The Focused Conversation technique is a structured approach to discussing complex research decisions (e.g. “how should we evaluate success in this research project?”), with patient/public partners, and helping people reach their own conclusions on the topic. The facilitator, who remains neutral throughout, first presents the group with the rational goal of the discussion (i.e. lays out what decision has to be made, e.g. "We need to decide what outcome measures to use in our research project that are most important to people living with the health issue"). Secondly, the facilitator lays out the experiential goal of the discussion (i.e. in coming together to make this decision, what do you want to happen with patient/public partners? e.g. "Working together collaboratively, we want to empower everyone to feel like they can take ownership of this research project.").
The process then moves on to a series of questions based on four stages of thinking:
1. Objective: review facts about the research decision;
2. Reflective: review emotional response/reactions to the research decision;
3. Interpretive: review meaning and significance of the research decision;
4. Decisional: consider how the research decision will be put into action.
Focused conversations can be useful for:
- Reviewing a number of research questions such as, "What priorities should we focus on in this research project?", "How should we define the research question?", "What data collection approaches will be responsive to the needs of participants?", “What outcomes should we look at in this research project?”, “What will success look like?” etc.
- Getting very specific feedback and opinions from patient/public partners around a research decision.
Note: Focused conversations may be very quick (i.e. taking a few hours) or take a long time (i.e. taking a few days) depending on the topic.