Over the past few months, six civil society organisations (CSOs) have ventured into implementing new processes in their day-to-day work with their stakeholders. At the core of the project lies the assumption that integrating feedback from stakeholders into decision making more frequently helps achieve two key challenges at the same time: working more effectively with stakeholders and tracing the impact of this work.
Given the diverse set of participating CSOs, it is not surprising that the processes that were addressed in these pilot projects were quite different, too. The CSOs’ questions ranged from “How can we integrate external stakeholders in campaign design in a data-driven, transparent, and more inclusive way?” (e.g. Greenpeace and CIVICUS) and “How can we ensure we notice the needs of our volunteers in a timely way?” (e.g. TECHO) to “How can we get regular feedback from our stakeholders to improve our services?” (e.g. 350.org, Restless Development, and BRAC Dairy). The table below gives an overview of the processes that were addressed. Two examples of BRAC and Greenpeace are described in further detail below to illustrate how people-powered decision making can be implemented.
In the past, evaluations at the end of the year or at a few milestones used to be the only instances where CSOs would systematically collect data from stakeholders. While those remain vital for organisations, this approach underutilises the potential of digital means of collecting and analysing data. BRAC Dairy’s pilot shows that regular data collection and analysis can serve two purposes that support the impact of a CSO. Firstly, listening and recording information on the needs and satisfaction of stakeholders allows the CSO to integrate feedback from stakeholders in a timelier manner and avoid wasting resources. Secondly, by monitoring the progress on the challenging aspects, the organisation gets a powerful tool to manage the overall process (e.g. creating benchmarks over time and across chilling centres).
The designed solution for BRAC’s pilot is as straightforward as it is reliable. The CSO provides a network of 98 milk collection centres across Bangladesh. Smallholder milk producers bring their milk directly to those centres and can avoid the costly service of the middleman who was traditionally involved in the value chain. In addition to that BRAC provides agricultural and veterinary consulting to the farmers. Every three months, the smallholder farmers would fill out a short questionnaire with a few simple questions that would then be transferred to a server and analysed centrally. The questions included both operational questions (e.g. “What are the diseases you face on your farm?”) and typical feedback questions (e.g. “What do we need to improve?”). The graph below illustrates indicatively how the process was implemented.
As a result of this regular data collection process, BRAC Dairy would not only keep track of the feedback that farmers gave to the organisation, but also gain an important information resource providing disaggregated data by location and over time. To be sure, the simple questions of the regular survey should not be the only information considered when making management decisions, but it can serve as an ‘alarm system’ that allows hints for further inquiry and analysis.
In the pilot phase, the first survey round was conducted and the data analysed. Already in this phase regional differences across milk collection centres allowed BRAC to support farmers in a targeted way regarding animal health.
Another aspect of people-powered decision making has been explored by Greenpeace. While the organisation has been very active in transforming its campaigning model (see for example here), the team at Greenpeace wished to build a process that would allow external activists – so-called changemakers – to give input to their campaign designing.
In order to obtain a mix of qualitative and quantitative data from those changemakers, Greenpeace combined a set of digital tools – both traditional (e.g. online surveys) and newer ones (e.g. multimedia pinboard). In different formats, changemakers were then asked to contribute their perspective on the campaign design, strategies, and themes. Over the course of several months, a group of 50 changemakers from around the world and from different age groups provided input on two global campaigns run by Greenpeace.
The beauty of the process is that it allows the integration of a wider network of interested people into the ‘core-business’ of an advocacy CSO such as Greenpeace, and helps ensure the campaigns are well-rooted in communities. Moreover, by including an external community, the organisations gain an invaluable resource of fresh perspectives. Thus, the process that Greenpeace piloted during this project can complement traditional campaign design processes and ensure a higher level of openness of the organisation.
While these two examples give an idea of how teams within organisations can successfully initiate and implement people-powered processes, the pilot projects revealed once again that innovation also implies exploring unchartered territory. Accepting feedback data from stakeholders as a valid input in day-to-day decision-making processes can also imply that an organisation’s established ways of doing things are challenged. However, in contrast to the notion of ‘disruptive innovation’ propagated by some Silicon Valley-enthusiasts, innovation through data from stakeholders does not happen overnight. Rather, constant integration of feedback data implies a continuous transformation that must be driven by management that is both tech-savvy and deeply rooted in the operations of the CSO.
Our pilot projects are currently in their final stages. Check our first blog post with initial learnings.
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