The Power of Focus Groups
Focus groups are a great way for prevention and intervention programs to understand, in detail, the experiences of the individuals and communities they serve. Focus groups create a safe space for individuals to share their lived experiences and offer solutions to identified care gaps and challenges in a way that quantitative data can sometimes fail to accomplish.
When facilitated correctly, focus groups have the power to open the door for amazing discussion and dialogue that sets the stage for strengthening and refining programs and services.
Focus groups matter because they place people in positions of power and advocacy who have traditionally been siloed, silenced, and shut out.
When we conduct focus groups with people rather than looking at quantitative data, we can begin to understand the why over the what. This is the foundation of equity-focused evaluation and our work with communities to empower, connect, and heal.
Focus Group Resource
AKA has created a focus group guide for evaluation teams to conduct in-person and virtual focus groups. The guide outlines key considerations, general tips, and facilitation techniques for conducting successful and meaningful focus groups. It also contains handy checklists that evaluation teams can use to keep their planning and implementation of focus groups on track. Our hope is this guide will help project coordinators and evaluators implement focus groups and apply the findings to strengthen their programs and services.
Training on Focus Groups
At AKA we work closely with our partners and interns to build capacity for community-level data collection, this includes training on focus group. Our Senior Associates worked with our interns, Brighten Crawford and Curtis Hartley, to train them on how to facilitate focus groups. Our interns then had the opportunity to put their skills into action and lead a focus group with our partners in New Mexico.
Focus Groups in Action
Allyson Kelley & Associates (AKA) worked with our partners at the University of New Mexico’s Community Health Workers Initiative to conduct focus groups to inform their program and services. Specifically, AKA conducted focus groups with community health workers (CHW), case managers (CM), and certified peer support workers to explore factors that support and hinder the successful reentry of incarcerated individuals in Bernalillo County. For 90 minutes, AKA engaged in meaningful dialogue with UNM staff who shared first-hand experience about the challenges to reentry. They also shared amazing success stories and described the importance of genuine and catered support and guidance. Focus group participants stressed the importance of supporting and empowering incarcerated individuals through education and training (e.g., job and life skill courses), wellness (e.g., social-emotional support, mental health aid), and counseling (e.g., pre-release support, legal aid). CHWs and CMs perspectives were used to create a reentry model that will inform the development of a community-based organizational model to reentry.