Managing through feedback: Solar lanterns are great when they’re working

Village Improvement Project is one of our 2015 Feedback Fund recipients. Recently they shared this insight with us.

We are sharing feedback on our projects. We used in-person interviews to understand the impact of the solar lanterns provided to a small village in rural Liberia. Two main difficulties arose from this strategy. (1) rough travel through unpaved roads and (2) scheduling interviews.


With much of the village at work or in the fields, daytime interviews were difficult and required extra visits. Rescheduling interviews during the evening yielded better access to heads of households, and us allowed to add context and build rapport. It saves you time to accommodate the people you want to hear from.

The Gaynjabu village received donated lanterns, including six homes with 60 adults and children. Unfortunately, three of the six lanterns stopped working due to mishandling but are being fixed. Two additional homes were built during this time and the occupants did not receive lanterns.

What we asked

  1. How much is life different since you received the solar lantern? (Very, About the Same, Not Different)
  2. Tell us one difference in your life since you received the new solar lantern
  3. If you could change one thing in your life, what would it be?

GlobalGiving’s Feedback Fund consultants encouraged us to ask fewer questions, but more open ended, that could guide us on a broad, strategic thinking level.

During implementation, however, our Liberian staff changed the questions to be simpler due to the lack of literacy. As a result, we asked two questions.

Question 1: Is the lantern useful to you? Why or Why not?

Bendu, age 27, 9 occupants:

“The light is good and useful to us in this village. We didn’t have light before the light was given to us. We used to use candles or ‘jack-o-lanterns‘ using palm oil in a plate as fuel and a piece of cloth as the wig. Right now, we can see to do some of the chores at night and our children can also see clearly while studying their lessons.”

Kebbeh, age 31, 16 occupants:

“We thank you for the light which is benefiting us in this village. Right now we can see at night and our children can also see good to study their lessons. The light is really a blessing and we thank God for the people that gave it to us.”

Bono, age 36, 13 occupants:

“Yes. That’s why I want for you people to replace the one given to me which is not working. I don’t know why but the light is not coming on. My family really needs light to enable us see clearly during the night and for our children to study their lessons.”

Question 2: Do you need anything else?

Topah, age 41, 8 occupants in the home:

“Our village need a latrine and knowledge (awareness) on hygiene and sanitation practices.”

Jenneh, age 35, 11 occupants:

“We need a hand pump to be able to get safe drinking water.”

Musu, age 35, 13 occupants:

“Besides having the light repaired or replaced with one that is working, we need more help like used clothing and footwear; text books, copy books, book bags, pens, pencils, etc. for our school-going kids.”


From the responses, we learned that solar lanterns were a valuable resource and enable more studying and other family activities. Several requests were made for a latrine and a hand pump for clean drinking water as well as others of ranging from low-cost to a huge undertaking like a medical facility.  To continue our learning and further develop our feedback loop, we plan to return to the village to conduct a second survey using the three original questions to compare the result to the first survey.

We will research which are the priorities for the communities and how to obtain those resources or engage others that are better able to assist the village. Having this feedback from the village will help us plan for programs in 2016 and beyond.


This is an example of an organization that Listens, Acts, and Learns.



Marc Maxmeister is part of GlobalGiving's impact team.

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