This study sought to identify effective strategies to incentivize and assist humanitarian agency staff to use feedback from their beneficiaries more systematically when making programmatic decisions about programs. The IRC’s own experience and preliminary research suggest that beneficiary feedback, though deemed important, often gets ‘crowded out’ by other types of information during decision-making processes. This is particularly the case when staff are under time and resource constraints. Acknowledging this problem, the IRC pulled on behavioral science to identify strategies and tools that can ease decision-making under such conditions. In collaboration with the Behavioral Insights Team, North America (BIT), the IRC developed and shared decision-making tools and guidance with 51 refugee and internationally displaced person-serving non-governmental organizations (NGOs) operating in both urban and rural Uganda.
Prior to the intervention, we collected baseline data on feedback practices within these organizations. Four months after a workshop that brought the organizations together to use the tools and learn from each other, we administered a follow-up survey. In partnership with CDA Collaborative Learning, we also conducted action research and provided coaching support to a small subset of the participants. Though there was not a big enough sample to measure statistical differences, there were substantive differences in two areas between baseline and follow-up: More agencies reported using feedback in five (5) or more meetings in the last two months and more agencies reported using feedback to make small changes to programming or implementation. The action research identified several institutional factors as most likely to enable feedback including (i) consistent internal processes (e.g. training for all staff and standard operating procedures for feedback collection and handling); (ii) internal learning and reflection processes and (iii) strong senior leadership buy-in to prioritize and resource feedback processes. The challenges of resourcing systems, handling negative feedback and developing common platforms for processing feedback persist.
The Airbel Impact Lab at IRC is a team of researchers, strategists and innovators committed to the accelerated design, rigorous evaluation and cost-effective scaling of the most impactful solutions supporting people affected by crisis.