Professional Fellows focus group discussion

The Commonwealth Scholarship Commission’s (CSC) Evaluation team held a focus group discussion on 20 November 2012 with a group of Professional Fellows who, at the time, were under award on the CSC’s scheme. The purpose of the focus group was to collect robust qualitative data that answered key questions regarding pre, during and post award experiences, which ultimately fed into a review of the Professional Fellows Scheme, a report that was later written evaluating the scheme to date. The event served as a platform for Fellows to voice their opinions regarding the programme, and was therefore both an important information-gathering session and a valuable networking opportunity.

The focus group was attended by 15 Fellows from Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asian countries, with the majority of Fellows undertaking a placement within an NGO, charity or community organisation, whilst a few had taken placements at education institutions and within private sector companies.

Overall, the focus group revealed very positive results in regard to the Professional Fellowship Scheme. Fellows showed keen enthusiasm toward the programme, and all of the participants asserted that it provided valuable skills and experience both professionally and within their personal lives. Subsequently, the CSC Evaluation team has implemented a new method of data collection that surveys Professional Fellows separately from other alumni due to the unique structure of the programme.

Host institutions focus group discussion

The CSC’s Evaluation team held another focus group discussion with host institutions on 6 December 2012. It was attended by representatives from 14 different organisations working within education institutions, charity organisations and the private sector. The main aim of the hosts’ focus group was to gain an insight into first hand experiences and motivations regarding their participation in the Professional Fellowships Scheme. It was also an opportunity for the Evaluation team to build longer term working relationships with host organisations and a useful networking event for hosts themselves. The Environment Agency, a host organisation that has been part of the scheme since its inception, made a presentation and provided an insightful account of their evaluation programme.

The focus group was a success both in the sense that it provided the Evaluation team with an invaluable opportunity to learn about the experiences and ideas of host organisations, but also because it gave host institutions the chance to learn and share with one another for the first time.

These focus groups represent an on-going type of evaluation that the CSC hopes to engage more with in the future.