You’ve heard me say it before: stakeholders should be central to your planning cycle.  Many NGOs talk about Stakeholder engagement, but very few do much more beyond asking beneficiaries or participants to complete feedback forms at the end of a training session or as part of a final evaluation.

In my recent blog on using data I mentioned that you should be using evidence from previous interventions to help you design your new interventions.  Where does this evidence come from?  Well, your beneficiaries and stakeholders of course.  Sounds simple enough, but actually how often do you ask your beneficiaries what they would do if they were running your organisation?

One of the things the I like about SROI as a methodology is that it puts the beneficiary at the centre of the evaluation and frames impact and activities in terms of what the beneficiary is getting out of the intervention, not what the organisation is getting out of the intervention.

It can be a challenging to let go and listen actively to what your beneficiaries are telling you their priorities are.  What if they tell you that what you have been doing all along isn’t what they really want?  Well, so what?  Unless you have substantial grants or income tied up in an intervention that you thought was what your beneficiaries needed, it doesn’t matter.  What matters is that you listen to what they are saying and adjust your activities, approach, sometimes even your organisation accordingly.  You will find that your organisation will become more relevant and as a result, more successful; just perhaps not in the way that you had imagined.

After all, we all need to remember that we do what we do for others, not ourselves.

What was it like when you first had to get feedback from beneficiaries and stakeholders?  How did you adjust what your organisation did as a result?  Did it make your organisation more or less relevant?

1 Comment

Daveena Brain · January 15, 2014 at 10:11 pm

Hi Robyn, I think your comment re ‘what is the beneficiary getting out of it’ is key. At a recent meeting in Australia a group shared a learning experience where they had met with the beneficiaries ‘listened’ and then came up with what they thought the beneficiaries wanted out of the project, however when they went back and presented it to the various community groups, at least 50% of them said, not that was not what they wanted at all’ demonstrating the importance of double checking that what you think you hear is what is actually being said.

On a slightly separate note I sometimes feel the very use of the word beneficiary serves to distance and de-personalise the individuals that we are seeking to help, becoming rather an amorphous, anonymous group.

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