Most of the initiatives and programmes that InformEd works with target children. Gathering, understanding, quantifying child perspectives is essential. I’ve spent several years trying different mechanisms for child focus group discussions. The challenge has always been, how do we get the quieter child to voice her opinion? I’ve tried disaggregating groups by sex but there still seems to be one or two children who dominate the conversation. Quickly children follow suite, simply agreeing with their colleagues.
Recently, while carrying out an evaluation for Save the Children Norway, I tried the H-Method for child participation in the evaluation. It worked well and it ignited some very informative and interesting discussions among the children. Here’s how it works so that you can give it a go yourself:
The H-Method mostly describes a tool that can be used to help children assess the strengths and weaknesses of their environment and surrounding support through pictures. I suggest using it to “kick off” a focus group discussion with children as it ensures that each child is documenting his/her own opinions before then discussing with the broader group.
Kids 5-12 years of age but can probably be adapted for other ages.
When you want to incorporate children’s experiences, but one-on-one interviews may be intimidating. Ideal for a group of 6-8 children.
When you want kids to describe their experiences, categorized by things they like and don’t like about a topic. It’s a good check-in to see what components the children first think of when considering the topic. It’s also a good prompt for deeper discussions.
I used it for an evaluation commissioned by Save the Children Norway when evaluating a program that aimed to improve the quality of learning environments. Children could reflect upon their school environment, however they defined it, and draw aspects of what that they did and didn’t like. I also used it in an evaluation for Forgotten Voices. In that instance, we were trying to understand the children’s physical and mental well-being. Child considered their home, community, and church environments.
Crayons/Colored Pencils for children
One H-Method Worksheet per child (plus a few extras)
Depending on what you’re looking to do, you can design your H-Method Worksheet in a variety of ways:
You’ll see that the one used in Cambodia, Nepal, and Uganda (for Save the Children) included a likert scale. This was an attempt to attach some quantitative data to the qualitative discussion.
In the one used for Forgotten Voices (in Zambia and Zimbabwe), we simply used an explanation point in the middle to signify the middle ground – in what ways and how things can improve.
An exclamation point can be used to hold the space for improvement.
The middle section can represent ‘what needs to be improved’ but you can also include a Likert scale.
The key to facilitating the focus group discussion is to start with the H-Method, going slowly, step by step, allowing the children time to draw between instructions. Then have pairs share their drawings. Facilitate a discussion around what is presented, always asking for more details and for other’s to share their experiences on the same topic.
My recommendations for facilitating:
Ask: Consider your school, home, and community. What makes you smile? What about your school, home, and community makes you feel good? What makes you feel strong and capable? Draw a picture under the smiley face.
** Pause and allow children to draw**
Ask: What in your school, home, and community do you not feel good about? What do you not like? Draw a picture under the frowny face.
**Pause and allow children to draw**
Ask: In what ways do you want to improve your mental and physical health? Draw a picture under the explanation point!
**Pause and allow children to draw**
Facilitate a discussion with the group as students present. Did else drew something similar? Why or why not? What do you mean by that? What causes you to feel that way?