Hello, my name is Kamna Mantode. I work as a Senior Monitoring and Evaluation Specialist at Compassion International. Having earned a PhD in Public Administration and through my work experience of over 10 years supporting evaluation in public and nonprofit space, I hold a high regard for cultivating “feedback” and “listening” practices in development and evaluation workspace (Hirschman’s exit, voice, and loyalty model). Widely held belief in the sector is that feedback and listening are essential to promote client engagement and achieving outcomes. Yet as data shows, many NGOs that not integrating feedback insights in their process improvements (https://hbr.org/2019/02/why-customer-feedback-tools-are-vital-for-nonprofits).
For many public and nonprofit organizations that do include feedback mechanisms most are project based, and end with the term of the project. Over the years, this ad-hoc system of feedback collection misses out on important institutional level information that could prove useful to improve the organization.
(Re)new focus and value add
What if we did not think about feedback gathering as an add on, pushed by donors (upwards accountability) but considered it as a capability that is instituted and developed in the NGO? Feedback loops can be viewed as a core function that supports the organization, especially those that are set up to address challenging social and economic situations. Here are some ways in which I think feedback loops can be used to create value add that appeals to a broader set of stakeholders and build the momentum that it needs in an organization:
- Cast a wider, frequent, and occasionally a deeper net-. Cast a wider net with questions on topics that not only cover service delivery experience but also tap into factors that determine that experience. Design an array of questions that build an understanding of cultural and institutional expectations and associated experiences that could affect the motivation and engagement of the client. Try to get away from use of industry standard one-two question approach that by now is very familiar to clients. In short, don’t be predictable with your feedback surveys. Also use a combination approach to collection of data- frequent pulse surveys that are punctuated by deeper dives. I have found this article from Keystone Accountability about Constituent Voice approach as a great resource for thinking differently about the design and approach towards feedback loops with their pulse surveys and insight studies. Expanding the focus of feedback instruments to capture not just service feedback but institutional level variables, will help generate actionable information for improvements.
- Democratization of feedback information. Most often feedback data stays within the management and within process improvement space. It has helped me to wrestle with the question of, who has the right to this information? Certainly, those folks who have commissioned the feedback data collection, no question, but also those who have provided the feedback information. As part of my work, I have enjoyed building tools/platforms/methods that enable all stakeholders to have a chance to view and interact with feedback data. Viewing feedback data has been empowering for the respondents and has sparked discussions of how organizations and individuals interact on a day-to-day basis. It has promoted the view that attitudes, and cultures can change, not only for the project but for the organization as well. All the above are important considerations to engender a culture of feedback gathering and demonstrating value add.
Promoting the actionability of feedback data across the organization rests on demonstrating its value add. I think as practitioners we can be intentional about designing and democratizing feedback to boost its potential.
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