Making a Difference II

(continued from Making a Difference I)

Trying to follow the government shutdown is a case in point of the difficulty of making sense of a collective process. Our shorthand is to criticize the “Republican’s” or one Republican, or the President or one Democrat. Or we can single out one subgroup, say the tea party, and struggle to define their influence on the larger Republican majority. All well and good. Individuals, strong or weak individuals, individuals of color or a given gender, have influence. Influence is one definition of leadership. And subgroups, or in the tea party case, one group within an intergroup also affects process. Most difficult to describe is the all-important small group process, in which individuals and subgroups and outer group share their effect on the group that has influence, like a house committee. Group think was a first attempt. A way of categorizing a particular process of making a decision but at best a shorthand for not fully describing human complexity.

The collective speaks to a group through individuals and subgroups

Group theorist and process consultants are valuable here. They focus away from individuals and their personality and try to think ‘what is this group doing’ and then try to translate what is observed into whatever language is understandable in the particular group culture.  Consultative neutrality is required to make this work.  Since groups are often dealing in scapegoating one another in order to gain hegemony, a comment from outside, which pinpoints this process, is difficult to hear by whoever is leading the current charge. How much easier to see an individual’s particular effect. The individual becomes the scapegoat, which allows simplification and which tends to obfuscate complicity.

Another way to make sense of the group process is to give it a voice. The collective speaks to a group through individuals and subgroups. It is a kind of God (or Goddess) voice. For example, the collective is involved in combattng women’s abuse and women in every group hear that voice and so do the abusers. Groups sound different as they react to the all-important collective voice.

Putting all this together begins to create a picture. An image. A consolidating symbol. An effigy. And isn’t it incredible when the group is able to make an integration of tge leader and the led, of subgroups and collective, of process and content. And how much power beauty and hope can be manifested in that wholeness.


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