In the West African nation of Togo mid-level health workers are being routinely trained to conduct focus-group interviews with mothers of children under five. The intent is to establish qualitative data bases that complement conventional survey data. The authors document the findings of a five-day training programme during which health workers collected data from 81 focus groups (324 mothers). Two unanticipated effects emerged: firstly that the focus group method democratized data gathering by forcing health workers out of their perceived roles as experts and teachers; secondly that by stimulating this shift in roles community competence was enhanced, thereby promoting collaborative programme planning by health workers and target villages. Evidence is given that focus-group discussions paved the way for highly successful education campaigns which dramatically increased child vaccination rates.