Focus groups enable an analysis of qualitative data and perceptions of main groups of users and stakeholders and, thus, their participation in the process.
The initial groups that are identified are: residents in the local surroundings, businesses and retailers in the catchment area and attraction centres in the area.
There are two stages in which focus group research can be used:
After initial design or architectural competitions, to find out the perceptions and reactions to a particular design. In this case it is integrated within the public participation required according to best practices and legal requirements: “is this proposal what we needed?”, “have our goals been reached?”, “can it be still improved?”, etc.
|NODES strategic objective||Contribution|
|Enhance accessibility and integration||++|
|Increase safety and security conditions||++|
|Increase economic viability and costs efficiency||+|
|Stimulate local economy||++|
|Increase environmental efficiency||0|
|Increase energy efficiency||0|
Focus groups are common worldwide.
Application in NODES site cities:
Thessaloniki considered this tool “useful and easy to apply”, as well as “an opportunity for a creative discussion which can produce a wider range of information, insight and ideas compared to what individual responses can offer”.
It was explained to participants that the plans were not definitive and that their opinions could influence the final designs. The participants were then asked to engage in discussion regarding the current designs, the accessibility of the interchange and its facilities. They were also asked to share their view concerning the appropriate size of the interchange.
This tool aims in the analysis to incorporate citizen and stakeholder perceptions for integrating the interchange as a landmark in the city and the local environment.
This can identify what is required and what must be prioritised, not only concerning the technical aspects of transport, but also its role as a place and its contribution to the city.
This tool may appear not to incur any cost, but attention has to be paid to time efficiency.
Focus groups may involve long discussions and participation processes, which have an impact on the patience and willingness of participants to take part.
Other organisational materials and costs may be necessary.
However, the value of this tool is extraordinary in comparison to the low level of resources needed.
For more information about focus group techniques, there are many publications, one of the most popular is:
KRUEGER, R.A. & CASEY, M.A. (2008) Focus groups: A practical guide for applied research. 4th edition. New York: SAGE.
Its usefulness has also led to various online resources, such as this Toolkit for Conducting Focus Groups.