In the past few weeks, we have visited the idea of what feedback is and how you may consider garnering feedback within your organization. We have also taken a look at how GlobalGiving gathers and addresses feedback. We will continue in our series by extending this discussion with a look back at our first Town Hall held in January 2015. Our Town Hall invited all Project Leaders from our site to provide unsolicited feedback, while offering an opportunity to learn about what was in store for GlobalGiving in the coming year.
But first, a little background on why we did a Town Hall
Transparency into decision-making processes and a return of data back to survey respondents has long been associated with better programmatic outcomes. Feedback from beneficiary groups, when collected, analyzed, and incorporated well, can make a huge difference in an organization’s ability to respond quickly and effectively to the needs of the community.
But a couple of key questions arise from this assertion: what data, or information, is useful in achieving better outcomes? What count as “feedback”? And who uses it?
The discussion of what counts as feedback is one we’re having with Feedback Labs, and we hope to come out with some more clarity on our position soon. One study informing that discussion comes from the World Bank, led Damien de Walque, called Information is Power. You can read more about the study here. The crux of their argument is that while local citizen are in fact the best monitors of a project, as they are the closest and most affected, their engagement, and consequently the program’s impact, can be improved by providing those citizens with performance information. In the case of the Information is Power study referenced above, citizens were given information regarding the performance of their local health clinic, and then asked for feedback on how the clinic could improve. Budget information, including information on constraints; stats on doctor and staff attendance; and information regarding health outcomes were all given to patients before they were engaged in a structured feedback session. The result? Citizens not only created new evaluations (scorecards) for the clinic based on deficits they learned about via the information provided, but they also added measurements and came up to solutions to problems that they themselves could implement. This is called beneficiary control: “informed users are more likely to identify and challenge (mis)behavior by providers and as a result turn their focus to issues that they can manage locally”1. Over the course of a year, patients at the clinic saw significant improvements in health outcomes, as well as satisfaction with the clinic (as compared with a control group who did not receive the same kind of performance information, and were asked only for feedback.)
So, performance information coupled with beneficiary feedback can empower an affected group to more effectively monitor a service, and can position that group be an active part of improving the impact. Here at GlobalGiving, we decided to take these lessons and see how they might apply to our context.
Town Halls Allow Project Leaders to Lead the Conversation
Much like our Leadership Council Proposals, which we discussed in our last post, the Town Hall stemmed from a request for Project Leaders to be able to express ideas and concerns without GlobalGiving providing the firm topics of discussion. GlobalGiving UK had previously held a Town Hall on an annual basis, and the team in DC decided this could be a good platform for us to let Project Leaders steer the conversation. So, we invited our partners to join us in person in our Washington, DC office or remotely via webinar for a panel discussion hosted by GlobalGiving staff, including members of our leadership team. Registrants were asked to submit one question or piece of feedback prior to the Town Hall, so that we could ensure the proper staff members were present to address these questions and concerns.
GlobalGiving Town Hall Provides Unexpected Feedback
We kicked off the Town Hall with a 15-minute update on the upcoming year, in an effort to be transparent about our plans for 2015 and to set expectations for the coming months. In fact, our Town Hall was the first place that we formally announced our plans for the recently-launched GG Rewards.
Following the 2015 update, we opened the floor to those online and in person to ask any questions that they may have had about GlobalGiving, so that we could further inform our decisions over the course of 2015. Members of our Program, Tech, Marketing & Communications, and Operations Teams were on hand, including several representatives from our Executive Team, to field these questions and comments for about one hour and forty-five minutes.
While our team fielded more questions than pieces of feedback, the sort of questions asked gave our staff feedback about our activities in and of themselves. For instance, one Project Leader asked how GlobalGiving can better support smaller organizations. Our Program Team often hears this question but rarely does the rest of the staff. One Executive Team member was surprised by the question. She felt that GlobalGiving’s mission heavily emphasizes the need to support small organizations with big ideas. Questions such as this allowed for our Senior staff members to better connect to Project Leaders and hear, firsthand, feedback about what GlobalGiving may be lacking and what perceptions may exist. Our staff left the Town Hall more informed on the most pressing issues in the minds of our Project Leaders.
Town Hall Shapes Future Feedback Decisions
While a great deal of what we learned from the Town Hall centered on fully informing all of our staff, we also learned again about the priorities of Project Leaders. In our previous posts, we discussed how strongly Project Leaders felt about adding the option for donors to opt-in to nonprofit newsletter communications at checkout. This idea actually originated from the Town Hall! Following this suggestion which emerged from the Town Hall discussion, we added this to our Project Leader Survey. We never would have known to include this option on the Project Leader Survey, if we had not held the Town Hall. When the same feedback continuously emerges, it helps our staff identify priorities for future decision-making and tech team time allocations.
Feedback About Getting Feedback is Equally Important
We learned a great deal about our Project Leaders’ thoughts and questions during the Town Hall, but some of our strongest pieces of feedback came in after the Town Hall. When we sent a follow-up form to Project Leaders, we learned about just how many technical problems participants encountered during this webinar. Many remote participants really wanted to see off-camera speakers. Additionally, many remote participants expressed frustration with sharing their questions and comments via the webinar chat box, which was monitored by one staff member. Consequently, we will be making some substantial improvements to the webinar experience in future Town Hall events.
GlobalGiving Town Hall 2016
GlobalGiving’s 2015 Town Hall may not have always been exactly what we expected, but we still highly value the information and questions that stemmed from this discussion. As a result, we have decided to make this an annual event. Stay tuned for more information on the GlobalGiving 2016 Town Hall.
If you are interested in watching our 2015 webinar, you can do so here: www.anymeeting.com/026-656-187/E152DA848446. We welcome any further comments or questions on it at firstname.lastname@example.org.