Is CI providing the help and support that you and other young people need most? To what extent do you think CI’s programs positively influence the future of your family? Is there someone you trust with whom you can safely discuss your personal problems?
These are just a few of the meaningful questions that Children International (CI) teams have begun to ask their constituents–children and youth, caregivers, and CI staff–around the world as part of the roll out of Constituent Voice (CV) in collaboration with Root Change.
The CV feedback methodology, created by Keystone Accountability, aims to build trust and strengthen relationships with constituents. It is built on the belief that constituents are experts in their own lives with critical opinions about program objectives, designs, and outcomes. The CV feedback loop–design, collect, analyze, dialogue, and course correct–is not closed until results have been analyzed and solutions co-created with the community, and implementers have made and reported back on relevant program adaptations.
In September 2019, we launched the first of two virtually facilitated month-long “CV Jam Sessions,” made up of five interactive Zoom webinars, group homework assignments, coaching calls, and ongoing discussions on Slack and Microsoft Teams. Groups of 5-8 staff from five country agencies and CI’s Kansas City headquarters volunteered to participate in the first Jam Session and pioneer this approach in their communities. Over the course of the five weeks, the teams identified their target audience and feedback goal, designed a contextualized feedback loop, created feedback surveys, developed dialogue facilitation guides, and sought buy-in from key decision makers to prepare for future course corrections. Esteban Meneses, Health Facilitator, Quito Agency, explained, “The Jam Session was the hand holding support [we needed] to conduct CV. It helped us to design the CV [process] in our context.”
Following the Jam Session, teams went to work implementing their CV designs and surveying and facilitating dialogue with nearly 300 constituents on topics such as communications, trust, and program design. After two months, teams came back together to formally reflect on their learning and share their experiences in a Global CV Day, which brought together hundreds of staff from all 13 agencies and Kansas City for in-person watch parties and a first of its kind global, virtual knowledge exchange (if you’re curious, check out the recording of the Global CV Day here–it was quite the celebration!).
Here at Root Change, we are excited to see the insights that are emerging from meaningful, structured conversations with constituents around the world. But, we were also learning some important lessons of our own about CV, the process of rolling out an adaptive management approach in a global organization, and international, virtual convenings:
1. Both field implementers and headquarters staff are craving feedback from constituents. At the beginning of the Jam Session, we asked teams why they volunteered to spearhead CV in their location. Overwhelmingly, we heard that participants want to know how youth and families feel about their work. Why weren’t youth participating in certain programs? What do children and families think about engaging with sponsors? How could their experience be improved? After implementing CV, Evelyn Álvarez, the Community Center Coordinator at the Quito Agency said “Having the chance to share and analyze feedback results and possible solutions identified by the community enriched our knowledge about them. The community offered solutions for structural problems and also for day-to-day problems in [CI’s work].”
2. Context matters. As part of the Jam Session, teams worked together to design a CV process that was unique to their community and feedback goal. At first we got some push back–Keystone had been implementing CV for years, why did they need to start from scratch designing their own loop? As we soon learned together, context matters. In Kansas City, the team chose to use anonymous email surveys and facilitate their dialogue with global staff using Zoom. But in Delhi, the team surveyed constituents with low literacy levels using sticky dots and a smiley face spectrum on flipcharts, keeping the survey public and informal so parents didn’t fear that their answers might impact the services they receive. On the other hand, in the Dominican Republic, the team sent out surveys via mobile phones and used interactive icebreakers to make dialogue participants feel more comfortable.
3. Virtual convenings enable large-scale knowledge sharing across teams. We saw exciting examples of teams from five countries adapting their designs in response to learning from one another. A member of the Quito team shared that, “We had the chance to see our work in contrast with the methodology proposed by the [CI/RC] team and in comparison with other agencies’ plans.” The smiley face flipcharts used in Delhi emerged from a discussion that took place in the Collect webinar. The Delhi team asked us, as facilitators, how to collect feedback from constituents with low literacy levels, and because the webinar was made up of CI staff from around the world, we got to turn the question around by asking the group if anyone else had found a solution to this challenge. Members of the Kolkata team shared that they had used smiley face flipcharts with great success in their agency.
In addition to learning among the participating CV teams, the Jam Session’s culminating event, the Global CV Day, enabled future CV implementers at agencies around the world to hear from their peers–local field officers, community center directors, etc.–rather than external facilitators like ourselves.
The Jam Sessions are just the beginning of the process of rolling out CV at CI. Since the first Global CV Day, Feedback Ambassadors from Latin American agencies and CI’s headquarters have participated in the Feedback+San Juan Summit in Puerto Rico. We’ve invited the Feedback Ambassadors to share their learning and insights on the Root Change blog and hope to post stories here soon! In the meantime, a new batch of agencies have begun the second Jam Session and are adapting their designs in response to Covid-19. Stay tuned for more on the roll out of CV at CI.