Organization workshop

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The Organization workshop (OW) – or "Laboratorio Organizacional" (LO) in both Portuguese and Spanish – is a CHAT-based learning event where participants master new organizational as well as social knowledge and skills through a learning-by-doing approach. It is aimed at large groups of unemployed and underemployed, a large number of whom sometimes may be persons with lower levels of education (LLEs). The OW addresses locally identified problems which can only be solved by collaborating groups. During a Workshop participants form a temporary enterprise which they themselves manage, an enterprise which contracts to do work at market rates. Once the workshop temporary enterprise is over, organizational, management and vocational skills gained can be used to form new businesses or social enterprises.

Part of the group of 850 who took part in the 1992 Matzinho "field" organization workshop (FOW), in war-torn Mozambique

The creator of the OW is the Brazilian sociologist Clodomir Santos de Morais.[1] The main elements of the workshop are a large group of people (stipulated originally by de Morais as "minimum 40, with no upper limit"[2][3] the freedom[4] to organize themselves within the law and all necessary resources in the hands of the group.[5][6] de Morais' OW guidelines,[7][8] originally distributed in mimeographed form, were (re)printed in several countries, languages and formats (including popular cartoon) over the years. The text was first translated into English by Ian Cherrett for use in anglophone Africa.[9]

Field of study[edit]

de Morais' initial observation was that people, forced by circumstances and sharing one single resource base, learn to organize in a complex manner, involving a division of labor. During the seminal (1954 Recife, Brazil) event which he attended, a large group of activists had gathered in an ordinary town house, where "the cramped conditions of the house, combined with the need for secrecy so as not to arouse the suspicion of the police, ... imposed on the group a strict organizational discipline in terms of division and synchronization of all the tasks needed for such an event".[10] The subsequent finding that little was learned about the event's supposed topic but instead, "an enormous lot about organization" became the inspiration and starting point for the design of what eventually was to become the organization workshop. Building on this, subsequent Moraisean practitioners corroborated de Morais' original finding that "organization" is not taught but "achieved" by a properly composed large group.[11]

Part of the shared resource base ('Inventory') at the Ntambanana OW (South Africa) November 2012

The OW field of study in the broadest sense is social psychology, the discipline that bridges the gap between psychology and sociology. Because the OW large group approach is Activity-based[12][13][14][15][16] it stands out in a field notable for a long tradition of behaviorism-based "small group" approaches, such as group dynamics and T-group training.

"Activity-based" means that for people to learn, a real object has to be actually present; as Jacinta Correia puts it: "to learn how to ride a bike, you need a bike to ride on".[17][18] Thus, for a large group to learn how to manage a complex[19] enterprise, it has to have a complex enterprise to manage. In the OW context, this means that a group averaging 150, many of whom often with lower levels of education, are actively engaged, for an entire month, in (a) productive or service provision enterprise(s). For all the apparent, e.g., on-the-job training and action learning parallels, the OW's defining features are not only the need for a cooperative large group and the creation of (a) complex, real enterprise(s), but, principally, the position of the trainer and the way in which training messages are communicated. In OW-learning, the trainer's role is merely subsidiary (known as "scaffolding" in activity theory).[20] In other words, it is not the trainer/instructor, but "the object that teaches".[21][22][23][24]

In South America, its place of origin, this approach is known as the Método de Capacitación Masiva (MCM)[25][26] or large-group capacitation method (LGCM).[27][28]

International scope[edit]

The OW originated in Brazil with de Morais' 1954 Recife workshop. In the wake of the coup d'état of March 1964, de Morais went into a 23-year exile in Chile, and the OW spread from there in the late sixties. After specializing in Cultural Anthropology (Santiago University) and in Land Reform at the ICIRA (Capacitation and Research Institute for Agrarian Reform Institute), de Morais became consultant for international and national development institutions and NGOs. Since then, the organization workshop has become a constant in a number of agrarian reform efforts in Latin America and (community) development projects elsewhere. From Chile, the OW spread to Costa Rica, Mexico, Panamá, Colombia, El Salvador, Venezuela, Ecuador, Honduras, Peru, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Brazil, the Caribbean, a number of African countries as well as Europe.[29][30][31] In 2015, for the first time in the UK, a pilot OW took place at 'Marsh Farm' urban housing Estate, Luton (near London) as part of a government supported Enterprise and Job creation project.[32][33]


