CheesCult project organizing focus groups with stakeholders in Albanian Cross Border Area

Cheescult project’ proposed methodologies for the implementation of the Deliverable Activities included the organizing of Focus groups, supplemented by meetings with established groupings, such as associations, chambers and collectives. Center for Comparative and International Studies and Argjiro decided in the number of said activities, however, it was crucial that overall geographic coverage of the Albanian Cross Border Area is achieved.

In the case of focus groups, effort was made to include a diverse range of stakeholders. The inclusion of stakeholders that are considered positive towards the Project’s scope as well as reluctant ones, if so identified, can be beneficial for the discussion results.

The focus group discussions are considered essential due to their capability of providing focused quality and in-depth information, as they use a pre-determined discussion path based on prepared discussion topics by the organizer. However, one element of potential problems remains as the participation of the all interested parties and stakeholders is not always guaranteed, and therefore the produced results can be less representative than expected.

Three focus groups were organized online during April 7, 9 and 14, 2021 lasting between 50-70 minutes, with a total of 26 participants. They were contacted through email, telephone and invitations via social networks, with participants preselected from University of Gjirokastra (CheesCult project partner) as art of the stakeholders group of dairy producers, local authorities, cultural heritage sites and tourist operators. Each group was arranged to encourage the diversity of opinions, views, and opportunities for interaction.

A moderator with extensive experience conducted the discussion and explained, in the beginning of each session, the aim of the study, objectives of the project, voluntary participation in the project. In addition, terms of consent were distributed to the group, registering the confidentiality of records and informing the group the approval of the ethics committee. Although the moderator used a predefined discussion guide during the sessions, the discussions were deepened when necessary. At the end of the sessions, the participants received a reward for their participation.

Meanwhile, an issues was raised: imports of dairy products into the EU are very low due to the high competitiveness of local producers in the EU and due to the requirements for standards set by the EU market – for both reasons, Albania cannot export large quantities of dairy products in the future (so far it cannot export at all to the EU due to the ban on standards.