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Focus group discussions

Last edited: January 03, 2012

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Focus groups should bring together 5 to 12 participants selected to represent the target audience, or specific segments thereof. Common in evaluation, communication and market research, they are a useful tool to assess the target audience’s knowledge and attitudes towards the campaign issue, or towards the campaign materials and messages (e.g. development of prototypes to be discussed in focus groups).

It is common to offer incentives, such as food, drinks or campaign publicity products (e.g t-shirts, caps) to FGD participants. An effective FGD should last at least one hour. A facilitator introduces the subject, keeps the discussion going, and ensures all participants contribute to the discussion and no one dominates it.

Ethics: When organizing focus groups with representatives of the “general public”, it may be advisable to tell potential participants that their opinions are needed on a health issue, rather than on VAW, so as to avoid alienating potential participants who have negative preconceptions about discussing VAW. Take utmost care especially when organizing focus groups with survivors of violence – ethical considerations must apply. See Guiding principles in this module. Bear in mind that a large proportion of female participants may have been exposed to VAW, even if they do not identify themselves as VAW survivors.


The Gender-based Violence Tools Manual for Assessment & Programme Design, Monitoring and Evaluation in Conflict Affected Settings (2003) by the Reproductive Health Response in Conflict Consortium includes detailed guidance on focus group discussions


Example: An impact evaluation of the second phase of Sexto Sentido, ‘We’re Different We’re Equal’ (a weekly “soap opera” by Puntos de Encuentro on Nicaraguan commercial television promoting change in the social context in which young people make decisions, and negotiate their identities, relationships and sexuality) was carried out in partnership with PATH, Leon University and the USAID Horizons Project. The research team informed participants in interviews and focus groups at every phase of the data collection of (i) the nature and relevance of their participation in the research, (ii) contact persons in case any issues should arise, (iii) the need to have participants’ explicit consent to being interviewed, d) the option to withdraw from participating at any stage of the research. At the end of each interview, participants received information materials on VAW and contact details of relevant local services.

The full evaluation report is available in Spanish: Propiciando cambio personal y social alrededor del género, sexualidad y VIH: Evaluación de impacto de la estrategia de comunicación de Puntos de Encuentro, Puntos de Encuentro, CIDS/UNAN León, PATH, Horizons Program (2008).

Read the Case Study and Evaluation in Spanish and English.