Keystone helps organizations develop new ways of planning, monitoring, assessing and reporting social change. Our work is organized around the central concept of constituency voice.
Social purpose organizations (SPOs) engage with various constituents, including three core groups: those who provide resources (funders), those who implement programs (implementers) and those intended to benefit from interventions - the groups, often vulnerable and marginalized, for whom social change is directed (primary constituents).
We use the term ‘primary constituents’ to denote the unique importance of the people whose lives are affected most by SPOs’ efforts. Their actions are most important for making and sustaining positive change. They are the ones whose relationships with the SPO most determine its effectiveness.
Constituency voice refers to the practice of ensuring that the views of all relevant constituents, particularly primary constituents, are seriously taken into account in the planning, monitoring, assessing, reporting and learning processes taking place within organizations. It is closely linked to the concepts of participation and empowerment. We gratefully acknowledge our debt to these ongoing bodies of work and a wide range of related research and practice.
In practical terms, we believe constituency voice can be applied in three crucial processes.
Deliberation can naturally flow into the next cycle of planning, feedback and deliberation. We sometimes call this the ‘relationship cycle’.
These processes depend on bridging the inherent power differences between different constituents. They rely on enabling conditions including:
Feedback can be used to measure the strength of constituency voice itself – for instance through questions like “when and how much do managers solicit your views?”. This can generate metrics of the quality of relationships between constituents. In turn, these may be predictive indicators of overall success.
Finally, we argue that constituency voice should land in public reporting. In almost all cases, individual organizations can make the greatest contribution to solving complex social questions when they publicly report their plans, their deeds, the feedback of their constituents, and their learning. This helps strengthen collaboration between social actors and accelerates society-wide learning and progress. Reporting constituency satisfaction can also generate comparable performance data between organizations.
The most developed application of constituency voice comes from the world of business. In 1962, U.S. President John F. Kennedy issued a Special Message to Congress launching the consumer rights movement. It noted that consumers “are the only important group in the economy...whose views are often not heard”.