During an OW[edit]


Running an OW requires both a facilitators' enterprise (FE) and a participants' enterprise (PE), originally called "primary" and "secondary" structures by de Morais and called respectively "crew" and "team" in, for example, the SABC-televised Kwanda OWs in South Africa in the noughties.[34][35][36][37] The FE is the framework set up for all organizational and learning activities before, during and after the Workshop. It is created before the workshop and remains in place after it closes.[38] The participants' first job, in turn, is to set up a PE which, usually after a period of trial and error referred to as anomie by de Morais,[39][40] starts organizing work, subject to negotiation of a contract with the FE. Work delivered during the OW is then paid from the development fund[41] at market rates.[42]

Vocational skills course during the Laurel OW (Costa Rica) Nov 2005
Contract negotiation 2012 OW (S.Africa)

Lectures on the "theory of organization" (TO)[43] are an integral and compulsory part of the OW process. These lectures (1 ½ hours a day for two weeks) are meant to enable members of the PE to gain a perspective on their historical, social and economic context, on the working of the market economy, on current patterns and models of organization, as well as insights in individual and collective behavior. Skills acquired include practical enterprise organization and management skills including labor and time management, financial record-keeping and reporting, planning, quoting and tendering for work, vocational skills such as e.g. building, welding, tailoring, farming, catering or IT skills, and literacy and numeracy development.[44][45][46]


Sponsoring bodies since the 1960s have ranged from United Nations organizations to local and international development agencies and NGOs, among them FAO, ILO, UNDP, terre des hommes, Concern Worldwide, Catholic Relief Services, Hivos and Norwegian People's Aid, Redd Barna and, recently e.g. in South Africa, the Soul City Institute and government departments such as South Africa's Department of Social Development.

Correia considers drawing up a correct quantitative, let alone qualitative balance sheet of the OW experience a "virtually impossible" task. Based on results of qualitative research into the OW she conducted, she tentatively "ventures some conservative estimates": 15% of OW participants are estimated to subsequently start an enterprise of one kind or another which, in the case of Brazil – (anno 2000, the publication year of 'A Future') – amounts to 9,000 enterprises.

Closing Ceremony Laurel OW 2005. Among the Vocational courses the 543 participants chose were English (see banner), Carpentry, Electronics, Confectionery, IT, and others.

An additional estimated 30% (equivalent to 8,000 persons) subsequently find work. Counting in family members, she arrives at 27,000 persons who, in her research sample, "have drawn some economic benefit from the OW, ... at an estimated unit cost of a mere $16 per person".[47] Andersson similarly estimates the impact of the 2009–10 Kwanda program in South Africa: 5,000 participants; 200,000 community member beneficiaries; 2,000,000 viewers and listeners reached per week.[48]

The OW's "massive" claim – (re: Capacitación 'Masiva' in Spanish/Portuguese)[49] – is at its most visible when, as in the case of Brazil, Honduras or Costa Rica, it is run on a regional or national basis (known as PROGER/PRONAGER or National Job & Income Generation Program)[50] which, in de Morais' mind, ought to be the OW's default mode: 110,946 people participated in 282 OWs in Brazil from 2000 to 2002.[51][52] The report further cites 3,194 resulting enterprise start-ups and 25,077 new jobs; 22,000 participated in 104 São Paulo PAE (Self-Employment) Program from 1996 to 1998, resulting in 711 new enterprises, including People's Banks.[53][54] 27,000 Hondurans and other nationals participated in more than 200 OWs during the 1973–1976 national PROCCARA Program in Honduras[55][56] which led to the creation of 1,053 new enterprises, some of the bigger ones still operating today (see e.g. Hondupalma below).[30][57][58] 6,000 Cooperative (INSCOOP) workers graduated under the 1979 POR/OIT/PNUD/007 Program (Portugal).[59] The Costa Rica (2010–13) Brunca Region GERMINADORA Project[60] was decreed a "Project of Public Interest" by President Chinchilla Miranda in 2012.[61] In 2015, 411 persons participated in the Westonaria (S. Africa) Organization Workshop, originally planned for 350.[62]

