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The Innovation Process
Activity 5.3 D

Establish feedback and review mechanisms

This activity will help you put in place the systems that will enable you to gather appropriate information, learn in real-time and ensure accountability to users and target groups.

Collecting user feedback on your innovation throughout the pilot is critical for guiding ongoing activities and ensuring you are accountable to users and target groups. Carrying out regular reviews with your team during project implementation is also an important way of tracking progress and understanding when you might need to pivot.

Monitoring and accountability systems enable us to learn in real-time, to change direction – or ‘pivot’ – when required, and to capture this for future learning. As stated in the introduction to this module, we strongly recommend that a robust Research and Learning workstream is established alongside these activities to further inform project monitoring, accountability and iteration. Both the tools in this workstream, and your work under the Research and Learning workstream will help you engage your target group and other stakeholders and create dynamic feedback loops.

Complaints and Feedback Mechanisms

As well as engaging users through the design and implementation of the project, you will need a way for all users and stakeholders to provide feedback. Complaints and feedback mechanisms will help ensure that you are engaging users and target groups and generating and receiving reactions, comments and criticisms. This is a critical mechanism for observing humanitarian standards and principles.

Humanitarian organisations have been using complaints and feedback mechanisms as part of ‘communicating with communities’ work for over a decade, and it’s vital for innovation pilots as well. Standard feedback and complaints mechanisms can be directly applied to innovation pilots.

We recommend using ALNAP’s ‘Practitioner Guide to Effective Feedback in Humanitarian Contexts’ to establish your feedback mechanism. This guidance is based on the results of an action research project that looked at different agencies’ experiences in setting up and using feedback mechanisms in operational humanitarian contexts.

The guide will help you to think through the design of the mechanism, how to set up appropriate channels, and how to analyse feedback, as well as how to develop a ‘feedback culture.’ You may also want to look at the DFID-funded feedback mechanisms reports and guidance.

Periodic Review

Periodic Reviews will help you to track and document progress of the pilot in a team environment, to make real-time decisions and pivot when required, and to share learning across the project team.

Many innovation teams allow the management of their pilot to be dominated by funder requirements; reporting is based on ‘what the donor wants’ and it is often left to one person to gather the information and report it to the ‘project lead’ and to the ‘donor.’ This process undermines agility and inclusiveness. It means you are constantly driven by your original objectives and activity plan, whether or not they are still valid.

Periodic reviews are intended as an interactive team session, where you get together (face to face wherever possible, but if not, it can be done online or by phone) to go through a structured review process. We recommend that you do this monthly, and at least every quarter.

Set aside 2-3 hours when you can all free yourselves from the day-to-day, minute-to-minute activity of the pilot and reflect on how things are going, and what you might need to change. This is a chance to talk through what has happened and plan for the next period. It will generate information for reporting and planning, but most importantly, it is a time to reflect on the purpose of the pilot, your Theory of Change, and your fundamental beliefs about the innovation – and to see whether new research and learning requires you to pivot.

Finally, documenting this process provides critical information and learning that can be used to understand the innovation journey, why decisions were made, and improve practice. Discussing the following items and documenting your learning and decisions will enable your project to adapt and your team to retain and own the vision of what you are trying to achieve. Key features that should be covered are:

  • Key achievements in the previous period
  • Key challenges in the previous period
  • Any changes in the context
  • Results of user feedback and all research and learning activities
  • Decisions on whether changes are required and whether you need to pivot
  • Key targets for the coming period