Closing the feedback loop

The first ever Feedback Summit held on 1 November was a fascinating day spent with colleagues in the domestic and international non profit sector discussing the opportunities, challenges and constraints affecting charities’ use of client feedback.

Jo Wells, the Director of the Blagrave Trust, took a leading role in the steering committee for the day and co-chaired a breakout session on feedback practice in the youth sector. The Blagrave Trust is committed to sharing good practice about feedback amongst organisations, as we believe that services will improve if they have young people’s views at their heart.

The day covered topics including feedback as a force for disruption; citizen engagement; feedback from refugees; and feedback in the health sector. Despite the diversity of attendees, it struck me that charities and social enterprises right across the UK and beyond are feeling the same excitement, and facing the same sort of challenges, in their practice.

One particular learning point stuck with me at the close of the day. A discussion with the inspirational US organisation Feedback Labs left me with a better understanding of how feedback can be used within an organisation.

  • Feedback can be used to Open Up: By asking clients a question about a specific experience or intervention, along the lines of ‘how satisfied are you with your service from us today?’ and measuring the response, organisations can identify if any problems arise. Whilst this sort of feedback will be unlikely to provide a clear, definitive answer about what the solutions to any problems are, it can provide a starting point for further exploration.
  • Feedback can be used to Close Down: By asking a specific question about whether clients prefer different options (Choice A or Choice B) organisations can engage users in incrementally shaping the development of the organisation. Feedback Labs advise that it is more productive to involve user voice in small decisions that are realisable and visible within a short time frame, rather than asking for complex involvement in a long running debate right up front. This task and finish approach builds trust and rapport on both sides.

Whichever approach organisations take, and many are already taking both, it’s important not to ask for feedback until it is known how it will be used. The parameters for action, and the mechanism for feedback, should be clear in the feedback design.

The Blagrave Trust will continue to make feedback practice a key part of our work in the future and look forward to sharing more ideas over time. It was great to see many of our partner charities at the event.

If you have any thoughts on how feedback is used within your organisation or issues you would like to explore please let us know and we will share them via our website.

Tessa Hibbert

2nd November 2016