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Listening groups christened

The Church has been listening to people for nearly 2000 years so why has it now decided it needs focus groups? Well, the recent formation of the Archbishops' Council means that the Church of England is in a position to develop a national picture of the issues, desires and perceptions held by people right across the country.

The Council recognises that if it is to deliver the vision of a united, confident and outward-looking church, it must first gain an in-depth understanding of the opinions held by people from all walks of life. It also knows that when entering into dialogue with someone, it must be a two-way communication.

Financial constraints require creative solutions. Enlisting the services of an international research consultant, a brief was designed that could be easily used, with training, by our local communication officers. The process was quality controlled, and the results professionally analysed ­ for free!

But why call them listening groups? Sadly, there is still much concern about applying business techniques such as focus groups to church matters. This is primarily due to an unfounded fear that our 'product' will be changed to satisfy consumer desires. Happily, we promote the ultimate product ­ life-changing and free! We must ensure, however, that we communicate it in a way that is relevant and meaningful to society.

And to do that, we must first learn to listen.


Jayne Ozanne
This article was first published in InBrief magazine, July 1999
Copyright © Association for Qualitative Research, 1999