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by Phil Bartle, PhD

Reference Document


The tips included here are intended to supplement the skills and experience that you already have as a community mobilizer. What is emphasized here is not the traditional kinds of mobilizing for communal or community wealth generation, but mobilizing to form and activate groups that will handle credit for individual small scale entrepreneurs.

This document has four parts to it: (1) forming groups, (2) managing groups, (3) training in groups, and (4) meetings.

1. Getting Together:

This section provides some tips and ideas on forming groups for the purpose of wealth generation.

Groups are needed (a) to organize and guide the action, (b) for promoting and encouraging savings and investment, (c) for training members in necessary skills, and (d) for channelling the finance needed for the individual micro enterprises.

Definition of a Group:

For our purpose here, a group means some people (minimum of five) who come together on a free and voluntary basis, and with a spirit of co-operation expressed by mutual love and assistance, sister/brotherhood, justice and honesty; to work together for mutual social and economic benefit. In this case a group might be a women group registered with National Council of Women, District Community Development Department, a traditional credit rotation group, or an informal development group of individuals in a community.

The Need for Groups:

There are several reasons why people want to come together:
  • In a group, members have access to goods and services more easily than they would have on an individual basis;
  • Group members pull together scarce resources, own and manage them themselves in order to fight against poverty, food shortage, powerlessness of an individual person against market forces, unemployment and low self esteem;
  • Groups can be learning laboratories, promoting skills such as enterprise management and problem solving;
  • Groups are useful receiving mechanisms for resources from Government and NGO development agencies;
  • The group allows more small women entrepreneurs to be reached;
  • It reduces on administrative transaction costs of lending;
  • A group reduces default through collective risk taking; and
  • Groups provide a channel for information.

It is therefore important that people in low-income communities be motivated and educated to recognize the significance of collective efforts in solving problems that seem impossible with individual efforts, by voluntarily deciding to put their efforts together to help increase their access to training in business management skills, credit facilities, marketing facilities and appropriate technology.

Your job as mobilizer is to promote that motivation and action.

Forming a Group:

The main reason for a group to form is physical interaction based upon a common need or problem. The greater the extent to which individuals share activities the more they will interact and the higher the probability that they will form a group. Interaction enables people to discover common interests, likes and dislikes, attitudes, or sentiments.

There are other important factors which encourage group formation.
  • Physical proximity: People who live in the same village are likely to form a group than people who live in different villages;
  • Physical attraction: Individuals who attract to each other physically might form a group, eg young and energetic boys and girls;
  • Rewards: satisfaction of economic and social needs; and
  • Social support: perhaps provided by members of a group in times of crisis.

To form a group for wealth generation, the following should be well established:
  • Membership should be open and voluntary;
  • There should be no political or religious interference;
  • Members must together feel that they need to form a group in order to achieve their common objectives;
  • The group should be democratically controlled by the general membership; and
  • Members should be informed and aware.

Personal skills and attitudes of you, the mobilizer, in forming a group are also crucial to success.
The following are a few pointers. As a mobilizer, you need:
  • Patience (People tend to change slowly; do not try to hurry the process up too much);
  • Empathy (You need understanding of community members and their problems; the ability to see things as they do)
  • Business Knowledge (You need a thorough understanding of the business side of the group's future activity, and an ability to explain it in simple terms);
  • Commitment (You must be thoroughly convinced of the value of what you are doing, and willingness to do it well);
  • Realism (You must be able to give practical help in a realistic way);
  • Respect (People may be poor but they are not stupid and resent the "big master" approach and may be suspicious of any tendency to a "know-it-all;" approach); and
  • Honesty and Integrity (Your reputation is your most important asset as a mobilizer).

Getting a group formed takes time and skills. Mobilizers must pay frequent visits to the community where the group is to be formed and devote time to talk to the people and getting to know them. Attempts to move fast could result in failure. Successful and sustainable groups are hard to form.

