To help people who are starting a group, COSHG has produced a book called In The Same Boat (currently under revision.) This resource kit also contains information on maintaining and closing a group.

COSHG runs small workshops on starting a group. These workshops are held from time to time according to need.

Groups and ground rules
Our experience has shown over many decades the importance for groups to establish ground rules. 

These are essential to the shared understanding of members as to what the group sees as acceptable behaviour within the group.  At COSHG, we have had experience of groups who may have been operating quite happily for long periods of time and suddenly find themselves with a problem they don’t know how to resolve. Whatever the problem, it may have been resolved early in the piece by identifying the issue and looking at their ground rules for the resolution. The issue may have grown out of all proportion simply because members are not in the position to point out that what is occurring does not meet with their rules.

Ground rules are basically about respect and understanding for what the group is about and how it carries out its activities and the way it operates. They also set the basis for any expectations or misunderstandings of what the nature of the group is.  A group’s rules should be compiled in the early stages of the group. Initially one or more members may draft the rules to be taken to the rest of the group for consideration, suggestions and additions etc.  It is important that group members are involved in creating ground rules. It is also a good idea to review those rules from time to time to ensure they cover what the group requires as it evolves.                                                   

Here are some examples of topics for ground rules. They are suggestions only and presented with the understanding that each group may have other issues they would like their group to include in their own particular ground rules:

  • Can carers or family members attend meetings?
  • What is the process for welcoming new members to the group?
  • How does the group make decisions?
  • How do we address someone who is trying to control the group eg by pushing own agenda? 
  • What is and what is not acceptable behaviour within your group?
  • Discriminatory comments or behaviour and how the group deals with that?
  • How long people get to speak?
  • How to encourage everyone to have a say?
  • What happens when someone is constantly dominating the conversation?
  • The matter of confidentiality and privacy – what is said in the group – stays in the group?
  • What is the process for asking a member to leave the group?

Read more:
Extract from Spencer Brennan’s Keynote Speech – COSHG Forum 2007