A focus group discussion (FGD) is a qualitative tool in a group interview format that brings together specific programme stakeholders for a discussion around topics related to the change in girls as a result of the programme they are in. An FGD is a good way to gather together people from similar backgrounds or experiences to discuss a specific topic of interest. The group of participants is guided by a moderator (or group facilitator) who introduces topics for discussion and helps the group participants to have a lively and natural discussion amongst themselves.
The strength of FGD relies on allowing the participants to agree or disagree with each other so that it provides an insight into how a group thinks about an issue, about the range of opinions and ideas, and the inconsistencies and variation that exist in a particular community in terms of beliefs and their experiences and practices.1
Organising focus group discussions is a great way to involve different stakeholders in the community in planning and implementing, as well as in evaluation of your programme. Not only is it an effective way to learn from the community members and gain insight, but also it will mean that they feel like a part of the programme and have a deeper investment in your success. Many organisations use focus group discussions to evaluate the impact of their programme. This makes the evaluation a process that is led by the girl participants because they are talking about what the impacts of the programme are on their lives.
- Understand current community feeling about your programme
- Understand the attitudes of the community at different points during the life of your programme, therefore measuring change in attitudes over time
- Gather ideas from different community stakeholders on ways to improve your programme
- Understand current engagement with your programme by community stakeholders
Guidelines and Tips
- It is always good to conduct a number of focus group discussions at any one time in order to understand the situation as well as any trends. One or more of the focus group discussions should be conducted during the programme while one should be conducted when the programme has finished (endline). It is unnecessary to conduct a focus group discussion as a baseline.
- Some important steps and tips in planning and preparing for focus group discussions are:
- Prepare a consent form and have it translated for all the participants.
- The facilitator of any focus group discussion should be someone that the participants are familiar with and whom they trust; this will create an environment where they are more honest and open about their experience.
- Confidentiality is an essential part of trust in a focus group discussion. Make it clear to everyone, both facilitator and participants, that what is said in a focus group discussion is anonymous and confidential.
- Decide how many focus group discussions you wish to facilitate.
- Recruit participants for the focus group discussions. This should be voluntary and a random sampling of girls. Do not target certain girls.
- Decide on a place and time that is both convenient and private so that everyone can attend the discussion, and also so it will remain confidential.
- Schedule ample time and choose a convenient place for the group to conduct discussions.
- Consent of the participants to participate in discussions must be given in advance.
- Before beginning the discussion, introduce yourself and your team, and explain the general purpose of the discussion and how that fits into the overall process. Note the time it will take and reiterate the confidential nature of the discussion (that names will not be used with any comments or quotations without prior permission).
- Maintain a neutral attitude and avoid giving the impression of having strong views on the subject under discussion until the end.
- While conducting the discussion, avoid questions that can be answered by a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Questions that begin with ‘how’ are very effective, but you should avoid questions beginning with ‘why’ as they may make the respondents defensive.
- Provide space for the participants to discuss among themselves and always make sure you are not interrupting them unless the discussion is taking a different or dangerous direction.
- Ask follow-up questions for clarification or to elicit extended responses. Encourage participants to detail the basis for their conclusions and recommendations.
- Encourage all participants to speak.