You're certainly not alone on this topic. Let me see if I can find a good discussion around it in the community. In the interim, here are just a few differentiating ways I think about groups and spaces:
- Have a hierarchy: I can have a parent/child relationship
- Available on request: needs to be set up by a community admin
- Management of the users is done through permissions and permission groups in the admin console
- Fine level of control around permissions
- No hierarchy: They are in the community, but otherwise kind of "floating" (That's not to say you can't get creative and create a psuedo-navigation however)
- If the community is configured to do so, I can create these as I please
- Management of users is done in the group itself. Public and Members allows me to join as a please, Private requires that I be accepted, secret means I need to be invited)
- Rough level of control on permissions: I am a group admin (not a community admin) or a member of the group.
So based on what you're saying above, it does sound like a group is a fit. You can create these one off, set it to either private or secret depending on your preference (this can be changed as you please), and then invite members into it.
Once your admin users have joined, promote them to that role in the member controls.
You could even consider starting this as a secret group, setting up, and then making it private to allow more folks to request access.
Something to be aware of: because groups don't aline to a particular structure like spaces, they tend to pop up everywhere, and sometimes with duplicate and overlapping purposes. Lay out a framework for when new groups get created and even when they might get retired or re-purposed. Otherwise you may run into a cleanup operation down the road. This seems to particularly happen with secret groups, because nobody even knew the other group existed.
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Regret you can't moderate content in a private group - see http://docs.jivesoftware.com/jive/6.0/community_admin/index.jsp?topic=/com.jivesoftware.help.sbs.online_6.0/admin/WhatCannotBeModerated.html and the group doesn't have a parent space or group as groups are non-hierarchical. You can have multiple group owners (aka admins) though.
If moderation is important to you (and are you talking pre-publish moderation or just editing all content after publication and dealing with abuse reporting?) then you might want a space which gives much more control but with it much more admin overhead. Whether this is an issue for you will depend on the number of users and the churn rate. HTH