Long-term survival rates of OW-initiated enterprises—(as compared to conventional micro-enterprises, where failure rates allegedly may be as high as 80% in their first year of operation).[63][64]—are exemplified by e.g.: 13 surviving—in 2000—Costa-Rican cooperatives;[65] the Honduran—(ex-1970s PROCCARA campaign)—palm oil growing and processing plants Hondupalma,[66] Salama[67] and Coapalma.[68] In 1999 the Costa Rican Coopesilencio cooperative celebrated its 25th year of operation with a book by Barrantes.[69] Since then, Coopesilencio has added eco-tourism to its activities.


The activity-based OW approach stands out from mainstream behaviorism-based small group approaches. That is by itself a potential source of controversy in both academia and accepted field practice.[14][70][71]

Critique of the OW (and, indirectly, of de Morais) has come from both left and right, the latter, wary of de Morais' conceptual mode and language "throwback to the 50s" in which de Morais' original Theory of Organization is couched, "felt that his ideas needed rejecting".[72] Nonetheless his format was readily accepted by international organizations over the decades.[73] Van Dam[74] adds that the Latin American "bourgeois establishment" clearly saw peasant autonomy brought about by the OW as "a threat to the established order" and did all in their power to disrupt it, for example by withholding state support.

The "institutional left", broadly defined as countries identifying, pre 1989, with the Eastern Bloc, including Cuba, never embraced de Morais' autonomous job creation and income generation method. Revolutionary Nicaragua did allow the 1980 COPERA or "Capacitation Project for the Organization of Producers and Job Creation" OW pilot project, sponsored by the ILO and the Nicaraguan Institute for Agrarian Reform,[75] which was to become the mould for a nationwide Nicaraguan SIPGER (Job & Income Generation System), on the Honduran model, but the Sandinista government cut short the project on 29 December 1980, with a memorandum critical of the OW: "those Experimental Laboratories[76] contribute to the bourgeois mindset in capitalist countries" while "surplus production serves the particular group and not the national interest".[77] Van Dam concurs by noting that a revolutionary Sandinista government, beset by internal economic crisis, conflict with neighboring States and a Contra uprising, felt that it needed to be strongly 'in control' of the political process, including 'popular participation'.[78]

A second strand of "left" criticism tends to come, on the one hand, from the ideological 'hard' left "whose trenchant criticism of de Morais derives partly from [this] apparent neglect of the exploitative features of the capitalist mode of production, while there is open admiration for [the OW's] organizing method"[79] and, on the other hand, from what could be broadly termed the "liberation theology/Freirean conscientization" stream of practice, which de Morais encountered when working with the MST (Landless Workers) Movement in Brazil. Morais (sometimes also spelled "Moraes") – typically is criticized by this group for, among other things, being too "rigid and dogmatic". The latter's critical views tend to express a preference for Freirean-inspired critical pedagogy consciousness-raising and "root cause"-finding approaches[80] whereas de Morais' method focuses on "organizational" consciousness.[81]

Sobrado points to another source of resistance to the OW, which does not necessarily come from either left or right, but is rooted, instead, in the status quo, perceived to be threatened by "a sure fire way of developing the capacities of the poor". This "annoys the organizations and institutions that appear to operate according to a more or less cleverly disguised clientelist hidden agenda".[82]

