Valentina ShafinaMay 2, 2019

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How often do you hear from your team or colleagues that collecting and responding to client feedback takes too much time? Time that they don’t have. Or, have you struggled to convince your colleagues that accountability to affected populations is everyone’s business, and not just the responsibility of the MEAL manager? Sound familiar? Let us look at some ways in which we can tap into existing business processes within your organization to make responsiveness a priority.

Before we dive it, let’s take a quick pause here to give you the background on IRC’s Client Responsiveness work:

Client Responsiveness is an approach developed by IRC to address the commitments that we and the broader humanitarian sector have made towards accountability to affected populations (AAP), as articulated in the Core Humanitarian Standard, IASC Commitments to AAP and Grand Bargain Participation Revolution.

To improve our responsiveness to the demands of the people we serve – our clients – we focus on implementing the following milestones of a feedback cycle throughout the project life cycle:

  • We systematically listen to the perspectives of our clients through a set of feedback channels;
  • We use clients’ feedback to make programmatic decisions; and,
  • We communicate and explain to our clients how their feedback has informed our actions.

So, back to the question of how you can encourage your colleagues to play their part in implementing client responsive programming…

Through our work we learned that Client Responsiveness is as much about creating a culture to support and incentivize responsive behavior and programming, as it is about setting up feedback channels.

There are several internal processes that we can change to include client feedback in our everyday work and decision making. Here are three things to remember and address:

  1. Programs are only as responsive as the implementing staff decide them to be. We should not be surprised if staff deprioritize the process of collecting and – perhaps more importantly – responding to client feedback if it is not included in their performance management, learning and development goals and job description. By including Client Responsive competencies and roles in performance management systems we can develop staff skills and hold people accountable for their responsiveness to clients and with that, change the way we work. When hiring a new staff, we make sure to include an interview question about the appropriate set of responsibilities for advancing client responsiveness. We also include relevant materials in the on-boarding package so that we can access staff skills and set development goals to collect and respond to client feedback.
  2. Client Responsiveness may not be prioritized if it is seen as an add-on to routine project delivery. We rarely implement activities if they are not identified as a project deliverable in our logframes. Review your project indicators and measurement plans – make sure there is at least one indicator based on clients’ satisfaction with the quality, effectiveness and accountability of the support you provide. By having a clear indicator or deliverable that requires that your team collect, analyze and respond to client feedback, you will set an incentive to work with client feedback and include it in the project workflow.
  3. Client feedback is not addressed if it is not discussed. What do you discuss in your project meetings – how about client feedback? Ensure that every single project review meeting across every field site and country program has client feedback as a standing agenda item. This practice is recognized to be effective to motivate project staff and senior leadership to regularly collect and address client feedback.

By focusing on HR practices, you can incentivize staff to be open to client feedback and value their input, and use your measurement activities (M&E) to evaluate programs from the perspective of affected people and consult with them though whole project lifecycle.

Our experience shows that focusing on HR practices creates an enabling environment to move AAP forward within the organization.

Want to learn more and get some practical guidance and tools? Then have a look at:

A Guide for Client Responsive Staff Management: provides a set of client responsive competencies and is organised around core HR practices to ensure that the competencies are assessed during recruitment and developed starting from on-boarding, through goal setting, performance development and evaluation. The Guide includes templates, illustrative examples and recommendations for HR practitioners, supervisors and organisational leadership.

Client Responsiveness Measurement Framework: provides a set of indicators and benchmarks to assess the quality of Client Responsive Programming, with standards for minimum, intermediate and advanced practice and 10 key steps to integrate the performance measurement framework into the project lifecycle.

For further information, contact Valentina Shafina at [email protected]


Valentina is a Technical Specialist on Client Responsiveness at the International Rescue Committee. She provides technical assistance to the IRC country teams to deliver client responsive programmes, improve their feedback and response mechanisms, and data management for programmatic decision making. She has previously worked at Ground Truth Solutions, a non-profit organisation that provides the humanitarian sector with tools to systematically listen, learn, and act on the views of affected people.

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