Alexis BanksJuly 20, 2017

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Over the past couple months, I have had the privilege of working with the team at Feedback Labs to develop the Feedback Crash Course–a one-day course designed to equip practitioners with the knowledge, skills, and tools needed to close the feedback loop, leading up to the 2017 Feedback Summit in Washington, DC.

What makes the Crash Course so exciting is not the fun activities we’ve planned or the special guest appearances (although those are all pretty great too), it’s that this day was born out of feedback from 2016 Summit participants and carefully crafted with consistent and ongoing feedback from potential participants.

Admittedly, there were times during this process that my type A personality chafed under the seemingly slow pace of progress as we collected and analyzed feedback and dialogued with stakeholders. However, I soon saw how the feedback process helped us create a better, more robust product. Here are three lessons that I learned along the way:

  1. Stop trying to come up with the solutions and start dialoguing! Going into the planning process, our team agreed that we wanted to create an activity-based learning experience for participants. We struggled to reach consensus about the activities we should use to introduce the feedback loop–while I suggested a Human Centered Design activity, Rina advocated for a group role play, and Sarah pushed for an SMS survey simulation. Hours into our brainstorming session, a light bulb went off. We weren’t the right people to be making these decisions; we needed to ask for feedback from members of the Feedback Labs community!We took those activities long debated and presented them to a Crash Course Advisory Committee made up of beginner, intermediate, and advanced feedback practitioners. In some cases, the committee unanimously selected an activity–silencing any internal debate–and in others they proposed new ideas that we would never have considered on our own. In the end, we had a solid roster of activities vetted by feedback thought leaders, instructors, and possible Crash Course participants.
  2. Make time for feedback. At the start of the project, we created a work plan that included opportunities to incorporate feedback–analyzing feedback from Feedback Summit 2016 and surveying possible Crash Course participants–but we needed to make more space for ongoing feedback. The Advisory Committee, for example, was not in our original plan but emerged as a necessity as we began to wrestle with the curriculum content and structure. And thanks to that addition, we have a curriculum that is better suited to the skill and experience of potential participants. But we never would have reached this point if we hadn’t made time for feedback.
  3. Expect the unexpected. Perhaps the biggest reason to make time for feedback is because, more often than not, those of us in the driver’s seat have made incorrect assumptions about our clients. Leading up to this event, we are working with organizations that have successfully closed the feedback loop to document their stories. We consistently found that collecting and analyzing feedback unearthed surprising information about their constituents. For example, while collecting feedback about recycling habits, the City of Austin discovered that social pressure played a big role in motivating citizens to be green. Likewise, Our House, a homelessness prevention organization in Arkansas, was surprised to find that while the staff had invested significant resources in developing child safety protocols, parents were unaware of the efforts being made to keep their kids safe. In addition, LIFT, which works to end intergenerational poverty, found that while clients were satisfied with staff interactions, they were eager to connect more with peers and to learn from one another.All of these organizations have leveraged these unexpected pieces of feedback to refine and improve their programming to better serve the needs of their clients. Similarly, we have been able to use surprising feedback from 2016 Summit participants, recent survey takers, and Advisory Committee members to create a Feedback Crash Course that addresses the unique needs and wants of our target audience.

Yet, the feedback process never ends! While we have made valuable time for feedback and used dialogue to incorporate unexpected feedback into the Crash Course curriculum, the team at Feedback Labs will continue to test, refine, and improve the curriculum based on ongoing feedback over the next several months leading up to the launch of the first-ever Crash Course on November 1st! We hope you’ll consider joining us by registering here.

Alexis Banks worked with Feedback Labs to help develop the Feedback Crash Course and recently joined Root Change as a Technical Officer. Alexis completed her MBA at the University of Cape Town in South Africa, where she worked with the Social Enterprise Academy. She previously spent seven years at GlobalGiving, where she managed in-person and virtual training, one-on-one support, and monitoring and evaluation for thousands of organizations around the world.

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