Notice, many of the hyperlinks and source materials are in German and not translated into English.
How can we find out which aid projects really work well for their beneficiaries? By asking them! In the area of Stakeholder Feedback, we are experimenting with SMS-, video-, and online technology to give a voice to people whom until now have never been able to complain, suggest improvements or give their thanks.
How can we gather information on which aid services truly work well for their recipients? We close in on these questions through our Stakeholder Feedback project. We are testing technology supported feedback systems like SMS, video, or Twitter to find out, if and how it could be possible to let beneficiaries have a say. The beneficiaries can write reviews on the quality and impact of a project from onsite locations. Ideally we would make new feedback mechanisms available for all projects registered on betterplace.org.
Aid beneficiaries should be able to express themselves
Currently betterplace.org uses a variety of trust mechanisms like friend and visitor statements, donation seals, and state-recognized public utility status. The objective of Stakeholder Feedback is to expand upon already existing webs of trust, and, especially significant, to determine which projects are actually high quality- their quality being measured by the ones they actually affect. Therefore, we focus on the beneficiaries, the eventual users of the development initiatives and programs. They themselves should be able to provide feedback on the positive and negative effects of aid projects that concern them directly. We are testing feedback loops for communication technologies such as SMS and video.
Our Assumption: Improved impact monitoring will lead to greater willingness to donate
The betterplace.org team assumes that through greater transparency, comprehensive evaluation and trust mechanisms, effective organizations will receive more resources than their ineffective counterparts. Supporters will prefer trustworthy and transparent projects. Stronger impact monitoring will lead to easier distinguishability between good projects and great projects.
Social Projects should be able to be precisely and quickly adjusted
The Internet opens up a number of new feedback possibilities. In a cost efficient way feedback from all relevant stakeholders can be aggregated so that it is clearly accessible- for example through SMS feedback which similar to twitter messages will be listed on a public virtual bulletin board. This accumulation of stakeholder opinions can also be called crowdsourcing. Complementary to the effectiveness reports “from above” by evaluators from the central aid organization, these kinds of feedback systems come from below. These feedback measures relate to the people directly affected by the projects. Because this feedback is transmitted in real time, ongoing programs can be adjusted faster and more exactly.
Stakeholder Feedback leads to:
- Better identification of problems through various opinions
- Participation of stakeholders in problem solving
- More targeted distribution of resources
- Introduction to a novel real time impact monitoring system
- Faster detection of fraud and mismanagement
- Direct real time communication with the beneficiaries of aid projects
- Additional authentic information for donors
- Better answers to the questions of effectiveness of social projects
Which technologies are suitable for Stakeholder Feedback?
How helpful individual technologies are for the collection of feedback varies by country and communication method. Beneficiary feedback, especially through the use of mobile telephones has great potential in developing countries. The Internet and fixed-line infrastructure is not nearly as developed as local mobile networks there. At the end of 2010 over 73% of cell phone users lived in developing countries. Mobile markets in many African nations are experiencing high rates of growth: In Kenya the total number of cell phone users between 2005 and 2010 increased more than fourfold (from about 5.3 mil. to 22 mil. users): “The cell phone is Africa’s PC”. Some development organizations, NGOs and governments in developing and emerging countries have already recognized this potential. An increasing number of initiatives are testing the range of possibilities of mobile technology for use in crowdsourcing, for example in humanitarian crisis management and “mobile health service” (mHealth). The use of such technologies is hardly the norm in development cooperation. Could the technological base described above help give beneficiaries different voice in the development process? It is our job to explore these questions.
SMS-based feedback mechanisms could gain in importance not only in developing countries but also within Germany. Our German pilot experience from the first project phase (see next paragraph) has shown that this works remarkably well with teenage target groups.
- Second pilot phase: We completed our first pilot phase at the end of May 2011. Funded through the donation of 15,000 euros from the Robert-Bosch Foundation, we developed, together with our project partner TickerTXT an SMS-Gateway and tested the technology in three pilot cases: two projects with the Anne Frank Center in Germany and one project in India. You can read our results and findings in the final report: The results of our project and the growing interest of many international organizations in beneficiary feedback has encouraged us in our goal to scale the project. Building on the previous findings, we have adjusted and further developed the project concept- particular approaches attempt to overcome the biggest challenges (participation incentives for beneficiaries and promotional activities). In the next step we would like to carry out an additional pilot in Germany and are currently seeking funding with an interested partner in the education sector, buddY E.V.
- International Overview: In 2010 we worked out an international overview that shows which ideas are already being implemented, which standards are developing, and which relevant topics are explored. The following pdfs are Mindmaps where you can click on the Firefox or Google Chrome icons to go directly to the linked sites.
- Accountability Standards:
- Areas of digital Feedback:
- Pilot projects for beneficiary feedback in development cooperation (categorized by sector)
- Impact Measurement
- Interviews: Since 2010 we’ve been conducting interviews with international experts in the area or feedback systems in economics, development organizations and software development
- Workshop: Together with the Humboldt Viadrina School of Governance we organized a workshop on September 3rd, 2010 on trust economy, a topic of ever increasing importance. User driven feedback systems are a part of this topic. Here are our reflections on the workshop.
- Video: Together with the US telecommunication company Cisco, we carried out a Video-Feedback-Competition in 2010. Selected betterplace.org projects were supplied with small, simple FLIP cameras to document their social commitment's impact.
- SMS Interface on betterplace.org: In the long term we are planning to implement an SMS feedback interface on betterplace.org. There SMS feedback from beneficiaries could be mapped directly and transparently.
We are convinced that we must constantly be testing and piloting projects to find the appropriate technologies for different users in different societies. For this we use the methods of anthropology, social science, software development, evaluation studies, and interdisciplinary Design Thinking. We see ourselves as seekers in action and experimentation with various methods and various contexts because there are different types of aid organizations, cultures, societies, and so on. Once we find a good solution, we scale the pilot project for larger application, so it can reach a greater level of ubiquity. These methods are reflected in how the betterplace lab works.
For questions, feel free to send an email to . Or your can use our contact form.