The following steps should be followed to identify interested people to form a group in the community:
  1. Meet with Local Councillors and Elders: (Approach local council chairperson, and elders to introduce your mission and request a meeting with all interested community members);
  2. Meet Community Members: (Meet with community members to discuss fully your mission; what you intend to do, the nature and form that it takes); and
  3. Meet with Interested Members: (Fix another date to meet with members (men and women) of the community interested and willing to participate in the programme. Write down their names, addresses, ages, activities engaged in including their current levels of operation).

Membership Requirements:

Members of a group may be of either gender, at least 18 years, with common objective (eg to become independent entrepreneurs), engaged in similar or related activity, and willing to come together and work together.

A group will be more viable and strong if its members are:
  • already engaged in an activity;
  • acceptable to other group members;
  • committed, understanding and share the objective of poverty eradication;
  • honest and of good conduct; and
  • hard working.

People with the following characteristics may contribute to the decay and failure of a group:
  • drunkards;
  • drug addicts;
  • bad debtors;
  • disrespectful individuals;
  • idlers; or
  • dishonest individuals.

It is not your job to dictate who should and should not belong to a group. You guide the group in forming itself. Using a system of forming trust groups helps here. You ask the participants to write five or six other persons that they would be willing to trust with their money./p>

Persons with negative characteristics tend to be left our of such formed trust groups, and those with the positive attributes tend to be included. When any individual complains that they have net been included in any trust group, then you simply let them know that the reason is because they have not appeared on anybody's ballot.

2. Managing a Group:

How is a group managed? Forming a group is usually not difficult; the problem is how to manage the group to survive and grow to be strong, self-sustaining and permanent, leading to obtaining legal status.

A group has two categories; ordinary members and committee (or executive) members. It requires active participation both all these to co-ordinate and manage a group's business. Members may consider themselves outside the management. It is your job as mobilizer to ensure that they know the group is theirs, and that the leadership of the group is controlled by them collectively. Members are owners who delegate their powers of management to the group's executive or committee.

Let them know the following reasons why they must see themselves as part of the management of a group:
  • Members contribute resources to finance groups businesses;
  • Members outputs are handled by the group; and
  • Members enjoy the fruits of the groups businesses (profit/loss).

If members consider themselves outside the management of the group, this contributes to loss of transparency, and therefore to mismanagement and lowering of trust that will eventually destroy the group.

Members contribute input resources (funds, labour, products). They also formulate policies (eg what income generating activity to be taken on, amount of money to be contributed or borrowed and how to share profits).

A committee implements policies and plans for the members.

Returns of the micro enterprises are passed on to members for consumption or re-investment elsewhere and strengthening them for future returns to the group business.

3. Group Training:

There are two targets (beneficiaries) in group training:
  • Training all group members; and
  • Training management or executive leaders.

As a mobilizer, you must train or arrange for the training of the whole group. The following are some, but not all, of the skills that must be transferred to all members of the group.

To support the best services to members and ensuring smooth running of business affairs, a group must perform some duties, including:
  • a group must have some registered address to which all forms of communication and notices would be sent;
  • a group must keep copies of bye-laws and members register; and
  • a group must work out a period work plan confirmed by all members.

The small scale enterprises should be income and employment generating, viable and environmentally friendly. Members should be aware of their right to have the authority to control their group.

Your job as mobilizer is to let them know the following:
  • Members have the right to attend all general meetings of their group and to vote on every issue on the basis of universal suffrage (one member one vote);
  • Every member of a group has a right to participate in the election of the committee and to be elected on the committee if s/he qualifies;
  • A certain number ( ) of membership has a right cause a special general meeting be called by the committee; and if it fails, then the members demanding may call the meeting;
  • Every member has a right to share in the group's profits;
  • Every member has a right to inspect the group's property or business activity;
  • When there are funds and a member qualifies, s/he has a right to borrow; and
  • Every member when not indebted to the group has a right to withdraw his/her membership. S/he may transfer his/her share(s) to another member.

