Weather Forecast


City to conduct focus group study to get feedback on services

The city of Woodbury wants citizens to participate in focus groups.

Not interested? What if the request was sweetened with a restaurant gift certificate?

For the first time, Woodbury is conducting focus groups aimed at getting more feedback from residents about the quality of city services.

Information from the focus groups will help city employees judge their performance and will shape questions in the city's 2011 phone-based community survey.

The focus groups are meant to go beyond what is asked in the phone survey, said Matt Stemwedel of the city's administration department. For instance, rather than simply asking residents to rate street conditions, the focus groups will give residents an opportunity to explain how they judge street quality. That information will be used to tailor phone survey questions.

Phone surveys alone are valuable, but limited. If a resident is unhappy with a city service, it can be difficult to determine why that is the case.

"We don't really have the detail to change anything," he said. "We just know that there's a problem there."

Also, Stemwedel said, focus group participants will be asked how the city can best provide information to residents.

The focus groups are the result of a city grant from the National Center for Civic Innovation, a nonpartisan organization focused on helping to improve local government performance.

Woodbury will use the $5,000 grant to pay a firm to lead the focus groups and compile the results, and to offer $25 gift certificates to area restaurants for people who participate in a focus group.

Two 90-minute focus groups are planned, Feb. 24 and March 3. There is a waiting list for those sessions, but organizers say often people on the waiting list are able to participate. Because of the interest, an Internet-based focus group planned for March 4 has been expanded. There still are open spots for that session.

Too often residents' interaction with a city is a negative experience or is the result of a serious situation, such as a house fire, and it is difficult to get a citizen's broad view of municipal services, said Leah Goldstein Moses, president of The Improve Group, which will lead the Woodbury sessions.

"One of the biggest benefits of focus groups is it allows for an interaction between the city and its residents in a way that's not very common," she said.

The city will release full findings of the focus groups in June or July, ahead of the next community survey, to be conducted in early 2011.