In two other recent blogs I’ve mentioned beneficiary feedback loops and implied they are a good thing and important for designing meaningful interventions.  They are, but let’s look at them more closely.

Farmers in Zimbabwe discuss the value that their project has created for them.  Photo credit: Robin Brady

© Robin Brady

When I talk about feedback loops I am not talking about consulting focus groups and the end of the planning cycle to make sure that what you’ve come up with won’t be rejected by the community after you have been awarded funding for it.

No, I’m talking about constant feedback.  Feedback during research and development of the product, service, programme.  Feedback after its been launched.  Feedback during redesign, tweaking, changing the product, service, programme after launch.  Feedback at formal review points.  Using that feedback to research and develop forthcoming products, services, programmes.  Do you see where I’m going with this?  Beneficiary feedback is the very heart of your operation across technical development, marketing and fundraising, operational delivery.

Don’t misunderstand.  I am not talking about community ‘ownership of the process’ and ‘self-esteem’ (two mis-judged concepts that have appeared in self-interested research programmes recently).  I am also not talking about massive never-ending consultations taking time out of the programme.  But rather targeted focus groups and online or text message and phone based feedback (yes this can happen in developing economies) that happens in the background mostly throughout the lifecycle of programming.

This constant communication with and listening to your beneficiaries is crucial if you are going to provide products, services and programmes that actually meet their needs and respond to the environment that they are living in.

More listening and less chatter I say!

How often do you listen to your beneficiaries, really?  How are they consulted and does it take time away from actually delivering the work you should be doing?  Do the views of your beneficiaries actually make a difference?


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