Hello, AEA! We are Britt Lake, CEO of Feedback Labs, which seeks to make feedback the norm in aid, philanthropy, nonprofits, and government, and Melinda Tuan, Managing Director of Fund for Shared Insight, a national funder collaborative seeking to improve philanthropy by promoting high-quality listening and feedback in service of equity.
Both our organizations are built around the premise that organizations — funders, nonprofits, and even government agencies — can do more good in the world and be better at advancing equity when they listen to the people and communities who are most impacted by their decisions. We’ve each been promoting this idea for nearly a decade. And during that time, a lot has changed.
For example, when Fund for Shared Insight was founded in 2014, one of our first actions was to approach a handful of evaluation firms with an offer of grant funding to explore whether there is a relationship between feedback and program outcomes. At least one organization declined the funding, arguing that incorporating perceptual feedback into evaluations would be incompatible with rigorous evaluations of program quality or effectiveness.
Of course, we both disagree. And we’re excited to share with you over the course of this week some of the reasons why. In this week’s posts, you’ll learn about a growing body of research documenting the correlation between feedback and program outcomes. You’ll hear about how feedback and smart data visualization is helping to decolonize evaluation. You’ll hear from our colleagues at the Disability Rights Fund, who make the case for why feedback from people with disabilities is essential to designing program evaluation, and from Brittany Schulman at Native Americans in Philanthropy about the importance of incorporating Native perspectives into program evaluation. You’ll also learn about how participatory approaches to measurement and evaluation are helping organizations be more nimble and responsive to rapidly changing conditions.
As Lymari Benitez and Katie Smith Milway write in their blog about how listening has strengthened evaluations at Pace Center for Girls, “[W]e are learning that feedback not only helps us improve programs, but also influences participant engagement and advocacy, helps gauge outcomes and deeply supports equity.” We’re both encouraged to see the evaluation field moving to embrace perceptual feedback as valid and even essential to evaluation, and we hope you’ll stay with us for the full week of posts.
As we get started, here are some key documents that can help orient you to the feedback field:
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