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Training staff – making learning fun and interactive

by | Oct 29, 2019 | Our Blog

​We talk to Dr Sara Nelson, Head of Research and Insight about taking the terror out of focus groups.
The words ‘staff training’ can often inspire dread amongst teams.

Thoughts often turn to hours spent in rooms with no natural light, staring at endless PowerPoint slides and trying not to let your thoughts drift onto other more exciting topics.

It doesn’t have to be like that!  Evolving Communities hold contracts for three local Healthwatch organisations in Dorset, Gloucestershire and Somerset.  The teams and their dedicated, trained volunteers go out and engage with people regularly to gather their experiences of accessing health and care services and do a fantastic job.  But even they can be filled with trepidation when asked to carry out focus groups.

So, to take the terror out of conducting focus groups, Evolving Communities’ Research and Insight (R&I) team came to help them overcome their fear.  The R&I team have a background in academic research and evaluation and have experience in running small local focus groups as well as larger, more interactive workshops.

What did we do?

We brought together all our Healthwatch teams and some of their volunteers and Evolving Communities volunteers in a lovely old building, with views across the fields, at Lackham College in Wiltshire.  A pleasing venue immediately makes everyone feel more relaxed and ready to work!

We mixed everyone up so they weren’t sitting with their own teams, an opportunity to work and interact with new people.  There were a few PowerPoint slides to start but the majority of time was spent in interactive workshops.

We introduced a typical focus group scenario for each table to play out and everyone took on a different persona – a chance for a bit of acting! We even ‘planted’ some more challenging participants to test out the facilitators.

Everyone really got into character and took their acting role very seriously.  There was a lot of laughter and banter throughout the session.  A long way from those long days spent in PowerPoint purgatory.

At the end of the session we looked at the challenges encountered by the groups and discussed the best ways to overcome them in the future.  Following a break for lunch on the patio, we finished off the session with some tips and tricks for analysing and reporting the focus group data.

All in all, it was a positive experience, new links were made and everyone felt more confident in their ability to facilitate a focus group.

Learning can be fun.  Evolving Communities can help you and your staff to engage more effectively.  If you would like some training for your organisation in this area, please get in touch.

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