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Discussion and focus groups – working together

A focus or discussion group can be a great way of engaging with a small group of people to get feedback on a particular topic. Suppose you're developing an information pack for people who have depression. In that case, it might be a good idea to hold a series of focus groups in different geographical areas and across a range of communities.
Focus groups are beneficial in developing ideas because the group can explore and reflect on things together.

Things to consider:

  • What skills and experience does the facilitator have? Do they need to access any training?
  • How will they manage the group dynamics? The group agreement template (With instructions | Without instructions) can help with this.
  • Are you doing this online or in person? Look at our remote working guidance.
  • How can you/the facilitator make sure the group stays focused on the topic? A facilitation plan can be helpful here.
  • Think about what you want to explore or understand. The defining and refining tool (With instructions | Without instructions) can help you with this. Use the facilitation plan to help you structure when and how you will ask each question.
  • Use a variety of activities to make answering them engaging and enjoyable. It can be helpful to write yourself prompts and include any probing / sub-questions, so you don't forget them. Think about Why, What, How type open questions to explore peoples answers in more depth.
  • How many participants will you require to elicit the response you need? Focus groups tend to work best with between six and 10 participants, which means that you may need to run multiple groups in different locations.
  • Think about how you will give feedback on the results and what you will do as a result. The 'You said…We did tool' (With instructions | Without instructions) in this toolkit is a simple way of doing this and can be shared in a digital format or hard copies. You may want to create charts or an infographic to represent what you learnt visually.


Facilitation Plan

This tool helps ensure your activity/event runs as smooth as possible. From how you present questions to participants and to identifying what resources you will need.

With instructions | Without instructions

Creating a group agreement

If you're asking people to join a one-off focus group or discussion event, a group agreement lets everyone know where they stand and helps to create a safe space for openness and honesty. If you're setting up a regular forum, make sure you have some terms of reference in place to define expectations.

With instructions | Without instructions

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