What is a beneficiary feedback mechanism?

Many types of organisation use feedback from users or clients to improve their products and services. Software companies, for example, frequently release new products in ‘beta’, soliciting feedback from a small group of expert users before releasing their products on wider markets. In the international development sector, in spite of efforts to design, monitor and evaluate interventions, there remain many ways in which interventions may fail to address specific needs of their target groups or to fit precisely with their local contexts.

A beneficiary feedback mechanism is a tool designed to solicit and respond to the views of recipients of aid. By responding to the views of aid recipients, organisations can improve or evaluate their projects and be accountable (or support accountability of third parties such as government) for the implementation.

Mechanisms used in this pilot included suggestion boxes, SMS messages, focus group discussions, public forums, mobile voice calls and individual one-to-one outreach with clients.

The Pilot employed the following definition of a beneficiary feedback mechanism, developed by CDA collaborative learning:

“A beneficiary feedback mechanism is a context-appropriate mechanism which a) solicits and listens to, collates and analyses feedback, b) triggers a response/action at the required level in the organisation and/or refers feedback to other relevant stakeholders, c) communicates the response/action taken where relevant back to the original feedback provider and if appropriate, the wider beneficiary community. In this definition (a), (b) and (c) must all be present/true and a feedback mechanism is not functional if just one of them is present/true.”

feedback loop

Launch of our findings and new practitioner resources

Today we launch the findings and practitioner resources from a three-year pilot exploring how beneficiary feedback can support development programming.

Feedback mechanisms such as suggestion boxes, focus group discussions and mobile SMS and voice calls were trialled in seven projects working to improve maternal and child health. The mechanisms were found to support service users to hold projects and government services to account, and support projects to adapt to users’ needs and priorities.

The pilots encountered numerous challenges and learned lessons about implementing and adapting beneficiary feedback mechanisms on the ground. These lessons are documented in the resources made available today. The resources include a short film explaining the pilot, practice notes to support those implementing beneficiary feedback mechanisms in development programmes, a summary of findings from the pilot and case-studies from each of the seven countries.