The anthropologist Josh Fisher's 2010 detailed Génesis case study Building Consciousness: The Organization Workshop Comes to a Nicaraguan Cooperative can be counted as a critique of the OW. Fisher argues that "the most illuminating aspect of the Génesis not its success or failure, narrowly defined, but rather the unintended consequences [of the OW] that have originated in large part from the space between the actual existing social and organizational dynamics in the Génesis cooperative before the workshop, on the one hand, and the OW's model for those dynamics, on the other."[83]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Sobrado in Carmen & Sobrado 2000, Ch. 2
  2. ^ "or, as many as local conditions and the amount of ‘common pool resources' that can be put at the disposal of the participants allow": de Morais in Carmen & Sobrado 2000, p. 26; Seriti Archived 5 November 2013 at the Wayback Machine: current field practice sees average numbers of around 150.
  3. ^ Labra & Labra 2012, pp. 1 & 21: 850 took part in the Matzinho OW, Moz.
  4. ^ see e.g. Sobrado in Carmen & Sobrado 2000, pp. 209–10 on the nature of and need for autonomy.
  5. ^ Morais 1987, p. 118 known also as 'the Inventory' or Common-pool resource.
  6. ^ de Morais 1979.
  7. ^ Apuntes de teoría de la organización (Book, 1979). []. OCLC 493557014.
  8. ^ IICA 1979, pp. 1-37.
  9. ^ Cherrett, Ian (1992). Notes to a Theory of Organization. Newcastle, UK: ETC.
  10. ^ Sobrado in Carmen & Sobrado 2000, p. 15
  11. ^ Andersson 2010, p. 2, Slide #5.
  12. ^ de Morais 1987, p. 19-23.
  13. ^ de Morais in Carmen & Sobrado 2000 p.32
  14. ^ a b Labra 1994.
  15. ^ Sobrado in Carmen & Sobrado 2000, p. 19
  16. ^ Andersson 2013.
  17. ^ Correia in Carmen & Sobrado 2000, p. 46
  18. ^ Correia 1994.
  19. ^ because based on the division of labor.
  20. ^ Andersson 2013, p.24 quoting Vygotsky n.59.
  21. ^ Sobrado in Carmen & Sobrado 2000, p. 209: the traditional relationship between trainee and instructor ceases to apply
  22. ^ Andersson 2004, p.221-2 "de Morais' antecedent thought: Objectivised Activity".
  23. ^ Correia 2007, p. 6: re: Objective Activity.
  24. ^ Andersson 2013a.
  25. ^ Araujo, S. A metodologia da capacitação massiva [Large-group Capacitation Method] (PDF) (in Portuguese).[permanent dead link]
  26. ^ Sobrado & Rojas 2006, pp. 193–218.
  27. ^ Carmen & Sobrado 2000, pp. xv–xix "Translating 'latino' terms into English" & p.208: Capacitation and Discapacitation.
  28. ^ Andersson 2004, p. 166-170 "Capacitation".
  29. ^ Carmen & Sobrado 2000, p. 51. Part III – The OW in Practice.
  30. ^ a b Labra & Labra 2012, p. 3.
  31. ^ de Morais, C. Santos (1987). Botswana, a workshop on production organization. Rome,Italy: FAO FFHC –Freedom from Hunger Campaign – IDEAS & ACTION No. 175 (1987/4). pp. 8–17. OCLC 17537007.
  32. ^ Labra, Ivan, 2016 The Organisation Workshop at Marsh Farm, Luton, UK. Performance Report Archived 29 September 2017 at the Wayback Machine Integraterra - the Network of OW Practitioners.
  33. ^ Imagine, 2016 Marsh Farm Organisation Workshop Evaluation Report
  34. ^ Ramafoko, Lebo; Andersson, Gavin; Weiner, Renay (September 2012). "Reality Television for Community Development – The Kwanda Initiative in South Africa". Glocal Times. 17/18 (17/18).
  35. ^ Labra & Labra 2012, p. 6.
  36. ^ Andersson 2010, p. 2, Slide #4.
  37. ^ In South Africa, the OW was applied by, among others, the Seriti Institute, Soul City Institute and government departments such as South Africa's Department of Social Development.
  38. ^ I.& I. Labra in Carmen, Labra & Davis 1999 p 51-52
  39. ^ de Morais 1987, p. 119.
  40. ^ Van Dam 1982, p. 28.
  41. ^ Correia 2007, p. 9.
  42. ^ Labra, Isabel; Labra, Ivan (2008). "Der Organisationsworkshop-Ansatz: eine Großgruppenintervention für die Arbeit mit Basisgruppen" [The Organization Workshop approach to Work: a Large Group intervention with Base Groups]. In Königswieser, Roswita; Keil, Marion (eds.). Das Feuer großer Gruppen [The fire of large groups] (in German). Klett-Cotta. pp. 196–208. ISBN 9783791030432.
  43. ^ Labra & Labra 2012, p. 25 10.4.
  44. ^ I. & I. Labra in Carmen & Sobrado 2000, pp. 118–120
  45. ^ Andersson 2004, pp. 135–142.
  46. ^ Labra & Labra 2012.
  47. ^ Correia in Carmen & Sobrado 2000, pp. 199–200
  48. ^ Andersson 2010, p. 4 slide #3.
  49. ^ Sidney, Abel, de Souza (February 2006). "A Metodologia da Capacitação Massiva: uma alternativa à geração de emprego e renda" [A Mass Capacitation Methodology: an alternative to Job and Income Generation]. Revista Espaço Acadêmico (in Portuguese). 57. Archived from the original on 23 October 2013.
