Focusgroup Orangefarm

Group, focus.
Group, focus.

from Norbert Herrmann
Without free lunch no focus group. That’s why on our way to the Youth centre we stop at the mall: bread rolls, sausages, tomato-sauce and four 2-Liter bottles of neon soft drinks. All together less than 25 Euro. That’s going to be enough for serving about 20 persons.
The room is filling slowly, the young people shyly take their seats in the half round. Most of them are groundbreakers or Mpinshis, volunteers working as youth-leaders for lovelife, being connected to the very ground. Those guys give workshops and education sessions here or in surrounding schools on sports, motivation, computer-skills, HIV prevention and more. We coming from the national office are the only whiteys. But we did the thing right, we brought Nkosana with us. Nkosana originates from Orangefarm and will facilitate the focus group.
“What is it that young people would love to have”, that’s the question we want to have answered from today’s focus group. We then want to take these answers for contacting big manufacturing companies to equip our volunteers. Today it’s Christmas, that’s our thought, and the youngsters will present their wish list. Which parts of the wish list then could be realised will be the next question. That’s how we address the 20 young people. And we are prepared to note an endless list of trendy and cool accessories and clothing, all from the most ayoba labels and colours.

How do the cool guys look like?

“How do the cool guys look like?” Nkosana asks. Perplexed faces. Papi, another alumni volunteer, re-asks: “What is cool?” This triggers a quick-tempered debate on coolness and which people are cool and which people are lazy. Which people nearly fall asleep in their bureaus and which people do the work properly. That is the issue the young people are really concerned about: having the work done properly. The youngsters do want advanced training sessions on a high level, they do want to learn how to facilitate, how to debate. Their aim is qualitative dancing and doing professional sports. They want to be enabled to use a computer. And they do get enabled and empowered best by people which show flexibility and creativity, which they easily get connected with. They do not learn that from people doing as if being cool and wearing cool clothes.
Slightly irritated we note on the wish list: “Creativity” and “connectedness”.

Role models for the youth

At that moment we do not have a chance to receive answers to our question for accessories or brands. The group keeps on discussing. The self-concept of the coaches is in focus, the character and the knowhow a good youth leader has to bring with. Those who are passionate, those who know about the challenges of adolescence and who act credibly and with character, those coaches are welcome. Those become role models for the youth because they are really cool, they don’t only show off.
We note on the wish list “passion” and “personality”.
The volunteers, the lovelife groundBREAKERS and MPintshis are not looking for status symbols, they long for skills that will help them making their moves, that will foster their chances on the job market.
We note on the wish list “skills” and we ignore “status symbols”.
Lunchbreak. Our quick sell in the supermarket disappears from the buffet table even quicker. Nkosana keeps a bread roll for me. We share that one. Outside on the sports field I take pictures of the highly porous ground. Sun is shining, we start to sing and within seconds we are dancing. Many of the young people want me to take a photograph from them which then should be printed in the newspaper or in loveLife’s youth magazine “uncut”. I do not promise anything but I keep on pressing the releaser.
Back in the training room. While waiting for the late the youngsters perform their self written poems. “Words” Blessing starts, and the round shouts “Words”. Applause, finger chipping, next poem. Till we are complete.
Now we really want to get our answers, no more discussing. “Which items, which clothes do you need? What are you wishing for, what would be a good to have thing for you?” This time our question is in round terms, clear and well defined. We grab our pens for taking notes.


“Security firm for the Youth Centre”, “Renovation of accommodation”, “new pavement for the sports ground”, “a printer”, “internet access in the computer room”, that’s what we write down. Nobody mentioning Converse Sneakers, Lewi’s trousers or Adidas Caps. They speak about winter clothes and gloves, about bicycles that could help them making their way to the next workshop site 20k away. And they would love to have a talent scout around once in a while to discover tomorrow’s celebrity. That is when the time is over, the focus group has terminated.
We are on our way back. Did those young people really mean what they were saying? The wish list definitely looks different from what we expected.


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