AEA365 | A Tip-a-Day by and for Evaluators



Conference Presenters Week: Lynne Franco and Jonathan Jones on Supercharging your focus groups!

We are Lynne Franco: Vice President for Technical Assistance and Evaluation at EnCompass LLC, and Jonathan Jones: Senior Monitoring and Evaluation Technical Advisor with CAMRIS International. Jonathan is also co-chair of AEA‘s International and Cross Cultural TIG.

Focus groups are an important tool in the data collection tool box, allowing the evaluator to explore peoples’ thinking on a particular topic in some depth. The very interaction among participants during a focus group can generate rich discussion as they respond, positively and negatively to each other’s ideas. During our evaluation careers, we have conducted numerous focus groups all over the world. We have learned that ‘supercharging’ focus groups with creative adult facilitation techniques can generate especially rich and meaningful data in group settings for anywhere from 5 people to 50.

Hot Tip: Ensure that participants can use more than their ears to retain what others are saying. Use a large sticky wall and index cards (or flip chart paper and big post its). Have participants write ideas on cards and then present them to the group. This is a great way to have all participants’ ideas up in front of the group – enabling group reflection and processing in real time.


Hot Tip: Help introverts to participate. Asking participants to provide their input through writing gives introverts (and everyone) time to put their thoughts together before speaking about them.

Hot Tip: Give participants an environment that enhances creativity. Make the room colorful! Research shows that color encourages creative thinking. We often scatter pipe cleaners on the table. It is amazing what participants create during the focus group! We also use scented markers — this always generates many laughs while creating a relaxing and creative atmosphere.


Rad Resource: We have found Brain Writing, a variation on brainstorming, to be an excellent focus group facilitation technique. It enables simultaneous group thinking and processing that is also focused and individualistic – and can appeal to both the introvert and the extrovert.

Rad Resource: Check out the forthcoming AEA New Directions in Evaluation: Evaluation and Facilitation

Rad Resource: Join our session at Eval 2015.

This contribution is from the aea365 Tip-a-Day Alerts, by and for evaluators, from the American Evaluation Association. Please consider contributing – send a note of interest to Want to learn more from Lynne and Jonathan? They’ll be presenting as part of the Evaluation 2015 Conference Program, November 9-14 in Chicago, Illinois.

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