STEPS OF A CLOSED FEEDBACK LOOP
Simply collecting feedback is not enough. It is critical to close the loop by ensuring that feedback system are properly designed and implemented, the data is analyzed with the community, and the data is used by decision makers to make the desired changes that move the community as a whole towards goals and, eventually, impact. Creating buy-in among all stakeholders is crucial to completing all steps of the loop, and to moving from isolated loops to iterative cycles.
Many thanks to Keystone Accountability for lending the foundation for much of this thinking. You can find their full technical note here.
PREPARATORY STEP: BUY-IN
Securing buy-in from stakeholders is crucial to successfully closing the feedback loop. Buy-in lends legitimacy and authority to the entire feedback process and increases the likelihood that you will be able to translate constituent feedback into actionable change.
The ultimate goal is to create a sustainable system for continuous, iterated feedback, and this requires an environment in which there are three kinds of buy-in:
- Decision-Makers: those who make the programmatic decisions commit to act upon feedback
- Frontline Staff: those who are implementing the programs agree to listen for and report the feedback received from the constituents
- Constituents: those in the community being served want to give feedback and have an appetite for accountability
Of course, building buy-in is not something that can just be checked off the list. Indeed, it is a continuous process of building commitment to a culture of accountability, which requires concerted effort throughout the entire feedback loop. In addition to understanding the importance of buy-in from the beginning, then, it is critical to cultivate Buy-In during each step of the Loop.
STEP 1: DESIGNDesigning your feedback process gives your organization a chance to agree upon its values and begin putting them into practice. This design stage gives everyone an opportunity to get on the same page, clearly articulating the goals of the feedback process and ensuring that they mirror your organization's mission and theory of change. In particular, it’s important to balance the following competing principles:
- Sensitivity to Process and Culture
STEP 2: COLLECT
Collecting constituent feedback is essential to hearing the voices of your target population. But it’s critical to remember that this system is not simply about getting answers to your questions - it’s about building a relationship with constituents so that they feel valued, consulted, and engaged in the process.
A gold standard feedback system, therefore, often incorporates the following components:
- Begins by explaining the survey’s intended purpose, so constituents understand the intentions, goals, and implications of their participation
- Seeks to reduce biases with anonymity and an independent party
- Uses a combination of continuous microsurveys and periodic, high-quality, in-depth research to build a more complete picture of impact
STEP 3: ANALYZE
In order to understand the feedback that you've received, it's critical to analyze the data to make sense of your constituents' opinions. Analyzing allows you to see your organization through your target populations’ eyes and identify areas of improvement, based on their feedback. You can also see how your organization has grown over time, how it has impacted the community in which you work, and even how it compares to others in the field.
Most of the social sector is just at the beginning stages of analysis, but it’s important to keep the end goal in mind. The most thorough analyses incorporate the following dimensions :
- Segmentation using Statistical Analysis: By segmenting your respondents based on individual characteristics and cluster (like Net Promoter Analysis), it’s easier to use the analysis to develop corrective actions and strategies. In particular, you can identify course corrections that fit with different segments of an organization’s constituents, including non-respondents.
- Triangulation through Conversation: Conducting in-depth interviews or focus groups can compare these results to other narrative feedback. This allows you to delve deeper into the responses received and learn more areas of improvement.
- Benchmarking: Another way to better understand the results is to compare your feedback both internally and cross-sector. By using longitudinal studies and identifying outliers, for example, you can understand how an organization has changed over time. You can also compare results - or even data aggregated into indices - with other organizations to see how it compares to others in the field.
STEP 4: DIALOGUE
The most important part of the feedback loop is having conversations with constituents: reporting back what you found and then co-creating solutions. We call this activity sense-making, as in making sense of the findings through open conversations with respondents that generate a shared understanding of ways to improve. This two-way conversation both solicits answers and raises expectations among the community, moving further towards a demand for accountability, while also improving response rates for the future.
STEP 5: COURSE CORRECT
The Feedback Loop isn’t complete unless the findings lead to real action! Keep in mind, you won’t truly know if your actions led to improvements unless you keep collecting feedback on a continuous basis.