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Title: Focus group strategies in promoting community and enterprise development.
Authors: Alexander, Bennett 
Conlon, Jane 
Keywords: Focus group sessions (FGS);Community and enterprise development;Project facilitator;Tabeisa FGS;Is’baya fruit farming development project
Issue Date: 2011
Publisher: 4th International Conference of Engineering and Business Education and SAFRI's Journey to Excellence Conference
Abstract: This paper is based on the work of the Tabeisa organisation in promoting social and commercial entrepreneurship towards community development and presents a critical perspective on managing Focus Group Sessions (FGS) that are focussed on pertinent development issues within socially disadvantaged communities. The power relations that inform ownership and efficacy of community development projects are interrogated using a framework based on critical theory. The role of a “higher functioning” project facilitator is investigated in facilitating an “ownership” discourse which extensively takes place outside the usual socio-cultural domain of the researcher. The experiences around a series of Tabeisa FGS are reported which were conducted in the process of delivering various and divergent entrepreneurship development projects. The Is’baya fruit farming development project in the Eastern Cape was used as a case study. The paper evaluates the relative performance of project facilitators who do not derive from the community aka “outsider facilitators” versus “insider facilitators”. The perceived non-reporting of information to the “outsider facilitators” versus “insider facilitators” during FGS or community exchanges is investigated on the basis of observed imbalances in the respective dynamics that typically manifest. This paper consequently focuses on the socio-cultural and power relationships that may manifest within sessions and potentially compromise the effective gathering of data and information against the defined agenda of the project. The best traditions of qualitative research towards community development recognise the notion of shared control of the experience [1, 2]; and the community should therefore be able to direct the foregrounding of their own agenda, if such exists in contrast to that of the development agency. This sets the scene for a potential power struggle within the FGS, and it is in this regard, that it is proposed that the “higher functioning” project facilitator could play an important role. Jojola (2000) warns that development is not charity; and communities-in-development should be the enablers of their own destiny [3]; and external development participation in the communities should be based on principled and strategic approaches.
ISBN: 978-0-620-52121-5
Appears in Collections:FID - Conference Proceedings

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