What is a Feedback Loop?
A feedback loop is a two-way stream of communication between someone who designs something or provides a service and someone who uses that thing or benefits from that service. Feedback loops can happen in business, government, and in the social sector.
In the world of business, feedback loops occur when consumers use their purchasing power to either buy a product, or not buy a product. If they like something, they purchase it, if they don’t like it, they don’t purchase it. As a result, companies have a constant, real-time communication with consumers - they understand consumers preferences and needs, without having to ask them.
In democratic governments, feedback loops happen between citizens and governing bodies through voting. Much like “purchasing power” in the business world, citizens use their voting power to select the representative that best reflects their desires. Politicians and governments can then understand citizens preferences and needs, without having to ask them.
But what about in the social sector? There is no automatic mechanism in the social sector for people who receive aid to express their opinions or desires about that aid. While the business world has purchasing power and the political world boasts voting power, the development world has left its constituents’ voices behind in the decision-making process.
Why Feedback Loops Matter
Research shows that development outcomes are better when people have the opportunity to give honest feedback on service delivery. And there are some great initiatives out there to track people’s opinions about projects in the social sector. However, the idea of building long-lasting, mutually -respectful feedback loops with people who receive social services is still not commonplace. Aid agencies, direct-service providers, nonprofits and philanthropic institutions spend hundreds of billions of dollars each year to improve the well-being of people. Constituent feedback offers a critical piece of evidence to the complex challenges those dollars are meant to address.
Our goal is to make feedback loops the norm in aid, development, philanthropy and nonprofits.
We envision a world where people are empowered with creative, field-tested ways to productively interact with service providers and express their honest opinions about the services they receive. Making people’s voices central to the decision-making process is our end goal, and we believe that it will revolutionize the social sector.
Steps of a Closed Feedback Loop
So, you agree that feedback loops should exist in the social sector? Now let’s delve into how to make them happen. 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.
based on the Constituent Voice Methodology TM
Who We Are
Feedback Labs is a non-profit organization dedicated to making feedback loops the norm in development, aid, philanthropy and non-profits. We believe that people are the best experts in their own lives and they should ultimately drive the policies and programs that affect them.
Achieving our mission would not be possible without the support of the greater feedback community. Hundreds of organizations are working to use feedback loops in their work, and we learn and grow with them every day.
What We Do
We create metrics and standards in order to measure whether an organization is doing good feedback work, and then set up rewards for organizations that excel!
We promote tools and trainings that help frontline practitioners, funders, and service providers learn the ins and outs of feedback so they can establish effective feedback loops in their own organizations.
- Informal collaboration among founding members
- Received seed funding from Rita Allen Foundation, William & Flora Hewlett Foundation and funding founders including Fund for Shared Insight.
- Launched Feedback Labs with 10 Founding Members
- Published How Feedback Loops Can Improve Aid (and Maybe Governance)
- Hosted the inaugural Feedback Summit
- Launched Feedback Labs Quiz and Toolkit
- Supported 3 organizations through The Collaboration Fund
- Hosted Smart Summit
- Published Is Feedback Smart?
- Launched Sprint Relay Methodology by convening the Practical Adaptation Network
- 2nd annual Feedback Summit: From Talk to Action
- Hosted the inaugural London Summit
- Grew to 415+ organizations in our community
- Hosted 22 LabStorms
- Launched the Feedback Crash Course
- Hosted the 3rd annual Feedback Summit: Transforming Voice. Unleashing Power
- Incorporated as a 501(c)3
- Formed 3 new funding relationships
- Grew to 500+ organizations in our community
- Hosted 24 LabStorms
- Hosted a Crash Course
- Published Under What Conditions is Information Empowering??
- Co-created a draft version of the Core Principles of Constituent Feedback with the feedback community
- Hosted the 4th annual Feedback Summit: The Expected Thing
- Established the inaugural class of Feedback Fellows