Precondition #2

Precondition #2: the communality of the group should not be on what separates individuals from ‘haves’ in society

What we found in the multiple pilots that were conducted with the tool within the framework of European projects OZO and OZO 2 is that both the moderator and the group composition are of massive importance in this respect.

  • In line with the fulfilling the need of belonging, the moderator should not be “an outsider”. The moderator should be a respected peer of the participants or a respected associate of a respected participant. As a respected person the moderator should share personal experiences and dilemmas with the group.
  • In case the moderator is nevertheless considered an outsider, participants tend to see them rather as a benign outsider: as a source of information or even as a person who has all the answers. It is tempting for the moderator to start feeling important and all-knowing, especially in case the moderator is a trained professional. The better alternative for the moderator is to let participants talk among themselves and not volunteer opinions or solutions. Often participants will find their own solutions to their dilemmas but will, strangely enough, nevertheless attribute these solutions to the moderator who in reality did not participate content-wise in the process of arriving at these solutions other than facilitating the participants. The moderator is to take this as a sign of good facilitating rather than of expertise.
  • In no case the moderator is to express a distance towards the group or, worse, a negative or superior attitude. While a benign outsider has a chance of establishing or strengthening a feeling of belonging among the participants, a moderator who puts themselves hierarchically higher does not.
  • Although experiencing a sense of belonging is important, this does not mean that any belonging is good from a societal point of view. If the group should consist only of people who feel that they are ‘getting by’ in society at best, there is a real chance that group communication will end up reinforcing learned helplessness (a lack of experienced succesful agency). Also, chances are that the need for belonging will be translated negatively in an ‘us’ who have something in common versus ‘them’ who have excluded ‘us’. Anyone can be taken to represent ‘them’ in this scenario – from a condescending moderator to the government. In order to facilitate a more constructive form of belonging the group should be mixed, including people who feel they live a rewarding life as well as those who ‘get by’ in life – or worse.
  • Although it is important that not all participants are experiencing a similar situation of dislocation, it is important that they share a communality in a different sphere. This communality is a meaningful topic that represents the participants’ intrinsic motivation to join a group. In our pilots the communality was being a parent, and then not just any parent but a similar kind of parent. In Greece the participants were parents of children attending the same school. In the Netherlands the participants were self-employed mothers.