Annex 1: Holding a focus group

If you decide to hold a focus group, use a clear and transparent selection process with well-defined and justifiable criteria. The quality of consultation(s) will depend largely on credible representation of diverse stakeholder groups.

Criteria for identifying participants could include:

  • Credibility
  • Competence and local knowledge of development issues
  • Institutional capacity
  • Representation of an otherwise marginalized community or group
  • Membership-based organizations focused on economic and social issues
  • Accountability to a community or group being represented
  • Gender and generational balance
  • Location in urban, rural or remote areas

A stakeholder mapping at the national and subnational levels can help define and balance participation within and across stakeholder groups, clarify dynamics and relationships that may influence the consultations, and ensure that no one who should be included is left out.

Data for the mapping can be disaggregated by gender, ethnicity, residence (rural, slums or urban), and sectors of economic activity, among other possibilities, in order to reflect the situation and living conditions of different major groups.

Special attention should be given to actors who typically would not participate, such as adolescents, migrant workers, homeless people, sex workers etc. Some participants may have skill gaps or time constraints (such as a burdensome loss of a day of wages) that require accommodation. Some may need separate time, perhaps with a process facilitator, to develop their inputs within their own structures before sharing them with the broader consultation. Personal security risks for some marginalized groups must be kept in mind.

Preparing for a focus group

The following points may be useful for preparing a consultation plan, including to uphold the principles of inclusion, equity and accountability.

  • Will any constraints block the participation of certain groups?
  • Are there differences between various stakeholders’ decision-making processes, for instance, with regard to representation, delegation of power and/or majority rule? 
  • How can communication tools or channels be tailored to stakeholders’ values, norms and languages? 
  • What culturally appropriate consultation mechanisms can be established?
  • Can we draw on existing dialogue institutions or forums that function well, e.g., national or civil society mechanisms? 
  • How do we disseminate the information about the consultations well in advance, so that participants have sufficient time to prepare? 
  • How can stakeholders who have committed time and effort to the consultations be informed about the results? (Note: A global platform to illustrate key outcomes of discussions is being developed by the UN75 team.)
  • What feedback mechanisms will ensure that stakeholders have a chance to raise suggestions or concerns?

Steps to conduct a focus group

All dialogues should be grounded in a clear concept note and terms of reference. In some cases, these may need to be adapted (language, format) based on different audiences. All participants must have access to this information before they participate. In some cases, the facilitator may establish a workflow plan for pre-consultation communication with participants. 

Once a time for the consultation has been decided, facilitators should:

  • Fill out the UN75 registration form, which will provide an identification number used to track the various dialogues.
  • Inform participants of the consultation agenda and other background materials 
  • For in-person groups, invite around 12 people from the same constituency (e.g., youth). This will usually result in 8 to 10 participants attending the group.
  • Document demographic or socioeconomic data on attendees, but share these only with participants’ permission.
  • Collect photos, audio and video to embed in the moderator feedback form and for communication purposes with the written consent of participants.
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