Focus Grouping

4 Mar

Today I was able to sit in on a focus group for our Everyday Peace Indicators (EPI) project. The EPI project aims to crowd-source indicators from the community. Rather than outsiders come in and give the community a list of indicators, we approach the community and ask them to identify their own indicators. We then turn those indicators into a survey.
The focus group was expertly run by Evelyn, assisted by Joyce and Harriet – all excellent staff at the Justice and Reconciliation Programme in Gulu, Northern Uganda. The Gulu region has been badly affected by war, with multiple child abductions, and outrages by both rebels and soldiers. The violence has now ended, but many social and underdevelopment problems remain.
The focus group was held in K, a community on the outskirts of Gulu. It was a verification focus group to confirm a list of peace indicators that would then be turned into a survey. In the weeks prior to today, three other focus group meeting had taken place among – respectively – men, women and youth in K. Today they all came together to agree on a joint list of indicators that could apply to the entire community. That meant that a list of over thirty indicators had to be whittled down to fifteen or less. This was done through discussion and a vote among the focus group.
A few observations are worth making. The first was that the community members who agreed to take part in the focus group were incredibly patient. They spent two and a half hours together listening and discussing. The principal aim of this research is academic – to road test a research methodology in a war-affected community. The benefits for the community are not immediately obvious. We hope that they spark discussion in the community on their goals and shared problems, but we are not a well-resourced project that can promise to deal with community problems. So for the community members to stick with an academic focus group was very humbling. Gulu has also seen its fair share of researchers so it was all the more impressive that the people did not show signs of research fatigue.
Secondly, it was striking the extent to which community safety and poverty came to the fore in the list of indicators. Major political issues were not mentioned. Project participants were free to propose whatever indicators they wished. We encouraged them to think in term of their local community but this was not a strict order. I had expected people to raise major political issues such as those mentioned by political leaders, or discussed in the media. This did not happen. This is not to say that people are not political, or that politics is somehow the preserve of elites. It is, instead, to reflect, on the centrality of everyday concerns (school fees, land wrangles, crime etc.).
The third point to make is that although there were differences between the priorities of men, women and youth, there were also very many similarities. There was a genuine sense of shared community concerns that did not just apply to one sector or another.
Tomorrow we go to area A, outside of Gulu, to observe how the survey is run. In this case, the indicators from focus groups in the area have been loaded onto a mobile phone platform and our colleagues from JRP will go door-to-door to see the extent people concur with the indicators chosen by focus groups. We will then repeat the exercise in 6 months time to see if there have been any changes in community indicators of peace and change.

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2 Responses to “Focus Grouping”

  1. David Roberts 04/03/2014 at 9:45 am #

    Hi Roger, this is great. It’s another approach to the same issue of building legitimate and sustainable peace that will complement brilliantly the approach our joint Universities are taking with the research methods conference at Loughborough on April 25th this year.

    Dr. David Roberts, FHEA Lecturer in International Relations Director of Postgraduate Studies Loughborough University D.roberts@lboro.ac.uk http://www.davidrobertsonline.org http://www.popularpeace.org ________________________________

  2. David Roberts 04/03/2014 at 9:16 pm #

    Hi Roger, this is great. It’s another approach to the same issue of building legitimate and sustainable peace that will complement brilliantly the approach our joint Universities are taking with the research methods conference at Loughborough on April 25th this year.

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