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Discussion and focus groups

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. Check out our list of things to consider with focus groups, and resources to help you run them.


When should I use focus or discussion groups?

Focus groups are useful for developing ideas because the group can explore and reflect on things together.

For example, if you're developing an information pack for people who have depression, it might be a good idea to hold a series of focus groups in different geographical areas, across a range of communities. This means you can capture a range of experiences on the topic.

Things to consider with focus groups

  • What skills and experience does the facilitator have? Do they need any training?
  • How will they manage the group dynamics? A group agreement can help with this.
  • Are you doing this online? If so, check out our remote working guidance.
  • How can the facilitator make sure the group stays focused on the topic? A facilitation plan (see below) can be helpful here.
  • Think about what you want to explore or understand. Our defining and refining tool (see below) can help you with this. You could also use a facilitation plan to help you structure when and how you'll ask each question.
  • Use a variety of activities to make the group engaging and enjoyable.
  • Write yourself prompts and include any probing questions, so you don't forget them. Think about why, what, and how questions to explore people's answers in more depth.
  • How many participants will you need? Focus groups tend to work best with between 6 and 10 people, so you may need to run multiple groups in different locations.
  • Think about how you'll give feedback on the results and what you'll do as a result. Our you said, we did tool (see below) is a simple way of doing this and can be shared digitally or using hard copies. You may want to create charts or an infographic to represent what you learnt visually.

Useful resources for running focus groups

Facilitation Plan

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

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.

Defining and refining your opportunity

You can use this tool to quickly and robustly focus your team around the priority questions and methods that you will take into your influencing activity.

You said, we did tool

This tool can help you give meaningful feedback to participants in your activity and be clear about the effect their involvement has had.

Other ways to get involved

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