Using FOCUS GROUP DISCUSSIONS with children and adolescents: a practical guide for maximising their effectiveness

Publication language
Date published
18 Apr 2019
Data analysis & visualisation tools
Terre Des Hommes

Focus Group Discussions (FGDs) are carried out widely in both humanitarian and development work in order to seek the views of children. They are a recognised model for obtaining detailed, qualitive information. In addition to getting information that is useful to organisations for programming (and research), FGDs are a concrete way to promote the right of children to participation, in line with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1989 (Article 12). However, practical experience tells us that often FGDs are not well used, and as a result their impact on our understanding about the situation for children is limited. This is both a missed opportunity and a waste of time and resources. Worse still, sometimes the inappropriate use of FGDs can cause harm to children.

There are many reasons why FGDs fail to meet our expectations. For example, if we use FGDs inappropriately (e.g. when they are not required), we experience challenges with logistics which cannot be overcome, or we make poor choices regarding the format and facilitation.

Staff in country teams and programmes may find themselves involved with FGDs in a number of ways: this may be limited, such as identifying participants, or be more comprehensive, for example designing the questions, facilitating the sessions and analysing the information. Staff may also be required to support others, from inside and outside Tdh - such as advisers and consultants - who are using FGDs. This normally means undertaking logistical arrangements, getting consent from parents/caregivers, and organising for, or providing, translation.

This guide has been developed to support country / programme teams through the entire process of using FGDs: from deciding whether they are appropriate, through to analysing the information obtained. This includes exploring some of the issues that need to be considered, and practical tips and tools to maximise the effectiveness of using FGDs with children. Additionally, links are provided to other sources of information to further develop understanding and expand knowledge regarding FGDs.

The information in this guide has been put together from practical experience (i.e. personal practice, FGD protocols and practices observed in the field, and discussions with M&E fora) and a review of resources about research with children (see Resources section of this guide for details). It is not about child-led research, or engaging children as co-researchers. These are different empowerment processes and for more insight on these topics, additional literature should be consulted.

Although the guide is focussed on the use of FGDs with children, it also contains information and tips that can help improve the way FGDs are conducted with parents, community members, and other stakeholders.