Scope of Social Group Work
Human beings are always learning and growing. They have an inherent potential for high achievement. In professional social work, the aim is to help individuals with the integration of their inner motives and the demands of their social environment and to help change social environment if it is detrimental to the social development of the individuals. There is no more a status quo. It is a change of one or the other, as may be required.
The group is essentially made up of individuals in interaction. Eubank ((1932) defines a group as ‘two or more persons in a relationship of social interaction, whose relationships with one another may be abstracted and distinguished from their relationships with all others so that they might be thought to be an entity’.
Olmsted ((1959) states that a group is a ‘plurality of individuals who are in contact with one another, who take one another into account and who are aware of some significant commonality’. Hare ( 1962 ) has distinguished a group from a collection of individuals.
The former is characterized by having members who are in interaction with one another, share a common purpose and a set of norms which give direction and limits to their activity, and develop a network of interpersonal attractions and a set of roles which serve to differentiate the group from other groups.
There may be a number of different situations in which the group work method is utilized by a social worker. Sometimes, an individual with a problem, e.g. an AIDS afflicted person facing workplace discrimination, and loosing his job, seeks assistance. In other cases, individuals with a problem are referred to a welfare service as is the case with a woman who has been a victim of domestic violence, or a drug addict who has to be rehabilitated. Integrating them with others having similar problems helps them learn to cope and view their problem with a changed perspective. Oftentimes, group sharing and experience become the turning point where some members learn to cope with their problem better.
It is not only individuals seeking help, sometimes it is an entire group. For example, parents of children who are mentally challenged may find it very helpful to discuss their problems and find solutions with others.
They may be trained to cope better with their child within a group. In other situations the groups may be formed to handle simple tasks. This may be a cleanliness drive in a community, or a group formulated to organize a cultural evening in aid of destitute children. It goes without saying that these task groups terminate when their objective is achieved.
Small groups have a lot of scope in participatory approaches to development. Groups are well known to have a lot of inherent potential for social change. Many times, the groups from the disadvantaged sections of society are organized, informed, mobi l ized and empowered to identify their needs and struggle for their interests. In doing so, they become a fertile ground for learning and empowerment of the members.
Advantages of Group Work
The advantages of groups are multi-fold.
(a) They promote interaction and intermixing between individuals who join as members. A lot of learning comes through sharing of experiences and reflecting upon them in group situations. Through group experiences members learn to share, adjust, cooperate, lead, and tolerate;
(b) This type of facilitated learning within groups brings forth a lot of change. Members can experiment with new actions in their groups, and learn to use them outside the group. The nature of group work promotes collective action and the group is a place where members learn to plan, understand and initiate collective actions;
(c) As is well known, organizations are made up of collectivity of individuals, that is groups. At the community level, when efforts of small groups succeed, they are used for building and strengthening people organizations. They become the foundation stone of organizations of youth, women or the older men. Groups thus prepare people for these larger roles they take up.
This apart, groups are a place where the very fact that an interaction would take place with others who are having similar problems, provides immense security to the members. The individual problems when shared in groups become shared problems. Members feel less threatened with their problems when they perceive the problems of others being as much, if not more, grave. Members share their experiences, feel secure and find support within the group. Social Groups are a place where activities facilitate interaction and help members are helped to overcome their isolation and loneliness.