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Using the Bridge Model in Virtual Focus Groups by Beverly Peters, Maha Alkhafaji, and Zachariah Rabah Barghouti

Hello, AEA365 community! Liz DiLuzio here, Lead Curator of the blog. This week is Individuals Week, which means we take a break from our themed weeks and spotlight the Hot Tips, Cool Tricks, Rad Resources and Lessons Learned from any evaluator interested in sharing. Would you like to contribute to future individuals weeks? Email me at AEA365@eval.org with an idea or a draft and we will make it happen.

Hello! I’m Beverly Peters, faculty member in Measurement and Evaluation at American University. I am here today with two students from my recent Evaluation: Qualitative Methods course: Maha Alkhafaji and Zachariah Rabah Barghouti.

In this online class, students partner with organizations in their local communities, and use qualitative data collection tools to answer an evaluation question. For one assignment, my co-authors chose to use the Bridge Model as part of their focus groups, as found in WeADAPT’s Using Participatory Tools. Their collective experiences provide insight into using this tool in a virtual environment.

What is the Bridge Model?

The Bridge Model is a tool that evaluators use to facilitate discussion in a focus group. The “bridge” helps to illustrate outcomes as they relate to inputs and programming. It links where the organization is now, where it would like to be in the future, and what it needs to do to get there.

Modified from Google images

The focus on key factors is crucial: The Bridge Model facilitates discussion around strategies for bridging the gap between a current and desired position. When used during evaluation planning, it helps focus group participants pinpoint outcomes and identify indicators to measure these.

We found the Bridge Model particularly helpful when used during project implementation to track progress and identify obstacles. Focus group participants fleshed out program history, discussed ways to address obstacles, and forged new ways to build bridges and move forward.

Using the Bridge Model also helps evaluators build a shared vision and a sense of purpose with project stakeholders.

How did we use it?

We facilitated the Bridge Model using a 1-2-4-All process, as described in Participatory Evaluation: Theories and Methods for Remote Work:

  1. We gave individual participants one to two minutes to self-reflect on the first prompt in the Bridge Model, “Where are we?”
  2. Using Zoom’s breakout feature, we placed participants in pairs into rooms to discuss their thoughts
  3. Next, we combined participants into groups of four to share ideas
  4. Finally, we brought participants back to the main room to continue their discussions 

We repeated the steps above for two additional prompts: “Where We Want to Be” and “Bridge Gap Key Factors.” Throughout the three prompts, we used Google Jamboard to superimpose virtual “sticky notes” onto the Bridge Model graphic, which was uploaded as a background frame. This allowed participants to visualize aspects related to the three prompts.

To facilitate group dialogue on the key factors and challenges, or the middle part of the bridge, we engaged in a ranking exercise. Participants used the “shapes” feature in Jamboard to rank the sticky notes and identify the top 5 key factors/challenges. Finally, we used a tool called Mentimeter.com to rank factors from most to least challenging.

Hot Tips

  • Consider your research need. The Bridge Model is a powerful tool to support discussions on program planning, challenges, and goals. 
  • Keep it simple. Your participants need to focus on the topic, not figuring out the technology.
  • Don’t rush. Consider breaking the three parts of the Bridge into different discussions, so that everyone has a chance to participate.
  • Prepare. Write a script with simple directions that your participants will understand.
  • Practice. Organize a mock Bridge discussion with colleagues prior to your focus group, to identify potential pitfalls.
  • Plan ahead. Consider alternatives in the event that technology fails the day of your focus group.

Resources: (as linked above)

Barghouti, Zachariah. 2020. “Participatory Evaluation: Theories + Methods for Remote Work.” Evaluation + Learning Consulting.

Weadapt.org (2022). Using Participatory Tools. Retrieved from https://www.weadapt.org/sites/weadapt.org/files/legacy-new//knowledge-base/files/1231/5245643d7e2f1tools.pdf

Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org . aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators. The views and opinions expressed on the AEA365 blog are solely those of the original authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the American Evaluation Association, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

1 thought on “Using the Bridge Model in Virtual Focus Groups by Beverly Peters, Maha Alkhafaji, and Zachariah Rabah Barghouti”

  1. José Gonzalo Cervantes-Fonseca, MD

    Very interesting, I take it as a very efficient and teamwork-fostering version of the Delphi method.

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