What do the people you are trying to serve think of you?

emmi Nov 8, 2016

Blog from Integrity Action staff member Andrew Hassan

This question was posed by Keystone Accountability on Twitter following the first London Feedback Summit. It underscores a theme that was carried throughout the summit. One that Pat McArdle, CEO of the Mayday Trust, introduced early in the day as she presented her charity’s strategy of moving beyond asking what are the needs of those they serve as they begin to assess the quality of the services they provide based on the perceptions of their beneficiaries. Her decision to return a large amount of the charity’s budget to donors due to their lack of interest in gathering feedback from beneficiaries demonstrates remarkable leadership. It is not going to be an easy task to ensure that the potential of beneficiary feedback systems is realised in development, however as Pat noted, we need to ‘embrace the mess’. The Mayday Trust has truly set an example for everyone within the sector.

In a room filled with non-profits already working towards systematically introducing beneficiary feedback into their work, the question on everyone’s mind was how to assess if systems of feedback within one’s organisation are operating properly. There was a wide range of answers provided, some of which included analysing response rates and assessing how comfortable beneficiaries are in submitting negative feedback. In some manner, attendees’ responses all underpinned a desire to use the quality of relationships between implementers and beneficiaries as a metric for determining how well an organisation uses feedback to influence their behaviors and programming. As mentioned by Leslie Groves Williams, a senior evaluation consultant, we need to consciously ensure that those labeled as ‘beneficiaries’ are not used as objects purely for the purpose of extracting information, but rather subjects whom we are obligated to relay information back and forth to. We must work towards ensuring that the voices of beneficiaries are not simply heard by giving them the platform to influence the activities of the actors working to better their lives.  

It was to our delight that many commended Integrity Action’s metric, the Fix-Rate, as one that most resembles an indices able to indicate how close an organisation’s response to problems are to meeting the satisfaction of key stakeholders. By adapting game-changing concepts and principles from open consumer feedback systems into our approach, we hope that the Fix-Rate will be a disruptor within the development sector capable of pushing the frontiers of knowledge and practice. We must work to sit outside of our sector and adopt aspects from systems that are able to effectively turn constituent voice into actionable indicators.