Types of groups

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Most small projects are likely to work perfectly well with one core group managing the work between themselves. Larger projects which encompass a range of different objectives and project types may benefit from splitting up their workload into separate sub-groups. This can help to engage and recruit citizens who are interested in a certain aspect of your group’s work, rather than being part of a larger team that deals with everything from finance and planning to community engagement and delivery on the ground.

Temporary initial group. When you are first establishing your project, it can be worth setting out with the intention for the initial core group to be temporary. For example, The Transition Handbook recommends that new Transition initiatives start by setting a defined lifespan for the functioning of the initial “Steering Group”. The initial group nurture the initiative as it raises awareness, lays the foundations, unleashes the project and establishes a minimum of four sub-groups to take forward different aspects.  The initial “Steering Group” is then reconstituted to encompass representation from across the newly formed sub-groups. Ensuring a fresh mix of people can encourage a flow of new and different ideas, helping to avoid your project becoming stale and missing new opportunities.

Sub-groups, working groups or committees. Sub-groups could be split up according to, for example, different types of renewable energy technologies or different themes of sustainability, such as energy, food, waste and transport. Alternatively, sub-groups could relate to particular ongoing tasks relating to the overall project, such as events and marketing or another category outlined in the roles and responsibilities suggestions.

Co-ordinating committee. A co-ordinating committee can provide a means for facilitating communication between and coordination of different sub-groups. A co-ordinating committee should be made up of representatives from each working group who meet on a regular basis to feedback on progress, activities being undertaken and future plans. Such a co-ordinating committee could also be the core or executive group who have responsibility for decisions relating to the overall organisation.

Executive and non-executive members.  Structuring your group to have both executive and non-executive members can bring a range of benefits. See the roles and responsibilities suggestions for details.

Case Studies
Country: UK

Stroud Community Agriculture have a range of sub-groups in addition to their core group, which allows their members to get involved in a variety of ways. A communications sub-group set up a quarterly newsletter to keep people up-to-date with plans and to publicise their social events. A children’s sub-group organises children’s activities during farm days to free up parents to get involved on the farm. They also have a festivals sub-group, who plan and set up celebrations, parties and events around the farm, and an education sub-group, who meet to learn more about the farm and its vegetables, animals, landscape and environment.

Source: The Story of Community Supported Agriculture in Stroud

Country: Ireland

Cloughjordan Ecovillage brings together a diverse group of people to create an innovative new community in Tipperary. They aim to do this in a way that is democratic, healthy and socially enriching, while minimising ecological impacts. The Village is a company limited by guarantee, but with articles of association ensuring that the group operates in much the same way as a co-operative. Early on, members adopted the idea of shared purposes and principles: shared out responsibilities. Since then members have adopted a revolutionary organisational system which gives maximum autonomy to all participants. Project management is highly participative and most of the work is done by volunteers, working in Primary Activity and Support Groups, based on the Viable Systems Model. This form of group structure represents a shift towards a new paradigm of self-organising adaptive systems instead of command-and-control ways of organising.