group
There are a number of reasons for forming a group:
- time efficiency
- effective use of resources
- social opportunities for isolated clients
- better decisions and outcomes
- peer support.
A group may actually change its purpose over time. It may achieve its initial purpose and then identify another. For example, when a formal purpose is completed, a group may decide they want to continue associating on a social level. The group may then form its own informal association. An informal group may decide to formalise their purpose in order to progress their ideas.
Case example 1
Nasim's agency has many clients who want to improve their employment options or have a need to learn community living skills such as cooking, community access or budgeting, or to share their experiences. One group includes a number of people living in the same housing establishment who shared a need to learn how to cook. Nasim facilitates the meeting of their goals and needs through group activities related to cooking, budgeting and nutrition.
Case example 2
Alec works with a group of disadvantaged young people who have limited social skills. A number of his clients have demonstrated an inability to handle their aggression. They might be extremely interested in a conflict management group, especially those who are under a court order, as this may meet part of the requirements.
Alec also organises group social activities, including a motorbike maintenance course, and encourages and supports clients to join a local sporting club to improve their physical health.
Initially these social groups provide clients with constructive opportunities for spending their spare time. As time goes by, they may develop other social purposes to the groups as they grow to know and like one another.
Case example 3
A number of co-workers decide that working together on an issue offers wider resources for problem-solving and the opportunity to make effective use of time and other resources. The solutions are more creative and inventive as members explore new ways of thinking and become more tolerant of other ideas.
To engage management in implementing their ideas, they also form a working party with a formal agenda and reporting structure.
Supporting the development of groups
You may identify common goals, and arrange for people to meet and decide for themselves if they would like to form a group. Be aware that not everyone will feel comfortable in a group setting, or wish to continue with the group on an ongoing basis. Some groups may take time to develop a common purpose and may need your support to do this. In your role as a support worker, you could facilitate brainstorming, needs identification and discussion. When the group finally disbands, you may support people to maintain the links they made during the group's existence.