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Focus Groups


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Training on designing and running focus groups for the Bonner Network and VISTAs

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Focus Groups

  1. 1. PLANNING & FACILITATING FOCUS GROUPS A Hands-On Session for New Jersey VISTA Leaders
  2. 2. INTENDED OUTCOMES ➤Understand what a focus group is & steps involved ➤Hands-on opportunity to develop a plan and questions for a 60-90-minute focus group ➤Strategies for facilitating a focus group and practice ➤Be able to conduct focus groups as a viable strategy
  3. 3. “ The power of a focus group lies in its ability to leverage the multiple channels of communication and thought. When you buckle down and really explore the many facets of a possible innovation, you are more able to make well thought- out decisions. -Craig Cochran
  4. 4. USING FOCUS GROUPS TO GATHER INFORMATION ➤Focus groups are planned small group discussions of about 8-12 people ➤They are highly participatory and can be used to obtain diverse ideas and perceptions about a topic of interest ➤Different experiences, ideas and views often emerge
  5. 5. BENEFITS ➤Group dialogue can generate rich info as participants engage one another ➤Gathers information from those who are most involved in an issue/ community and have expert knowledge about the topic ➤Relatively low cost and efficient
  6. 6. ➤Discussions can be sidetracked or dominated by more vocal participants ➤Susceptible to facilitator bias which can impact the validity of findings ➤Cannot assess how generalizable individual themes or viewpoints are within a like population LIMITATIONS
  7. 7. STEPS INVOLVED 1.Identify purpose/information needed 2.Develop 5-6 broad, open-ended questions 3.Recruit (& confirm) participants 4.Determine plan and logistics for conducting 5.Location, time, potential incentives 6.Conduct the focus groups 7.Analyze and summarize data
  8. 8. What info do you need and from whom? STEP 1. PURPOSE
  10. 10. ➤Constituents/Clients ➤Working group members ➤Community members/residents ➤Organizational staff ➤Stakeholders ➤Funders ➤A mix WHICH PEOPLE?
  11. 11. WHAT AND WHO IS IN YOURS ? Let’s discuss!
  12. 12. Develop 5-7 Open-Ended Questions STEP 2.
  13. 13. OPEN-ENDED MEANS… They cannot be answered with “yes” or “no”.
  14. 14. ➤Always first ask yourself what problem or need will be addressed by the info gathered. ➤For example: to find out if a new service or idea will work, understand how a program (or process) is working/failing, etc. ➤Basically multiple interviews. ➤Encourage the exchange of ideas and stories v. individual turn-taking in answering. DEVELOP AND SHARE YOUR QUESTIONS
  15. 15. Focus Group Series Summary 10-Year Plan to End Chronic Homelessness in Pitt County ➤ How did you become homeless? ➤ How long have you been homeless or were you homeless? ➤ How did homelessness affect the way you think about yourself? ➤ Thinking back to when you first became homeless, what would it have taken to prevent it? ➤ What do you need to maintain a home/housing? ➤ What would you do if you had unlimited resources and could end homelessness? ➤ Many experts think estimates of the numbers who are homeless are not accurate because they do not include people who are doubling up with relatives or friends. Did you ever double up? Do you know others who have? ➤ What three things should Pitt County do to end homelessness? ➤ focusgroupseriessummary.pdf EXAMPLE: FOCUS GROUP OF HOMELESS
  16. 16. Focus Group Protocol program evaluation and to identify effective strategies for promoting college access ➤ Ice Breaker: Do students at _____ school talk with each other about college? What do people say? What about [public postsecondary institutions in your state]? ➤ Do you talk about college issues in your classes? If so, which classes (all classes?)? ➤ At what point (e.g., which grade -- 8, 9, 10, 11, 12?) do your counselors begin meeting with students to talk about college? Can you tell me about them? ➤ Do any colleges and universities in your state have college nights at your school? Have you attended any and what did you learn? ➤ Do you think it would be difficult or easy to gain admission to a college or university? What factors influence your decision to apply? ➤ Do you feel like you understand what will be expected of you in college, academically, and how you should prepare for it? ➤ Do you have any suggestions about ways to improve the information you receive about the college admissions process – either how you receive the information, or the content of the information that you receive? ➤ EXAMPLE: HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS
