Posts Tagged ‘feedback’

 

celebrating 10 lessons learned over 10 years – committed to ‘WOW’

Posted by ntavangar on March 15th, 2012

Ten years ago, Co-Founders Mari Kuraishi and Dennis Whittle launched GlobalGiving. In honor of these past ten years and in the spirit of one of our guiding core values, ‘Listen. Act. Learn. Repeat,’ we have launched a monthly blog series guest-written by former and current staff members. Each will speak candidly about their experience at GlobalGiving and offer up something that they have learned. Mari wrote our inaugural blog post in February, and this month, former ‘GlobalGiver’ Eli Stefanski talks about her important learning while working at GlobalGiving…

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My key learning from working at GlobalGiving?

Call everyone back within 24 hours.

Maybe you were expecting something more exciting? Something about the democratization of philanthropy? Something about the birth and evolution of social capital markets? For sure, I learned a lot about those things. But, first, and most importantly, I learned to call everyone back within 24 hours. Which, of course, isn’t about a communications policy, it’s about empathy.

It was a Dennis lesson, a ‘Dennis thing.’ I learned fast to pay attention to it. It was not part of the culture I had been raised in. It was not the culture that Dennis and Mari had been raised in either. And, well, that is sort of the point.

Elizabeth "Eli" Stefanski, former Director of Operations at GlobalGiving

For a few short months, this is how it would work:

As GlobalGiving’s first Director of Operations (and first Chief Program Officer) I was busy: I was busy raising capital; I was busy developing the richest and most diverse portfolio of projects; and I was busy trying to figure out how to fund and vet 400+ projects without violating the Patriot Act (and therein getting Mari and I arrested). I was so busy, that I occasionally missed an email or phone call from the social entrepreneur that Dennis had met on a plane on the way home from somewhere – a social entrepreneur who had shared his passion and aspirations with Dennis, a social entrepreneur who Dennis promised I could help.

In reality, I didn’t really ‘miss’ the call. The truth is, I didn’t really know how to deal with that one lone social entrepreneur. If I had vetted him, I would have had to vet all of them. Systems needed to be built – systems that previously didn’t always accommodate the outlier. The lone entrepreneur didn’t ‘fit’ my model. And so, from time to time, I avoided the call.

I would pay the price for that, however. The entrepreneur would invariably send Dennis a “thanks, but I guess you can’t help me” email, Dennis would forward it to me and hold me accountable, and well, I would feel like a mountain of manure. Not only because I knew I was in the wrong, but also because GlobalGiving was better than that. We knew how hard it was to be a social entrepreneur. We knew how hard it was to build something new, something transformative that hadn’t been done before. We knew how hard it was to build believers, attract users, convince investors, and ignore the naysayers. And day after day, we got up and kept with it – because we knew in our heart of hearts that we were building something important.

So the lesson about calling everyone back within 24 hours wasn’t about anything other than empathy, and building an empathetic organization that puts the beneficiary at the center of the design process – building systems around their needs.

This is why we:

  • Built a feedback system that gave project leaders real time feedback about what was working and what was not.
  • Designed evaluation tools that, instead of requiring longitudinal studies, relied on storytelling – the tool our entrepreneurs have in spades.
  • Created open mechanisms allowing all social entrepreneurs to participate on our platform, because we knew first hand how inaccessible the modern funding streams were.
  • Bankrolled relief efforts after the 2005 tsunami in Thailand without requiring proposals, because we knew social entrepreneurs were responding with or without the funds (and this is why we’ve responded many times since).

…And we learned to return phone calls within 24 hours – even when we couldn’t directly help.

It’s a lesson that took me a short time to learn at GlobalGiving – but it is the lesson that makes GlobalGiving great, and it is probably the most important lesson that any individual or organization can learn in a lifetime.

-Eli Stefanski

 

GlobalGiving’s Storytelling Project

Posted by john hecklinger on December 13th, 2010

GlobalGiving has a modest budget and team of around 25 people, all in one room in Washington, DC, but we face challenges similar to those of the largest of institutions involved in philanthropy and international development.  One of the biggest is assessing the impact of what we are doing.  With over 1,000 organizations implementing small projects in over 100 countries, it is impractical for our team to study each project’s impact in scientific detail.

