One Speaks for 600

One Speaks for 600

Public input for RA’s strategic plan will be limited to about 100 residents who participate in one of six focus groups.

The views of about 100 randomly selected Restonians will represent the entire community in guiding the Reston Association Board of Directors as it develops a strategic outlook for the next 10 years.

The independent research firm the Association hired to solicit the public’s input, Allied Research Analysts, announced it would hold six focus groups to gauge the attitude of a community of nearly 60,000 people.

“It’s an effective way to get feedback without opening the entire plan to the public,” said Baxter, a social scientist and president of the McLean-based firm.

In the next two months, the firm will hold six focus groups on topics generated in earlier planning sessions. The topics include communications; community leadership and identity, resources, customer service; covenants, design, and maintenance; and parks, recreation and the environment.

In the next few weeks, the firm will send out 400 invitations to Association members. “Out of 400 invitations, we hope we will get 100 people who would want to do this,” said Baxter. “We’re giving ourselves enough time if this recruitment process doesn’t work, so we can go to a Plan B.”

EACH FOCUS GROUP will have a minimum of six participants and a maximum of 13, depending on the response rate, according to Baxter.

RA President Jennifer Blackwell asked if people who are really interested in certain topics be able to sit in on the sessions.

Baxter said that participants had to be selected at random to ensure the research will be representative. “It’s really important to get as much diversity of opinion as possible on these things,” said Baxter.

“Will I be allowed to come in as an observer?” said Director Kathleen Driscoll McKee (South Lakes). Baxter explained that any participants associated with RA would not be allowed to attend during the sessions because it could skew responses and discussion.

The sessions will be taped so Baxter’s firm will be able to analyze the results. Participants will know they are being taped, said Baxter.

Results of the focus group research will be presented to the board at its Oct. 26 meeting. The board has two work sessions scheduled in November to integrate the focus group data, and in December, the board is scheduled to adopt a new strategic plan.