Generally, a focus group is a method for collecting qualitative research data through carefully planned group discussions with the purpose of obtaining perceptions of participants in a permissive environment (Morgan 1988). The results help guide the policymakers/ researchers to determine which alternatives are preferred by stakeholder groups. The focus group participants can advantageously be tasked with comparing different proposals and assessing their applicability/suitability in given situations.
The method (see Figure 18) can elicit respondents’ views on how problems and issues can be addressed and in which contexts it is appropriate to do so. Comments made by the participants can tell about how stakeholders perceive the characteristics of certain issues, and the relative importance and weight of problems and conflicting assumptions in comparison to other issues. Furthermore, it generates good insights into stakeholders’ validations of policy proposals.
The tool is useful for investigating stakeholders’ views on how plans and programs being implemented work out in reality, and how to close gaps between expectations and actual performance of such policies (see Figurer 19).