PLANNING & FACILITATING
A Hands-On Session for
New Jersey VISTA Leaders
➤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
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-
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
➤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
➤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
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
What info do you need and from whom?
STEP 1. PURPOSE
They cannot be answered with “yes” or “no”.
➤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
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?
EXAMPLE: FOCUS GROUP OF HOMELESS
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
EXAMPLE: HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS
Focus Group Protocol
program to identify strategies for increasing college access
➤ What things about your program at _____ School make you conﬁdent about graduating
➤ What things about your program at _____ School make you worried about graduating on
➤ 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
EXAMPLE: HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS
➤ 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.
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
➤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).
➤Clear GOAL written and shared.
➤Connect with the BIG PICTURE
(your organization, project?)
➤Flow of the questions.
➤Open dialogue. Building TRUST!?!
2.Review of agenda
3.Review the goal
6.Q&A/Dialogue (at least half time)
➤Timing - captive 1 to 1.5 hours?
➤Space - Consider travel issues. Comfort?
➤Seating? Conﬁgure chairs so that all
members can see each other. Name tags!
➤Refreshments - Beverages, snacks, lunch?
➤Rewards or incentives?
Be ready to facilitate and
run the focus group.
STEP 6. DO IT!
➤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
➤Role of community leaders?
➤Use “I” Statements
➤What is said here, stays here
➤discuss if there will be attribution
➤Everyone speak at least once (NOSTUESO)
➤Right to pass
➤Respect/honor other’s viewpoints and
➤Know your stuﬀ! Questions…names
➤Establish rapport and create a
comfortable, informal environment for
➤Set expectations for participation and
➤Keep participants engaged and interested
➤Monitor time and use time eﬀectively
(written or verbal)
recorder or note
FOR FOCUS GROUPS…
➤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?")
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.
Summarize and synthesize your
ﬁndings and discussion.
STEP 7. ANALYZE
➤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
➤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
➤Include one or more of the following elements:
3.Insightful comments and suggestions