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Assessing SART Work: Focus Groups and Individual Interviews

The last post for our month on assessment is focused (get it?!) on the other most common approach teams want to use: focus groups. Focus groups and individual interviews are a story-based approach to gathering data. These can take place in-person or through other mediums such as audio conferences, video conferences, or other online platforms. Typically, this approach is preferred because the team can gain an in-depth understanding of people’s feelings, understandings, and experiences. Let’s take a quick look at this approach.

Pros: This is a low-cost option for teams. There are high levels of personalization and connection to participants. This approach can help some underserved populations feel heard by the system and provide the space for understanding. There is a lot of opportunity for careful selection of participants.

Cons: Folks who don’t feel safe without anonymity will not participate. You need to have a prepared, empathetic listener who can ask good questions and be supportive. This doesn’t give high volumes of data (which is often needed for grants), but rather focuses on the depth of the data. You can get inconsistent or confusing results that are hard to interpret. There is a lot of room for bias, personal beliefs, or discrediting if people don’t agree with the stories shared.

Focus groups and individual interviews are a useful tool to understand all of the impacts of changes in the response. They are a tool for teams that are ready to listen, reflect, and learn in a very direct and personal way. There is also a lot of room for error or unintentional harm with this approach. As always, seek out resources before jumping in with your team. You can always call us at SVJI, and we can get you started.

I’m going to repeat what I said last week, because it’s important to hear it again: Remember, what matters most is that your team takes on the effort to evaluate. It is through evaluation that we can truly become more effective. Whatever method you choose, keep asking questions, testing effectiveness, and moving your team through the hard work of systems changes. You and your team can do this!