Process 4: Focus Groups

Process 4: Focus Groups

We’ve talked about steering committees and survey work thus far. If you have any questions or would like to share your progress, join our Facebook Group!

To review, the steering committee gives you a supportive framework for working on community engagement: sending information out to the community, getting information back from the community. Surveys give you a large picture of what the community is interested in looking at and what they’re concerned about.

Once you get a large picture, it’s important to focus in on priority areas. Focus is the key word for this post. Focus groups are small groups of individuals ranging from 6 to 8 people who represent a wide range of interests. This may sound similar to your steering committee, but do NOT use the members of your steering committee in the focus group. Diversify your focus group participants to reflect the community at large. Include participants who can represent families, staff, leaders, and potential project beneficiary groups that may have been identified through the community survey. Essentially, the participants should be external to your steering committee and provide a wide perspective on three things:

  • The community;
  • Their particular community subset; and,
  • The results you received from your survey.

Now that you have gathered a small group of participants, ask them to take a look at the results of your survey and to do some refining of those results. This can be done in a few different ways, one of which is Nominal Group Process.

Nominal Group Process asks the focus group to:

  • Spend time discussing the issues identified by the survey and define those issues through developing consensus on their meaning and implications.
  • Then, put all the issues identified by the survey on post-it notes and hang them on the wall.
  • Have the group put a mark on the top 3 issues each participant feels is the most important to address.
  • As each of the focus group participants add marks to their top choices, a pattern may arise pointing to the issue of highest priority.
  • Ask the group to then reflect on this pattern and ensure that the issue of highest priority jibes with their thoughts and opinions of the community.

This process can be used when identifying long-term community goals, conditions standing in the way of reaching those goals, and – further into the planning process – project goals and objectives.

And last but not least, don’t make focus groups solely about work! Provide refreshments, include time for participants to visit with each other, network, take breaks, and generally have a good time.


  • Have you completed your community survey and compiled the results? If not, refer to our previous blog post to get started.
  • Recruit focus group participants. Our discussion on recruiting steering committee members will be relevant to this task, so feel free to refer back to that blog post as well.
  • Conduct the nominal group process described above using your own survey results.
  • Connect with us on Facebook to ask questions and share insight about your progress.
    • Join our Facebook Group and tell us if your survey results are in or if you already have a focus group in mind!
    • Don't forget to like and subscribe to our Facebook Page as well to stay up to date on news from ANA.