Writing up the results of Focus Group Discussions

Focus Group Discussions (FGD) are new to me! Through my work with Bien and Trung, I’ve learned so much about how to facilitate an FGD. However, for the writing up part, I based my techniques on similar or comparable studies I found in the literature.

My project was an exploratory study, a means of assessing the situation in the commune and exploring the realities there which had not been done for the area before. Therefore, we wanted to capture the people’s awareness and perceptions about climate change and agriculture. This lead to the data we collected being qualitative. Oftentimes there is a pressure to produce quantitative data, but in some instances, it is absolutely appropriate to gather qualitative data (my project is the starting point for a larger, more long running project and so the quantitative data will come later!).

Writing up this qualitative data can be tricky for a number of reasons. For example, we all have expected outcomes or ideas in our head before we begin a project. Yes my friends, I am talking about the big bad, b-word – BIAS. And yes we all have it, whether we are aware of it or not. The trick is to try to become aware of biases you may have, explore why and think of ways to curb it! For me, I am so interested in the role women play in agriculture, gender dynamics and differences, so I was eager to explore this avenue and scoured for this type of information. Although there are differences between genders and my results reflected that, there isn’t a major problem in terms of equity or equality in the region I was working and so there will be no need for me to write the big aul segment on gender equity and equality that I thought I would be! FYI… Actually, the women and men in the area I was working in, really respected each other’s roles in agriculture and appear to support each other (very lovely result indeed 🙂 )Recognising the reality of your results and sometimes accepting that you didn’t find what you thought you might find is a great thing. It is so important to park our biases, predicted outcomes and sometimes downright notions, and just report what happened and the facts!

It can also be very difficult to remark and write results up when you partake in FGD’s and you cannot speak the language. If possible, it is vital to have a translator that can relay the message to you during the FGD. That way, you have time to dive into discussions that may lead to more in depth findings! However, if that isn’t a possibility, then you can also identify potential gaps in the work and find the answers through other methods such as expert interviews or key informant interviews for example

Ultimately, FGDs are a good way to learn from people if you are planning a project in the area. The information they share with you is absolutely pivotal and can determine how you implement your project, why/why not it is successful and how to approach people the area you are working in the future. Remember to be aware of your biases and desired outcomes while writing and reporting. Overall, FGDs can be a great way to gather all this information and plan for the next phase of a project!