Facilitator Handbook

FOCUS GROUPS AND VISION TEAMS

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Structure and Purpose

The following is a description of the structure and purpose of Focus Groups and Vision Teams. It does not provide particulars, such as the specific questions to be asked in the Focus Groups, nor does it provide direction for the Vision Teams. This is a task left to the facilitators (in actuality a pair of facilitators). One suggestion put forward is to structure the Focus Groups in such a way as to provide vision statements. The task of the afternoon Vision Teams would then be to develop strategies to achieve visions as previously exposed by the Focus Groups.

Comparisons

Vision Teams and Focus Groups have distinct but interrelated objectives. A Focus Group collects individual thoughts and opinions in order to understand perspectives on particular issues. A Vision Team, on the other hand, looks to an ideal future. Its objective is to define goals and inspire individuals to work towards them. Focus Groups allow us to construct a starting point in terms of thoughts, opinions, and beliefs, while Vision Teams stretch our imaginations into the future, challenging our boundaries and comfort zones. While Focus Groups serve to define our core values and deeply held beliefs, Vision Teams utilize these values to define a purpose and a vision. Once defined, the Vision Team creates strategies and plans for the mobilization and realization of the vision.

FOCUS GROUPS

What is a Focus Group?

A Focus Group serves to collect individual thoughts, perspectives and viewpoints in a group setting. It is used as a way to gain information about a specific issue. Focus groups help us to understand issues at a deeper, individual level and are used to identify perceived problems or difficulties within existing programs, organizations, or institutions. A Focus Group gathers the thoughts and opinions of all participants as they pertain to specific issues, topics, goals, or questions. It allows for group discussion and looks for a range of opinions and ideas, as well as consistencies and inconsistencies in these opinions. The correlation or variation in viewpoints is then used to define specific purposes.

Focus Group Purpose

Focus groups seek to collect opinions and viewpoints, as well as to discover the reasons for these opinions and viewpoints. This information is then used to plan, design, and evaluate strategies for personal outreach as individuals. (e.g. in the Vision Teams). In terms of planning and design, Focus Groups are used to identify various social, cultural factors and experiences that need to be taken into account. At the experience, for example, we may entertain lofty ideals about the way the world should be, but in order to either start or achieve anything on a practical level, it helps to understand and work with prevailing ideas.

Focus Group Questions

Focus groups are structured around a set of carefully predetermined questions (no more than ten in one session). Participants usually do not see the questions ahead of time, but this is by no means a requirement.

More on Focus Groups

A Focus Group is not a debate, although participants may agree or disagree with each other. It is not necessarily a problem-solving session, nor is it intended to be educational. It should not be regarded as a collaborative effort even though a consensus of views may arise. A Focus Group relies on group dynamics and is not, therefore, merely a group interview in which participants provide individual answers. We should keep in mind that the information gathered via Focus Groups consists of thoughts and opinions, not facts. A Focus Group should not be thought of as a controlled study. At times, they can be chaotic and biased, and much of the data collected relies on the skills of individual facilitators.

Generate a Script

The benefits of detailed scripts for the Focus Groups are:

  • The questions are in context
  • Each group is conducted in a similar fashion
  • The facilitator stays on track and on time
  • Allows for logical analysis and comparison of results

VISION TEAMS

The Vision

A vision is a long-term, overarching goal. It is a vivid description of the most desirable future and is constructed in such a way as to excite and inspire individuals to achieve this future. A vision is a declaration of what we are here to do. Ideally, it is formulated in such a way as to foster ideals, creativity, and commitment, as well as to guide behavior. Achieving any particular vision, or goal, requires:

  1.  A Vision Statement – a simple and concise statement of a future goal – where we are going.
  2.  A Strategy – specific plans on how to accomplish the vision.

 A Vision Story

The following story comes from an online source and it may apply very well to our present situation. Three men were laying bricks. The first is asked "What are you doing?" ... "Laying these darn bricks." The second is asked "What are you doing?" ... "Feeding my family." The third is asked "What are you doing?" ... "I'm part of the team building a cathedral so that people can come and worship to their God and feel at peace." The third bricklayer is energized by a vision that not only transforms but also defines the actual task to be done by portraying an achievement that is far greater than he alone could attain.

The Vision Statement

A vision statement is often only one sentence long while the mission statement is about a paragraph in length and is closely related to the vision statement. For the purposes of the experience, we suggest using the format of a mission statement. The vision statement is usually constructed by the Vision Team, but this job could be delegated to the Focus Groups. It describes what the team is hoping to achieve over time. This would include not only the core purpose but how we proceed from present circumstances. Two examples of a vision statement are:

The Urantia Book Fellowship

It is our mission to facilitate the worldwide spread of The Urantia Book and its teachings, to stimulate study, connect believers, and ensure that truth seekers everywhere have access to this supernal text.

Urantia Association International

Our two-fold mission: to foster the in-depth study of the book and the dissemination of its teachings – teachings which have the potential to rejuvenate spirituality in this world and enhance the comfort, happiness and well-being of every person.

Some elements of a good vision statement:
  • It is a declaration of our ideal future, our long-term goals
  • It is clear and easy to understand
  • It stirs passions and serves as a rallying point
  • It inspires and commits
  • It clarifies direction and purpose
  • It sets forth standards of supreme values
  • It serves as a reminder of our objectives

 

DUTIES OF FACILITATORS

  • Setting the tone – have fun and feel good.
  • Making sure everyone is heard.
  • Generating a maximum number of different ideas and opinions from as many different participants in the time allotted.
  • Encouraging participants for details.
  • Keeping the discussion on track.
  • Avoiding heated exchanges of opinion or any kind of debate.
  • Monitoring the time.

Differences of opinion are acceptable, and we can agree or disagree with each other. But these discussions are not debates. The aim is not to determine who is right or wrong but to gather ideas.

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