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How to run Empowering Focus Groups

Maddie Potter-Wood

How can we transform focus groups into an empowering environment for migrant women learning a new language and settling in a new country?

The FATIMA project external evaluators held a focus group for migrant women taking part in the programme at the Baytree Centre. The aim was to find out more about their experience of the programme, what they found useful and what they would take from it into the future.

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This focus group gave the women a space to share their experiences of the FATIMA programme; using mind maps, they drew out their social networks and the types of services they used and shared this with the group. They were all encouraged to speak and were given a voice in a supportive and safe environment, drawing on shared experiences such as visiting the Brixton weekend market. 

What makes a place feel like home? Where do you see yourself and your family in the future?

These are really important questions which help us understand what we need to feel integrated now and hopeful for the future. Each individual had a unique experience of the programme, but they all shared their opinions and reflected on the importance of factors like language learning and the value of mentors.

Giving women the space to express and explore these ideas helps both the participants and those running the programme recognise which aspects of the programme had been most helpful. This is what allows women in the future to continue to integrate safely and successfully!

We filmed this focus group to develop a resource that others can use to create empowering focus group experiences for vulnerable migrants and refugees. Research and evaluation is really important to ensure that programmes are changing lives for the better, but the way in which we conduct these elements needs to empower beneficiaries at the same time. 

With thanks to Jessica Reiselbach who filmed and produced this resource.