Beyond easy measures of donation flow and reporting compliance, how do we know whether the marketplace we’ve built actually accomplishes something of substance in the world?  Which organizations are doing great, and which are struggling?  How can we celebrate the former and assist the latter?  Does all the work we do in cooperation with our on-the-ground partners all add up to something?  Are we sparking and fostering innovation?  Are the organizations participating in the GlobalGiving marketplace different from other organizations in positive ways?

In cooperation with Rockefeller Foundation, Cognitive Edge, and independent consultant Irene Guijt, GlobalGiving has found an promising way to tackle this problem.  In Kenya, we launched the GlobalGiving Storytelling Project, which asked people to tell stories about community projects and the individuals, organizations, and government entities working to make change happen.   We gathered 2,700 usable stories from individuals primarily in Nairobi and the Rift Valley.

Using the SenseMaker® methodology of capturing people’s stories and asking those people to “tag” their own stories, we are able to see how thousands of stories relate to each other.   We can visualize patterns in the stories that help us understand how people see organizations working in their communities.  Our next step is to make this method available more widely, providing a toolkit that helps our project leaders learn more about how people see them by launching their own storytelling projects.  We want this to be a useful way for GlobalGiving, our partner organizations, and beneficiaries to .

This pilot has huge promise, not just for GlobalGiving but for the philanthropic and development sectors as a whole.  Much has been written about how the lack of quick feedback hinders development work.  See Owen Barder’s recent blog post.  Like marketers of soda or electronic gadgets, how can funders of development initiatives quickly measure performance and make real-time adjustments to meet real needs in efficient ways?  Our pilot is a promising way of establishing meaningful feedback to power this type of real-time learning .

Marc Maxson, GlobalGiving’s chief feedback loop instigator and impact assessment innovator, has pulled together online resources that show how our pilot worked and what we’ve learned.  We will add further resources as our approach evolves.  Our next step is to expand our work in Kenya and to begin working with organizations in Uganda and Tanzania.

Are you looking for a way to learn more about how people view your work?   Are you struggling to find an effective and inexpensive way to evaluate your impact?  Please contact Marc (mmaxson@globalgiving.org) to learn more about getting involved.

Gathering real-time feedback in haiti can improve disaster response

Posted by Marc Maxson on February 1st, 2010

Judging from some of the comments GlobalGiving donors have made on recent haiti updates, I gather that television news falls short of presenting a multifaceted view of the earthquake recovery effort. There is a mix of ongoing challenges with some successes. Last Friday someone wrote in:

Sent: Friday, January 29, 2010 4:36 PM
Project ID: 4559 / IMC provides medical care to Haiti
Project URL: http://www.globalgiving.org/projects/haiti/

It gives me a first hand account of what medical relief is taking place as oppose to what’s being transmitted over the airways showing de-humanizing conditions with no relief nor help in sight!! They’ve aired trucks of food being returned to warehouse while Haitians are starving and waiting for FOOD!! KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK!! YOU ALL ARE IN MY PRAYERS!! IF I COULD GET THERE, I WOULD!! GOD’S PROTECTION FOR ALL OF YOU AND IMMEDIATE SALVATION FOR THE HAITIANS!!

We currently rely on our partners and their staff to provide eyewitness accounts of the ongoing work. But there’s no reason we couldn’t open it up to any eyewitness. Mobile phone texting may be an easy way for us around the world to get to know each other better. Great innovators like Ken Banks of FrontlineSMS and Erik Hersman of Ushahidi are turning phones into web 2.0 reporting tools. Highlighting this pressing need, Washington Post Writes:

“Much as truth is the first casualty of war, reliable information is one of the early casualties of natural disasters. Until fairly recently, disaster responders relied on their senses, and their common sense, to identify problems. The notion of measuring what you could see was viewed as an academic and slightly effete response to things such as earthquakes, hurricanes and tsunamis.

