Query: Recruiting participants for focus groups - lessons learned
Migration Aware is a JMDI-funded project based in Ibadan, Nigeria jointly facilitated by the locally-based Childolescent and Family Survival Organisation (CAFSO) and the African Studies Centre at Coventry University in the United Kingdom. The focus of the project is to fill the information gap frequently encountered by potential migrants considering taking the land and sea route to Europe without formal documentation.
The project relies on a reservoir of engaged and committed participants. Our own experiences underline the importance of getting the recruitment of participants right for focus groups that will set the agenda of the programme. It was decided to invite people to introductory meetings and from there to recruit suitable volunteers to participate in the focus groups. Online invitations were used to recruit potential migrants using popular websites; 20,000 hand bills; and 1,000 posters distributed to churches, mosques, higher education institutions, the General Post Office Headquarters, and the State Library. Advertisements were also placed on two FM radio stations: one in the University of Ibadan, called Diamond FM, and the other based in the city, Premier FM. This certainly attracted a crowd of potential migrants.
However, two significant factors were overlooked – the place and the time of the meeting. In our search for a suitable hall big enough to house the expected numbers, we chose a lecture theatre at Ibadan University. Then, due to unforeseen circumstances, including a university strike, the meeting was put back to a Friday afternoon. The upshot was that first, we mainly recruited students, rather than a cross section of the city’s youth. Secondly, the delay to the meeting meant that Friday prayers removed a lot of potential Muslim youth. In other words, although we had a profitable meeting and recruited participants for some valuable focus groups, the sample was biased.
To rectify this we held a further general public meeting in a non-student area of the city and ensured that not only was it not on a Friday, but that we recruited Muslim students to balance the non-Muslim students already in the focus groups. The focus groups have informed us where there is an information gap among potential migrants so that we can plan appropriate training. They are also our way of measuring that our programme has had an impact. If we convene biased focus groups then the whole programme and its evaluation can be skewed. Mistakes will be made in projects; the key is to recognize them and to rectify them. Hopefully we did both in this case.
We would be very interested in learning from other organizations what their strategies have been. Please share your advice and experiences with us!