FY 16: From Feedback to Action: Strategies to Improve the Use of Beneficiary Feedback (International Rescue Committee)

Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration
February 14, 2018


FINAL REPORT, JANUARY 2018: https://www.state.gov/documents/organization/278568.pdf

PROJECT OVERVIEW

Multilateral agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) collect and receive varying types of feedback from program beneficiaries and other stakeholders. However, a lot of data is usually collected and not all of the feedback is always utilized. For the humanitarian response system to be more accountable to the populations it seeks to serve, it must better understand why feedback is not currently being used systematically in decision-making within agencies, and proactively take steps to encourage its use. Observations from the International Rescue Committee suggested that beneficiary feedback was left out of program decision-making processes because it competed with other, higher prioritized information, such as expenditure, output and activity data, and formal evaluations. This seemed to be because humanitarian organization staff were unsure how to interpret feedback coming from beneficiaries, as it may have been partial, contradictory, or perceived as “subjective” and the staff may have perceived other data linked to logical frameworks to be more important. This study used a mixed method approach to gather data in Uganda, a site with a wide range of humanitarian actors and diverse beneficiary population (including camp/non camp settings and urban/rural settings).

GOALS AND OBJECTIVES

  • Complete a literature review on decision-making practices and feedback utilization, including lessons learned from previously tested electronic platforms.
  • Identify simple, effective and replicable processes for interpreting beneficiary feedback in order to inform program decision-making by key humanitarian agency staff.
  • Identify effective strategies to increase the motivation of key humanitarian agency staff to use beneficiary feedback in program decision-making.

KEY FINDINGS

  • The project revealed that it is possible to improve feedback utilization even with light-touch treatments within a short period of time.
  • NGO representatives exposed to decision-making tools reported substantive changes in the use of feedback in meetings and in making small changes in program implementation.
  • There is a critical need to increase the capacity of staff engaged in feedback collection and utilization.
  • Undertaking an institutional mapping of how information is shared will improve understanding of how feedback data moves between different units of the organization and can illuminate the strengths and gaps in the system.

RECOMMENDATIONS

  • A longer period of time between introduction of the tool and the follow-up survey could possibly show more significant changes.
  • At both the individual and organizational levels, increased emphasis on the use of feedback needs to be accompanied by increased support not merely to collect data but to process, interpret, use, and communicate them effectively.
  • Coaching support is needed to (i) map and clarify organizational information flows; (ii) establish common platforms, clear internal systems and standard operating procedures and (iii) improve listening, data presentation, and customer service skills.
  • Incentivizing senior management to request and use feedback and to create the spaces for reflection, learning, and adjustment is extremely important. These incentives, capacities and systems also require increased financial resources and a greater degree of flexibility on the part of donors.