I recently was asked to facilitate focus groups for a social service agency as a beginning step in their strategic planning process. Focus groups are very familiar to me, but most of the participants of these groups were not familiar with the purpose of focus groups or how they may be beneficial to them or the agency. Some of their questions may also help you when deciding how to gather information.
What is a focus group?
A focus group is in essence a group interview based on a set of questions or discussion points. It is qualitative research designed to explore people’s opinions and attitudes. Focus groups ask open-ended questions and avoid questions that can be answered with yes or no answers. A typical focus group may consist of 6-8 people. A number of focus groups are usually conducted to get an ideal mix of information. Focus groups typically last 1-3 hours.
Why focus groups?
Focus groups tend to take place with a small sample size in an interactive group setting. They create a way to encourage participants to share ideas and express opinions and attitudes and are an effective way to facilitate open discussions and allow participants to express themselves deeper than a less personal survey, and dive deeper into certain issues.
Who participates in focus groups?
The participants selected must be able to answer the questions and must be familiar with the topic discussed. Participants are selected based on criteria relevant to the organization/concept including existing or potential customers.
If you are interested in conducting focus groups, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cindy Bond is an Assistant Professor and Extension Educator (Guernsey County).