  17. 17. Focus Group Protocol program to identify strategies for increasing college access ➤ What things about your program at _____ School make you confident about graduating on time? ➤ What things about your program at _____ School make you worried about graduating on time? ➤ What things about your program at _____ School make you confident about going on to college or a technical school? ➤ What things about your program at _____ School make you worried about going on to college or a technical school? ➤ How could _____ School make it easier for you to graduate and feel prepared for college or technical school? ➤ What do your parents know about what you need to graduate and be prepared for college? ➤ EXAMPLE: HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS
  18. 18. DRAFT YOUR QUESTIONS Share and get feedback!
  19. 19. REFINE ➤ Interview Questions – These are predetermined and limited in number. Most recommend 5-6, but may have 10-12 (google your area!). ➤ Follow-up (Probes) Questions – These are written questions added in interview questions below. There are 16 follow-up questions in our interview. ➤ Spontaneous Follow-up Questions – These are questions that the facilitators – especially the backup co-facilitator – can ask after listening to the first set of responses to each question. You may find you will use 25 – 50 spontaneous follow-up questions.
  20. 20. Recruit & confirm participants Plan: strategy & agenda Logistics: location, time, incentives STEPS 3, 4, 5.
  21. 21. RECRUIT What works best? ➤Select members who are likely to be participatory and reflective. ➤Call, email, Facebook, text…potential participants to invite them ➤Send a follow-up invitation ➤Proposed agenda, session time and list of questions
  22. 22. PLAN ➤Review with colleagues. Anticipate. ➤Who will help you (notetaker, etc.)? ➤You may want to plan to provide a copy of the report (let them know). ➤In the days before, remind each person to attend (& extra details).
  23. 23. ➤Clear GOAL written and shared. ➤Connect with the BIG PICTURE (your organization, project?) ➤Rapport building. ➤Flow of the questions. ➤Open dialogue. Building TRUST!?! STRATEGY
  24. 24. 1.Welcome 2.Review of agenda 3.Review the goal 4.Ground rules 5.Introductions 6.Q&A/Dialogue (at least half time) 7.Wrap up AGENDA
  25. 25. ➤Timing - captive 1 to 1.5 hours? ➤Space - Consider travel issues. Comfort? Lighting? ➤Seating? Configure chairs so that all members can see each other. Name tags! ➤Refreshments - Beverages, snacks, lunch? ➤Rewards or incentives? LOGISTICS
  26. 26. Be ready to facilitate and run the focus group. STEP 6. DO IT!
  27. 27. ➤Participation is not linked to services ➤Information is confidential - use group norms ➤"Getting to know each other" time (flow) ➤Respect/honor participant expertise and time ➤Consider language, gender and ethnic match of facilitator and participants ➤Cultural norms? ➤Role of community leaders? INCLUSIVITY
  28. 28. ➤Use “I” Statements ➤What is said here, stays here ➤discuss if there will be attribution ➤Everyone speak at least once (NOSTUESO) ➤Right to pass ➤Humor helps ➤Respect/honor other’s viewpoints and experiences GROUND RULES
  29. 29. ➤Know your stuff! Questions…names ➤Establish rapport and create a comfortable, informal environment for discussion ➤Set expectations for participation and group norms ➤Keep participants engaged and interested ➤Monitor time and use time effectively YOUR ROLES
  30. 30. ➤Obtain consent (written or verbal) ➤Address confidentiality ➤Record the discussion (tape recorder or note taker) FOR FOCUS GROUPS…
  31. 31. ➤Define key terms ➤Minimize pressure to conform to dominant view ➤Repeat the question ➤Pause for an answer ➤Repeat the reply ➤Ask when, what, where, and how questions to provoke more detailed information ➤Use neutral comments (e.g. "anything else?") EXTRA TIPS
  32. 32. EXAMPLE Pause 7 seconds after asking a question – don’t rush in. Invite participants to express a different point of view: - “Does anyone see it differently?” Request more information. - “Tell me more about that.” - “I don’t understand.” - “Could you please say more?” - “Will you give me an example so I can understand better?” Try to maintain neutrality while listening to your participants. Avoid piling on with such statements as: - “Yeh, that’s how I see it too.” - “No, that’s not right.” Don’t offer advice or solutions. This isn’t a session about fixing things or providing resources – it’s to get their ideas and thoughts about a small number of issues concerning program or organization. Make sure to get everyone to the extent possible to contribute.
  33. 33. Summarize and synthesize your findings and discussion. STEP 7. ANALYZE
  34. 34. ➤Cluster and group information(codes, repeated words, post-its) ➤Literally make counts ➤Summarize recurring themes and "types" of comments for individual questions (i.e., 5 of 8 said…) ➤Create a descriptive narrative ➤Capture outliers ANALYSIS
  35. 35. ➤Write a formal report on each focus group. ➤Summarize the findings by category (e.g., Mission, Board of Directors, Personnel). This will be useful when you analyze the data in other categories. ➤Include one or more of the following elements: 1.Themes (counts/codes) 2.Verbatim transcripts 3.Insightful comments and suggestions REPORT