  50. ^ Nacif, Vera M.S. Programa Nacional de Generación de Empleo y Renta PRONAGER [National Program for Job and Income Generation] (PDF) (in Portuguese). Brazil: Departamento Cultural. Archived from the original (PDF) on 23 October 2013.
  51. ^ "PRODUZIR report" (PDF) (in Portuguese). FAO. p. 7. Archived from the original (PDF) on 23 October 2013. Retrieved 31 March 2013.
  52. ^ "PRODUZIR Amazônia". Archived from the original on 23 October 2013. Retrieved 22 October 2013.
  53. ^ Programa de Auto-Emprego – PAE (PDF) (in Portuguese). DIEESE. 2002. p. 3. Archived from the original (PDF) on 23 October 2013.
  54. ^ Correia in Carmen & Sobrado 2000, p188 (Ch.18) and p175-7
  55. ^ Erazo, Benjamin; Fajardo, Allan (1980). El Proceso de Colectivización del Agro Hondureño [The collectivation process of the Honduran agrarian area] (in Spanish). Mexico: Centro de Estudios Superiores Tercer Milenio – CESTEM no 1. – quoted by de Morais 1987, p. 137 n.245
  56. ^ Instituto Nacional Agrario-National Agrarian Institute (1974). Programa de Capacitación Campesina para la Reforma Agraria [Campesino Capacitation Program for Agrarian Reform] (in Spanish). Tegucigalpa, Honduras: Government Printer. OCLC 24518003.
  57. ^ Silveira 1997.
  58. ^ Correia 2001, p. 147.
  59. ^ Correia in Carmen & Sobrado 2000, p 152 (ch. 15) & 174
  60. ^ Germinadora Project - Spanish
  61. ^ "Presidential Decree #37771 MP-MBSF QLD" (PDF). La Gaceta. 236: 3. 6 December 2012. Archived from the original (PDF) on 23 October 2013. Retrieved 15 May 2013.
  62. ^ Westonaria Organization Workshop "W.O.W." p. 19.
  63. ^ Correia in Carmen & Sobrado 2000, p. 201 quotes a 90% 1st year failure rate according to SEBRAE Archived 30 August 2013 at the Wayback Machine(Brazilian Micro Enterprise Support Service)
  64. ^ Sobrado & Stoller 2002 quote: "This creates the conditions for the failure of those microenterprises (the failure rate in the first year is over 80 percent) and deepens the desperation of participants."
  65. ^ Sobrado in Carmen & Sobrado 2000, p. 56
  66. ^ Hondupalma celebrated its 30th year of operation in 2012
  67. ^ Palm Oil Producers in Honduras Salama p3 Archived 2 November 2013 at the Wayback Machine
  68. ^ "Coapalma abona L15 millones a Banadesa - Coapalma pays 15m lempiras to Bandesa". La Prensa. 3 January 2013.
  69. ^ Barrantes C., Victor J. (1998). La construcción de un sueño: Coopesilencio, 25 años después. Costa Rica: EUNA.
  70. ^ Andersson 2004, p.60, p.249, p.262-9 "Small group Lewinian Social Psychology".
  71. ^ See also Andersson (2013) on Lewin and small group "bounded" approach in external links below.
  72. ^ Carmen & Sobrado 2000, p. 21.
  73. ^ Andersson 2004, p. 130.
  74. ^ Van Dam 1982, p. 61.
  75. ^ Bornstein, C.T. (1982). A Reforma Agraria en Nicaragua [Agrarian Reform in Nicaragua]. São Paulo, Brazil: Brasiliense. LCCN 83150674., quoted in de Morais 1987, p. 138.
  76. ^ a b Van Dam was translated into Dutch in 1983 re: Het Experimenteel Laboratorium ISBN 9064432910. As for Experimenteel/Experimental: "LE/EW" – (or "EWTO" – Experimental Workshop on Theory of Organization) – was the early, and subsequently gradually abandoned name for the LO/OW see, e.g. Correia 2001, p. 144, Labra & Labra 2012, p. 2 and Van Dam 1982, pp. 69–72 5.6: Nature and reason for the artificial aspect of the Experimental Workshop.
  77. ^ "Puntos de consideracion sobre la implementacion de Laboratorios Experimentales" [Points of consideration on the implementation of Experimental Laboratories] (in Spanish). Archived from the original on 2 February 2014. Retrieved 27 March 2013.
  78. ^ Van Dam 1982, p. 58.
  79. ^ Andersson 2004, p. 148. Andersson singles out Kate Truscott's vocal criticism of de Morais at a SACNET -(Southern Africa Cooperative Network)- Seminar held in Harare in 1990.
  80. ^ Thomaz, Fernanda (2009). A ORGANIZAÇÃO DO TRABALHO CAMPONÊS NA VISÃO DE CLODOMIR SANTOS DE MORAIS – The Organization of rural labor according to Clodomir Santos de Morais (PDF) (in Portuguese). São Paulo, Brazil: XIXth Meeting of the Agrarian Geography group. pp. 1–16.
  81. ^ Carmen & Sobrado 2000, [organizational] which includes 'critical' consciousness re: Ch. 4 -From Freire to Clodomir Santos de Morais: from Critical to Organizational Consciousness.
  82. ^ Sobrado in Carmen & Sobrado 2000, p. 21
  83. ^ Fisher, Josh (2010). "Building Consciousness: The Organization Workshop Comes to a Nicaraguan Cooperative". Anthropology of Work Review. 31 (10): 71. doi:10.1111/j.1548-1417.2010.01043.x.

