Sustaining Feedback Mechanisms in Development

We would all like our work to speak for itself, better still if someone else can vouch for us! One way that industries like to do this is to showcase their ratings and feedback from customers. Not only does this help improve their service, but also help build credibility and trust. In the development context, this has taken more centre-stage. Findings from a UKAID funded pilot programme in seven locations around the world, demonstrated the positive impact beneficiary feedback mechanisms had on making health programmes more attuned to the needs of the communities, creating a sense of trust, empowerment and inclusion.

In early 2017, World Vision UK, which led a consortium that supported the pilots, contacted partners to see what has happened since then and whether they have been able to sustain the feedback mechanisms in the communities they worked in. The findings from the interviews revealed four key enablers for organisations to continue replicating the use of feedback mechanisms. These were:

  1. available funding to support feedback mechanisms;
  2. the commitment of the organisation to institutionalise these through core programmes and organisational strategy;
  3. the ability of champions within the organisations to further the uptake or need for feedback mechanisms; and
  4. the organisations’ established relationships with the community and local government, that enable trust and credibility.

There is no doubt by all interviewed organisations that community feedback helped them in their work, and that the technical capacity of setting up a feedback system, was the lasting legacy of the programme. However, continued funding and assigning staff and resources to ensure that feedback is collected, analysed, referred and acted upon is the greatest issue facing organisations. Many of the organisations recommended that donors provide specific incentives for organisations to integrate feedback mechanisms in their programmes and also encourage adaptive programming, with a degree of flexibility, so that activities can be adjusted taking community feedback into account. This would ensure that listening to feedback and using it to improve development becomes a way of working rather than an added burden.

Thinking about sustainability when designing future feedback mechanisms remains an important challenge to organisations that want to put people before processes so that their work can speak for itself! The findings certainly indicate an interest and enthusiasm to take this forward.

Findings from the interviews and other resources related to the pilot can be found at feedbackmechanisms.org.

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