Thursday, July 15, 2010

The focus group that almost wasn't.

So....I pitched my project to the women's group last week. In two languages, with a cutesy handout. N. made reminder phone calls today, telling women that group starts at 4:15. We wandered down about 4:30 (this is Belize). I'm braced to lead a bilingual focus group, if need be.The women's computer class is finishing up, and suddenly, a woman we'll call Miss Faith (not her real name) wanders in. And her intentions are mutinous. She informs N. that she's not coming, not this week, and not next week, because she's not interested in the group topics. She doesn't care about poetry or abortion (?! N and I are still confused as to why she thought group was about abortion). And family planning is good for young women to talk about, but she's already done with that, and they need to learn about cooking and how to make money. Miss Faith continues with hardly a breath - the group needs to decide what to talk about, Nora shouldn't be calling people about meetings, that's the president's job, the group needs to be more organized, what happened to the money from the bake sale?! She's a part of a group at the library and other groups in town and they all work and this group doesn't and she knows how groups work and people help each other out and....

The tirade lasted a good half hour. After a while she turned away from N. and addressed her comments to the two other women there, who were sympathetic. At this point, N. and I are both really concerned that tonight's meeting is going to be shoved for organizational details, but finally, Miss Faith runs out of steam and informs N. that when the meeting is held, she will pay what she owes the group (for earrings at the bake sale).

So, now I get to introduce my project and try to lead a focus group- with three participants. My demographic/background questionnaire and the invitation letter took about a half hour. The president informed me that they knew how this worked, they'd had a group to talk about domestic violence and had helped a volunteer with her study before.

I start with my questions, and it's a little awkward the first ten minutes or so. I'm jotting a few responses on the chart paper, verifying answers with the group....
and then suddenly, something happened, and the three women weren't talking in terms of generalities anymore, but about their stories, their husbands, parents, in-laws.
N. diligently takes notes for me, as I move around the room, trying to keep eye contact with the woman speaking, moving my tiny digital recorder next to the speaker, trying to get the best recording possible with fans and traffic in the background. We both thank them, sincerely for sharing their time and stories, and N. tells them she's learned so much in this conversation. The tape recorder is off, and they keep talking to N. and I individually for another 10 minutes or so...about their experiences, why it's important for teens and parents to talk etc. It's a peaceful, quiet, intimate atmosphere. Someone realizes they've been at women's group for an hour and a half, and the group disperses. N. and I retreat upstairs, bewildered and frustrated at the beginning of the evening and awed at its conclusion.

1 comment:

paul bowman said...

This is a good picture of what you're doing. Thanks for going into portrayal of people & social dynamics a bit.

(did I call for 'pics' somewhere? ignore that.)