Further reading[edit]

  • Ellerman, D (2001) Helping People Help Themselves: Toward a Theory of Autonomy-Compatible Help Washington D.C.: World Bank Policy Research WP 2693
  • Engeström, Y. (2009) Learning by Expanding: Ten Years After Marburg BdWi-Verlag – NB. Although Engeström, – since 1987 a key internationally renowned Activity authority – does not have any known associations with the activity-based OW --, his 'Activity Triangle' goes a long way in elucidating OW processes – re: 'Engeström's Third Generation Contributions: a Concept of Activity Systems' in: Andersson 2013: p38-50
  • Langa, M and Von Holdt, K (2011) Bokfontein amazes the nations' Community Work Program (CWP), poverty alleviation and collective trauma healing in a marginal community in: Daniel J, Naidoo P, Pillay D and Southall R (eds.) New South African Review Two. Johannesburg: Wits University Press.
  • Ramafoko, L., Andersson, G., Weiner R. (2012) "Reality Television for Community Development. The Kwanda Initiative in South Africa" in:Nordicom Review[permanent dead link] 33 1. 1–162
  • Singer, Paul (2006) The Recent Rebirth of the Solidarity Economy in Brazil" p. 3-42 in: Santos, Boaventura de Sousa (2006) Another Production is Possible: beyond the Capitalist Canon Verso, London. ISBN 1844670783

External links[edit]