The survey this week didn’t ask questions of a random sample of Haitians in the way that a medical trial would. That would have been a huge and time-consuming undertaking. Instead, it sought out individuals expected to know what was happening to the people in their area: mayors, village directors, health officials. The places weren’t chosen randomly either. The designers chose fairly evenly spaced sampling sites, with extra ones in the heavily damaged Port-au-Prince area.”

What they [the CDC] found is that you can gather most of what you need to know to manage a crisis in real time with anybody, going anywhere, asking for feedback using a less formal system. To me, as a neuroscientist, it makes perfect sense. You need rigorous controlled trials to assess medical benefits that are small – like a 10% difference. But when the questions are knock-you-over-the-head obvious, like “who’s dying on this block” or “who’s handing out supplies?” and there’s no ambiguity from one witness to the next, you can do away with conventional sampling.

About a week before the electronic ink was dry on this Washington Post article, Ushahidi’s Haiti immediate SMS-based crisis response center had already logged hundreds of eyewitness reports from regular people about everything from looting to service delivery. See for yourself at haiti.ushahidi.com .


Number of Africans with cell phones now equals population of US

Posted by Marc Maxson on October 6th, 2009

4 billion cell phone usersThe New York Times reports there are now as many Africans with cell phones as there are people in America. This is something that we are very aware of at GlobalGiving. In fact, my biggest project over the next 6 months is to figure out how to make GlobalGiving more SMS-accessible for those 300 million Africans who have cell phones, but not necessarily electricity or running water.

There are over 4 billion people with cell phones in the world today.  Others, like TxtEagle founded by Nathan Eagle, have already started exploring how Africans with basic $20 mobile phones can be put to work. In the US, the Extraordinaries distribute an iphone app with the same goal in mind – crowd-sourcing simple tasks to anyone with 5 minutes of free time and a valuable skill, such as translating text from Swahili.

Why would there be a big demand for swahili translators? Because some day people in Africa might want to send text messages about their lives to others.

I met with the FrontlineSMS guys recently to see if they might help GlobalGiving get those SMS text messages from people in African villages directly onto our GlobalGiving project pages. If you have ideas on how we can do this, or want to help us test various approaches, please let me know by commenting.

We are listening: real-time feedback loops

Posted by Marc Maxson on September 16th, 2009

feedback loopIn the GlobalGiving office, people usually introduce me by saying “…and Marc does evaluations.” That’s not accurate. A truer story would be, “Marc facilitates feedback loops.” And over my first year here, we’ve been able to do more of that.

A feedback loop isn’t anything fancy. This is where someone tells you something, and you pass it on to the person who most needs to know, then you take what that second person says in response and feed it back to the first person. *I* don’t need to evaluate anything to ensure that people are hearing from each other. But these conversations are much more powerful than the most sophisticated super computer or all the analysis a team of experts can provide.

As a neuroscientist, I studied feedback loops in the brain, and feedback alone (copied 10 trillion times over) within a network is enough to provide humans with sentient intelligence.  Pubmed it if ye doubt the claim.

Today I am happy to announce that Mari Kuraishi, GlobalGiving’s president, is presenting a case study on the power of feedback, titled “Real-time technology aided feedback loops in international philanthropy” at the Skoll skollINTERNATIONAL SOCIAL INNOVATION RESEARCH CONFERENCE (ISIRC)

This case study follows one Kenyan organization that struggled to provide promised services to the atheletes’ satisfaction. How did we find out? First, I visited the organization and handed out bumper stickers that read, “What does your community need? Tell us: GlobalGiving.org/ideas.” We wanted the community to know that GlobalGiving is listening to them.

ideas sticker

I didn’t know at the time that a bumper sticker would start a chain reaction that would get people in the community involved with giving the organization greater direction. This dialogue between the organization and the people it aimed to serve took many turns and ultimately caused the founder to leave the city and a new organization under the leadership of the youth athletes themselves to emerge. After months of hard work, including 3 visitors who send in visitor postcards and 3 other people who were full time volunteers working with this organization, we can at least breathe a sigh of relief. Not because the problems are gone, but at least the youth have had their voices heard and are now trying to help themselves.

