The focus group method could be used as a mapping tool, where you start out from the group’s estimation of which the important factors in a certain issue are. Often, the mapping is combined with an evaluation of those factors. What the group deem important is graded and provides the basis for what is most urgent to take care of. A major advantage of the focus group is that it is based in dialogue and involvement, and that the results can be quickly compiled and presented. In this method, the work and analysis is concentrated to a main issue. The possible use is mainly early on in a dialogue process as an aid in identifying factors important to the area, and accordingly as a basis for the continued process. The method can be used to identify the target group’s language, perception and understanding of the issue and as a complementary method prior to a questionnaire, to ask the right questions. There should always be a moderator in the focus group work. The moderator is well prepared and familiar with the subject/issue under debate. To his aid the moderator needs an assistant who documents the interview. The room should be furnished in a semicircle, so the participants can see the screen where documentation is made continuously. There are a number of basic steps in the process of the focus group method. If you want a very detailed analysis of an issue, the focus group discussions will not allow sufficient time for in-depth treatment. A suitable size of the group is c. 6-12 participants, to make them feel comfortable in expressing their views. To make the results highly reliable, it is a good idea to treat the same issue in several groups. The method works best in a homogenous group that is connected to the issue. Sometimes mixed groups can be useful, however. Prior to planning and the invitation of participants, it is important to consider the composition of the group. The participants of a focus group can be selected for being representative of the population at large, or of a certain part of the population. It could be a good way to involve marginalised groups. The time spent on each focus group meeting is about 2-3 hours, and the cost for focus groups is generally not very high. A ‘carrot’ in the form of coffee or dinner could be necessary to make the citizens partake in focus groups. Additional costs include premises, catering and arrangements to support partaking, like child care. (SALAR)’
Consultation is when a certain group is asked specific questions in the planning process. It can be both experts and stakeholders and methods vary from easy questionears to more sophisticated tools such as the English system Spaceshaper.