Study groups are small, self-organizing groups whose participants meet regularly to follow a study plan they have designed, to discuss certain topics, or to conduct cultural activities. The work of study groups is based on the experience of individual members, who aim to learn from one another and to think together about a subject area they have selected.
Purpose of the activity
- communication of social experience and knowledge
- growth of social awareness and activity
- commitment to community and social activities
- development of local democracy through the practice of democratic skills: development of communication skills, listening to one another, courtesy, mutuality, recognition of, and respect for, each other’s achievements, etc.
study group, self-organizing group, informal learning, community and social participation, strengthening local democracy
- personal: community cultural organizer, experts of community cultural and public collection institutions
- material: meeting rooms, computer capacity, projector, flipchart and pens, post-it blocs, note paper and pens, printer, A4 sheets
- financial: room rental fee (if needed)
Applied tools and methods
Communication is needed for people with similar interest to find one another. This may happen through personal communication, at any community event or with the use of any channel, e.g. the Knowledge pool (local directory) or any other local publication (newsletter, programme, noticeboard, calendar, village book, yearbook, etc.).
When there is a sufficient number of applicants (7-12) the study groups announce the time and place of their first meeting, and jointly schedule the activities for the next 8-10 times: the participants offer to prepare for certain topics within the curriculum in the form of a presentation, short lecture or film, etc.
Each meeting is organized by a different member (if the times and places have been agreed upon, all they need is a verbal reminder, a phone call or a message in the mailing group). At the meetings they elect someone to moderate and another to take the minutes, preferably different persons each time. Each participant is usually given one occasion to present their topic, which is followed by a discussion. The moderator should also be a different member of the study group each time.
Local community cultural and public collection institutions supporting the study groups may
- offer professional help in the study of a topic – e.g. consultation in the choice of topic and its subtopics; collecting a list of references for information; preparing members for their role within the study group; help in organizing, moderating, directing the exchange and in taking the minutes; help in structuring, timing, drafting a presentation, etc. if requested;
- offer technical support to manage the meetings: providing a room for the training; helping with photocopying and with the summarising process, and being available for any contingencies.
The work of the study groups is managed democratically. A study group, in essence, is a democratic dialogue in a small group where:
- everybody takes an equal and active part;
- the current moderator has no actual power; their role is to make sure that the exchange has the form of a dialogue, and takes place in a relaxed atmosphere;
- the dialogue has no openly or covertly planned or expected results;
- participants make decisions jointly about every issue;
- the most important element of a dialogue is a respectful and active attention to others;
- the goal is to examine and understand each other’s positions;
- the participants are open intellectually, and gain strength from a boosted confidence;
- The most important achievement of the group is to explore the common denominator in the various positions.
At the end of the study group work the members summarise what they have learnt from one another, summarise the topic and the literature they have used, and if the nature of the topic allows, they can also publish it in writing. They need to document it in any case, to add it to the local public collection, and the members may also keep a copy for themselves.
The results of their joint studies largely depend on the active participation of the members in the planning and implementation of the process.
Results, expected outcome
- little help from the developer, large degree of community contribution
- active participation and self-education, with an effect on the involvement of the active citizen in public affairs
- motivations being built for further exchange of experience, community learning and community activities
- Vercseg, I.: Közösségfejlesztő leckék kezdőknek és haladóknak. [Community building for beginners and professionals]. Parola booklets. 2004, Budapest, Hungarian Association for Community Development.
- Molnár, A.: Közösségi tanulás a közösségfejlesztés folyamatában. [Community learning in the community development process]. Parola booklets. 2015, Budapest, Hungarian Association for Community Development. http://kka.hu/_Kozossegi_Adattar/Azadatt.nsf/99b0698cd023d1018525670c0080e328/ff36d408e19a7974c1257f5b003ab3ef/$FILE/Molnar%20Aranka%20-%20K%C3%B6z%C3%B6ss%C3%A9gi%20tanul%C3%A1s%20a%20k%C3%B6z%C3%B6ss%C3%A9gfejleszt%C3%A9s%20folyamat%C3%A1ban.pdf
- Molnár, A. et al.: Építő közösségek – közös tudás. [Building communities – shared knowledge]. 2011, In Parola, No. 3. http://www.adattar.net/parola/?page_id=18
This article based on the following document: Community development methodological guide