Where do the incentives for listening to service users come from?
The announcement of an anti-advocacy clause being added into government grant agreements with charities is in danger of de-valuing the vital importance of listening to those on the front-line of charities and the views of those individuals and communities they serve.
Charities have to be able to speak up for those they help, especially the most disadvantaged and vulnerable amongst them. If they are hindered from doing so, where is the incentive for them to prioritise systematic listening and learning from the feedback they receive?
Likewise, if other funders do not prioritise adequate support for programme design and analysis that includes eliciting the views of those they intend to assist; flexible funding that enables adaptive programming ; and a culture of learning in their organisations and with the organisations they fund, then we are not assisting VSOs that have an increasingly important role to play in the current context of cuts to services, to fulfil their best potential.
The ‘system’ of funding and now the government approach to advocacy is in danger of representing a kind of pincer movement that impedes good feedback and listening from both the grassroots up as well as from management and policy at the top. If we want a responsive and innovative social sector, then we need to prioritise and incentivize meaningful feedback and learning at all levels. The voluntary sector needs to speak up for this.
The light at the end of the tunnel is that there is a growing group of organisations who have been meeting over the last year to talk about feedback loops. Blagrave is doing its best to provide a modest contribution to this debate and is keen to support a community of interest amongst its funding partners as a follow on from the work we did on this last year. If you are interested in being part of this to share approaches with peers in similar organisations, then do please get in touch.