Here at Feedback Labs, we know that feedback is infectious. Over the past year, from blog posts to the annual Feedback Summit, we’ve seen our peer organizations actively engaging in innovative ways to close the loop in their own work. This kind of collective action is vital to the health and prosperity of our sector. Because it is so important, we must continue to press further: How will the ethos of feedback become a sector-wide norm? How do we ensure that people feel capable of implementing the ideas that we believe in so fiercely?
Last month, the Hewlett Foundation published a report that answered some of our questions. “Peer to Peer: At the Heart of Influencing Effective Philanthropy” explores the pathways and connections that practice knowledge takes as it journeys through communities. Researchers utilized phone interviews, case studies, an online survey, and a literature review to paint a picture of the flow of knowledge among foundation staff members.
The researchers identified 3 phases required to move practice knowledge into implementation: gathering, vetting, and using. As we read through the report, we immediately recognized the direct correlation to our work: How can we ensure that feedback practice knowledge is not only gathered, but actually used and implemented? We reflect here on some useful takeaways, and invite you to help us answer some lingering questions. Help us deepen our peer to peer relationships by contributing (anonymously!) to the polls below.
1. KNOWLEDGE GATHERING: A Phone Call Away
People receive way too many emails. All of us know this. And all of us contribute to the problem. 92% of the study’s 738 respondents identified colleague and peer interactions as one of the primary sources that they use to gather practice knowledge. Essentially, when people are looking for something, they would much rather knock on the office door of their neighbor or call someone up on the phone whose opinion they trust than comb through their email inbox.
Additionally, 83% of survey respondents identified professional conferences as primary arenas for accessing practice knowledge. Our third annual Feedback Summit, scheduled for November, is not only a means of fostering a culture of feedback within as many organizations as possible, but it also provides an opportunity for our attendees to establish a trusted network of peers that they know will pick up the phone.
2. KNOWLEDGE VETTING: Information You Can Trust
Researchers found that blog posts, tweets, reports, and emails tend to enter and exit people’s lives very quickly, often without a second glance. Simply seeing an email or scrolling past a tweet is not enough for someone to actively engage with content. However, if a colleague or a trusted peer specifically suggests an article for someone, they are more inclined to read it. At that point, it has already been vetted and deemed as valuable. Further, people are more likely to read information if it has been summarized and simplified down into a few paragraphs or a bulleted list. This begs one big question:
3. KNOWLEDGE USE: An Arsenal of Support
Simply finding an audience for practice knowledge isn’t enough. Practice knowledge is only useful if it actually changes the way organizations operate. Hewlett’s report found that knowledge gets implemented when it is supported by products, leadership, and advice from colleagues. In order for feedback to become the norm, we may need an army of ambassadors.
The title of Hewlett’s report makes one thing clear: ‘Peer to peer’ interactions are essential to creating meaningful change. We value our peers and colleagues immensely: we want your feedback and we promise to close the loop. If you have any reactions or answers to the questions posed above, please reach out to us in the comments, on Twitter, via email, or through carrier pigeon. We want to hear your voice, however it may be transmitted!