Focus groups gather people together to discuss a particular topic and in our work, these discussions cover topics in a variety of sectors, including agriculture, health, and sanitation.
For these conversations, field managers at IDinsight, myself included gather together four to ten people and collect data from this group. In a focus group discussion (FGD), much of the conversation should happen between members of the group, not with the facilitator talking. Because FGDs are not interviews, even though they use open-ended questions like in semi-structured one-on-one interviews, it requires different preparation and skills to facilitate. A facilitator or moderator must effectively encourage group discussion and debate while keeping the conversation on track.
In this post, we focus on practical tips for the data collection team (from a data collection team!) to use once the full research team has determined that FGDs will produce the best, most decision-relevant data for a particular client question and has decided on the right size and composition for the group. We hope this will be useful for Field Management teams’ data collections as they prepare for their first – or even 100th! – FGD.
Conducting a focus group discussion requires skills and spontaneity. A thumb-rule for facilitating a discussion in such situations is to follow the conversation attentively, intervene only when necessary, and always make the individuals participating feel involved and heard. Simple gestures such as making eye contact while asking questions, appreciating group members for speaking out, respecting the different opinions shared by individuals, etc. are effective ways to involve participants. Facilitators should also:
“Always keep a smile on your face and maintain full energy throughout the group discussion. This will make the focus group discussion more lively.” – Dinabandhu Bharti, Senior Field Manager, IDinsight
While conducting an effective focus group discussion can be difficult, they get easiier with experience. The facilitator should remember to center the discussion around general and more common topics. If the intent is to discuss more personal issues then we suggest considering one-on-one interviews with the respondents. We hope these suggestions help you plan your next focus group discussion.
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