UACES Facebook What Size Group Do You Belong To?
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What Size Group Do You Belong To?

by Jane Newton, Lincoln County Extension Agent - Family and Consumer Sciences - July 2, 2021

Two, four, six, twelve, one-hundred-fifty, or two thousand people. Which is the most important size group for you?

According to Robin Dunbar in his book Grooming, Gossip and the Evolution of Language each size has special importance. Dunbar, a psychologist and researcher who teaches at Liverpool College in England, cites many research studies to support his assertions that each size group has special functions.

Two is the pair bond number. The pair bond number is important, whether in establishing and maintaining a working relationship, a friendship, or a trustworthy commitment. Many people don't feel connected to a larger group until they have established at least one relationship within it.

Four is identified by Dunbar as the functional number for a conversation. In his view, conversation is vitally important for establishing friendships, allies, and supportive relationships. Conversation is the primary way people stroke each other and judge each other's trustworthiness.

It is often claimed that more business deals are made on the golf course than in the board room. It is not likely that details of contracts are hammered out on the greens, but the golfing foursome offers informal opportunities for conversations in which people can assess each other's trustworthiness.

Six is identified as the ideal number for a group with a job to do. Six people can divide the tasks and yet the group is small enough for members to reach a decision quickly. Groups of more than six often take longer to agree on a course of action.

Twelve (or 10 to 15) is the number Dunbar identifies as the ideal number of people to build a strong team connection in order to reach a common goal. Sports teams and juries are examples.

Twelve (or 10 to 15) is also the usual number of people each individual holds in his or her personal "empathy group." This is the person's close inner circle, the people most counted upon for support, loyalty, and intimacy. These are friends one usually contacts at least once a month and with whom one feels a strong connection.

Heart/head group is an intermediate significant group between 12 and 150. It may vary in number from individual to individual. This group is less close than the empathy group. It consists of friends and colleagues whom one may contact less frequently than once a month, but who hold a significant place in one's affection and/or one's stimulated thinking.

After not seeing one of these persons for six months or two years, the two of you can pick up right where you left off and engage significantly. People in this group are not part of a constant contact group but do hold emotional and intellectual significance for you.

150 make a community. According to Dunbar, there is both historical and present-day evidence to suggest that, in order to function well, one needs to be part of a group of about 150 - a tribe, a clan, or a village. This community cohesion and support is important for the well-being of individuals and families and for the maintenance of cultural values.

The community is important also as a foundation for identity. Sara J. Bloomfield, in The Singular Power of Memory, tells of Jews in Lithuania who secreted information about their 500-year-old community before it was totally destroyed during the Holocaust. She says, "They taught us that taking risks to save a sense of community is as vital an act of defiance as taking up arms to save individual lives. A community potentially possesses a transcendent majesty, far greater than the sum of its parts."

1500 to 2000 people, a collection of ten to thirteen 150 member tribes historically could become a nation. Besides providing services and protection beyond the scope of the tribe of 150, the larger group is also an integral part of one's identity. To recognize the importance of this extended group all we need to do is read the newspaper. The hot spots in the world center around national and ethnic groups who are grappling for recognition or equality or independence.

Why is all of this important?

Because the Arkansas Extension Homemakers are one of the largest volunteer groups in the state. And we want to continue to grow our membership.

Member recruitment is an ongoing process that each and every current member is responsible for. How can we, or each of us, get more Extension Homemaker members?

We can start with our two. Is our best friend a member? If not, why not? Let’s look at our four or six or twelve. Have we asked our bridge club, book club, Sunday School class, golf foursome, bowling team members to join EHC?

Has your EH club or County Council held programs or events that the community has been invited to attend? Interesting events or educational programs are great ways to engage and interact with potential new members. Have you personally asked someone to go with you to an EHC event? Have you taken the time to go by their house to pick them up for an EHC program you think they might find informative?

It’s also important for EHC to retain our existing members. What are your members’ needs? What do they like and don’t like about EHC? Have changes been made to help make it worth their while attending meetings and programs? What could be improved? Ask your members – if you haven’t already!

Wikipedia defines belongingness as the human emotional need to be an accepted member of a group. Whether it is family, friends, co-workers, or something else, such as the Arkansas Extension Homemakers, everyone has an 'inherent' desire to belong and be an important part of something greater than themselves.