What is an Interest Group?

Interest group is a term that you may or not be familiar with. Interest groups range depending on the industry, sector and even region. With that said, usually an interest group refers to a non-profit or group of volunteers that are comprised of members who share a passion or interest for a common cause. The purpose of the group and essentially the raison d’etre is to influence the public, public policy, regulation or share a message about the common interest or issue. The group does not, however, seek any political control, simply looks to raise awareness or start conversation to influence some sort of change, or sometimes just to raise awareness period.

Some of the most common activities or places you’ll see these interest groups are lobbying legislative bodies, contributing to political parties, protests, public campaigns, online threads or messages as well as working to elect a certain party or individual to an organization, political party, etc.

Interest groups can be broken into some broad categories that generally include:

  • Economic Associations; these groups include chambers of commerce, trade unions and sometimes even religious groups and usually have an economic mandate.
  • Professional Assocation; these groups typically aim to better, regulate and improve a profession. This includes everything from architects to engineers to doctors and everything in between. These can exist on a regional or national level, or both and often these associations create a larger network.
  • Public interest groups; these groups have a certain issue and look to enact change. For example, an environmental group or a group related to pro-life. These can be the most controversial groups, with issues that may be controversial, or contentious.
  • Special Interest groups; these groups form as sub groups within a network of larger interest groups

Overall, interest groups are usually about awareness and adding value and less about major or controversial change.