Members are liable for a group's debts in case the group fails to meet its financial obligations. When a member borrows, the rest of the group's membership co-guarantee that member and they are all liable for recovery of the loan.

Members' Role in Management:

Members participate in management in several ways, including:
  • attending the general meetings for making broad policies and plans;
  • electing or removing committee members;
  • adopting and amending by laws;
  • financing group activities through agreed savings and contributions (weekly or monthly);
  • supervising group activities; and
  • defending the group.

Training Executive or Committee Members:

Executive or committee members need training in their special functions which involve special skills. Group members should be aware of matters pertaining to the committee of the group.

Members who become executive of the group are expected to conform to:
  • Qualities required of a committee member; and
  • Duties that are required of an executive committee member in a group.

What is an Executive or Committee?

An executive or committee is a central body in a group which is elected by general membership to direct and manage the affairs of a group. It may include chairperson, vice chairperson, treasurer, secretary and ordinary committee members, usually not exceeding four.

Committee members should have or learn skills which will enable them to:
  • Organizing and implementing group activities;
  • Conducting meetings and writing minutes;
  • Developing group policy and procedures;
  • Maintaining and keeping books of accounts; and
  • Conducting negotiations and doing business with other organizations.


Leading means guiding and influencing people so that they can contribute to the organization and group goals. The task of leading is undertaken by a leader. See Leadership. Your job as mobilizer is to identify and encourage local leaders from the start.

A good leader has roles. Group leaders should be able to:
  • provide guidance for group activities;
  • obtain information from group members;
  • communicate information to the group;
  • define problems and identify solutions;
  • appraise group performance;
  • offer ideas and opinions;
  • encourage others to offer ideas and opinions;
  • arbitrate disputes between group members; and
  • represent the group's interests to outside bodies.

Characteristics of a good leader: A good leader should be:
  • trusted,
  • reliable;
  • respected in the community;
  • willing to serve;
  • able to show initiative and drive; and
  • willing to listen and make decisions based on what members say.

4. Meetings:

Group meetings include times when members gather either periodically or at short notice to discuss an agenda.

A group that fails to meet ceases to be functional. Meetings should be regular, held at the same time and on the same day each week. All activities in the group revolve around the weekly meetings at which members share experiences, learn from each other and also receive education and training.

Meeting notes should be kept by secretary to remind the group of activities and discussions at previous meetings. It should be kept in simple language. You may suggest the format given below, or modify it according to local conditions.

Possible Meeting Structure

(Never conduct a meeting because, "That is the way it is always done; it is tradition, or it is the orthodox way." Organize your meetings according to the most effective method to obtain decisions by the group as a whole, or for effective action)

  1. Date of meeting _________________________

  2. Meeting chaired by ______________________

  3. Prayers * by ____________________________

  4. Attendance:

    • List of members present;
    • List of member late;
    • List of members absent with and/or without apology.

  5. Agenda (Can be modified as needed):

    • Confirmation of the agenda;
    • Communication from the chair;
    • Review and confirmation of previous minutes, and matters arising therefrom;
    • Business of the day;
      Wherever possible, the items to be dealt with should be listed in writing
      on the agenda and circulated prior to the meeting. This is the essence of
      the agenda (all else is decoration or structure). Include reports from
      treasurer, sub committees, any members or others who have been given
      assignments at previous meetings.
    • Any other business (AOB);
    • Closing by prayers. *

* The use of prayers must be done with sensitivity for community values and beliefs. Prayers should not be only those of the elite, educated or dominant faction of the community. They may be Christian, Muslim, Traditional, or combinations, depending upon the whole community. Where there is religious conflict, it sometimes is better to avoid prayers, saying that the mobilizing is a secular activity. On other (formal) occasions, it may be wise to invite more than one religious official, representing the various beliefs in the community. Be prepared for some sophisticated groups who find prayers (of any sort) offensive.


Building an Umbrella Organization:

Building an umbrella organization

© Copyright 1967, 1987, 2007 Phil Bartle
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Last update: 2010.06.08

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