Nikita Goossens, Feedback Labs | May 2, 2022
At the Feedback+Jacksonville Summit in March 2022 we welcomed feedback practitioners from many different fields. Something we often hear is that people don’t think feedback is relevant in their respective sectors. However, listening to the people at the heart of your work is important in any field you can imagine. To give you a better sense of how people are (and how you could be) listening, we’ll give you a couple of examples from our Summit attendees.
Feedback examples in different fields
In our opening plenary on day 1 of Feedback+Jacksonville, one of the panelists was Dr. Diana Greene, Superintendent of Duval County Public Schools. She explained how the pandemic has impacted the lives of students and their families. Everyone needed to adapt to a new situation, filled with uncertainty, remote classes, many worries and even losses. She emphasized how important it was to listen to the concerns of the students during this crisis.
She also explained that at Duval County Public Schools, they practiced feedback by asking the students what they needed. It turned out that some needed a laptop to be able to follow virtual classes as they didn’t have their own, needed internet access as some didn’t have this at home and so on. What followed was that Duval County Public Schools did its best to act on that feedback, which for example resulted in installing wifi hotspots where needed.
When schools started to reopen again, Dr. Greene said, it was also important to ask students first what they felt comfortable with. Some said they were still afraid of the virus and weren’t up for physically being at school yet. The school district listened to these concerns and worked out different plans so that students had the choice to either attend classes fully remote, fully in-person or a hybrid of partly remote and partly in-person. Not all of the input from the students during the listening sessions (like the desire to go to school in pajamas, Dr. Greene said smiling) were implemented, but in those cases the school district closed the loop by explaining why they weren’t implementing the feedback – and that is just as important.
2. Philanthropy & aid
In the session ‘Power to the People: Engaging communities to shape humanitarian action’ the International Rescue Committee and Loop presented together on how they help crisis-affected communities in the United States and around the world. Both organizations work to make sure communities have greater influence over governance structures, strategies, program design and delivery. And nobody knows better how to achieve these goals than the communities themselves, which is why listening is so important.
We also heard from John Hecklinger and Ame Atsu David of Global Fund for Children, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to transform the lives of the world’s most vulnerable children. They talked about how they support their partners’ creative ways of truly listening to and engaging with local communities. These practices are necessary to help empower them and to make decisions that create positive change for the children and young people, especially girls in these communities. Since communities themselves know how to best work toward positive change, feedback practices should always be seen as an essential step.
"Understanding #listening is a process" says @AmDavid64634469 of @Global4Children at the Centering the Community in Shifting Power session where they discussed how the community has changed the way they view education. #FBLSummit pic.twitter.com/1JDU4ZQUL0
— Feedback Labs (@FeedbackLabs) March 2, 2022
3. Local government
Governments have a huge impact on people’s lives, so it should be logical they ask for input from the people they serve. In a democratic system, people voted for politicians, so it is essential politicians and governmental staff – on any level – listen to the concerns of communities and act on those concerns. This Summit welcomed Pa Goldbeck, Strategic Performance Manager at the City of Des Moines, Iowa and Nia Richardson, Assistant to Director of Business & Entrepreneurs at the City of Kansas City, Missouri.
In their session, they spoke about public spending systems and why it is important to build (or rebuild) trust between governments and local, small, and disadvantaged suppliers who have been historically excluded from these systems. They also shared that asking for feedback from these local suppliers can be used to even the playing field for vendors and create better economic development outcomes.
In another session, Sabine Romero, Complete Communities Lead at the City of Austin, shared how she is listening to the communities before upgrading Austin’s most used roads. To make the upgrade successful, it is necessary to have sufficient information about the mobility habits of the people using these roads so that the plans don’t make it harder for them to move around. It is also interesting to ask these questions as it allows the city to find out where there is room for improvement, like for example creating more green transport options. This is another way governments could be listening and acting on feedback.
The Jacksonville Historical Society is an organization that focuses on preserving the many stories from Jacksonville’s past. The society, for example, offers tours in the Historic Merrill House, which attracts tourists from near and far. Mitch Hemann, Senior Archivist at the society, hosted a LabStorm at Feedback+Jacksonville because he would like to include more diverse stories as they now mainly bring stories of rich, white families from the past.
Feedback from underrepresented communities is incredibly important to move forward on these issues and Mitch explained how the Historical Society plans to do that in the future. The audience also shared their thoughts and gave advice on how to collect and act on feedback. For example, they suggested that the Historical Society could build relationships and partner with similar organizations that focus on underrepresented communities. Feedback in the field of tourism ensures everyone feels included in what is offered.
— Feedback Labs (@FeedbackLabs) March 2, 2022
Another area where feedback is very important is healthcare. Several members of Mayo Clinic held a session at Feedback+Jacksonville to talk about how the organization implemented a series of activities to listen to staff on principles around equity. For this, multiple departments collaborated. The Mayo Clinic Florida implemented listening sessions where staff are invited to share their personal and professional impacts of social unrest. The goal of this constructive dialogue is to move forward together. Some things that came out of these sessions are the staff’s desire to focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion in the community and to participate more in community outreach.
In our opening plenary, Melanie Patz, Vice President of Community Investment and Impact at Baptist Health, presented about how feedback affects her work. She said listening to communities most impacted by the pandemic helped her prioritize and offer solutions during this unprecedented time. At Baptist Health they started personal conversations with community partners on a regular basis. By sharing experiences about how to get people vaccinated, where to get vaccines, and what the vaccine policy should be they felt supported and more capable of dealing with this crisis.
Feedback and listening to the people at the heart of your work can be implemented in any sector, you just have to be open to it!