We don’t know if this new organization, the Manyatta Youth Resource Center will ultimately succeed, or whether the old organization, Sacrena, will re-emerge as a stronger organization, more responsive to the community. You can’t predict when or how social change will take place. All you can do is keep listening, and keep sending these messages back and fourth so that the people with the cash hear from the people in the grass of every grassroots project.

Speaking of which, the new Manyatta Youth Resource Center is temporarily being supported through one of our Global Open Challenge projects, the Amani Na Upendo Dev Youth Group, who I am afraid is currently unable to attract any donations online by itself. Such is the paradox of grassroots philanthropy. Many of the most responsive local village-based organizations lack the social connections and international exposure needed to raise money. We know about this problem, and struggle with it daily.

But if you read this case study and want to help – tell us. We’ll send your message back to them and start another feedback loop. Another way you can help is to give the Upendo group a donation.

I’ll summarize in another post the aspects of this paper that relate to how new technology makes it possible for the people to advise donors and implenters about progress with continuous feedback.

Note: You can read all visitor postcards on our site: http://www.globalgiving.com/projects/youth-sport-in-kenya/updates/ but I think the full paper summarizes the series of events more concisely, also available from the youth-sport-in-kenya (DOC FILE LINK) page.

Storytelling our way towards a global community

Posted by Marc Maxson on October 26th, 2008

Don't you want to lose sleep writing your own novel in November?November is my favorite month because it is National Novel Writing Month and I love to write. If you are unfamiliar, NanoWriMo challenges regular people to put 1000 words a day on paper towards completing a personal novella of 30,000 words in 30 days. It’s not about quality; it’s about discipline. If you can drop two television shows from your daily routine and write, you can do it. Everyone is carrying an untold story, and most of us don’t even know we have it.

As much as I love to write, sitting down and doing it every day is a chore. Like swimming laps, the hardest part is jumping in. Most good writing sneaks in after a lot of garbage. And I am soooo happy to have an online community of other NaNos that encourage each other to keep writing. It is also a lot of fun to compare day-to-day word-counts and share our personal writing struggles. If you think you’d be into NaNoWriMo, add me as your writing buddy through my current novel page.

Social NetworksThis got me thinking about another great community. GlobalGiving acts like a sort of NaNoWriMo for development projects. You might think of us as a marketplace for giving, but we are also a set of tools for building a giving community, both on your street and around the world. Each project is the beginning of a story – an opening line of some great unwritten tale. We have our heroes (social entrepreneurs), our villians (disease, unjustice, poverty, you-name-it), and every reader is also a novelist. We buy the next volume each time we donate, but we also write the next chapter when we comment on projects, updates from the field, and tell others about a project by email, on Facebook, CouchSurfing, LinkedIn, or whatever your flavor of friend-manager happens to be.

Projects, like the developing novel, are not static items. Having written three novels myself (but published zero, sadly), I know that good drama leaps off the page when you allow yourself to run free with the setting, characters, and any other elements that might not seem “important” from the get-go. Last year my “throw-away” NaNoWriMo turned into something I really want to develop. I will be finishing my “teen angst” novel-turned-metaphysical manifesto on the nature of good and evil in November.

Writer's block never so bad when you're telling a meaningful storyA project begins with a description on the site, but it is what GlobalGivers do with this information that determines whether we write epics or footnotes in history. If we want epic results, we need improvisers and collaboration to help each project develop. There comes a point in every fledgling novel when an author’s plans slam head-first into the brick walls that confine one’s imagination. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the novel was a group project?

In philanthropy we can all become Hemingways by adding our stories to life’s narrative. And in the future, I hope more of our donors and beneficiaries will share talents, wisdom, and daily experiences around subjects that matter to the largest number of the world’s people. We might not write the great American novel today, but given the right setting, characters, and devices to overcome the villains, this community could write the first global novel tomorrow.

GlobalGoodness: Welcome to the new GlobalGiving blog!

Posted by mari on November 16th, 2007

I’m both excited and impatient about making this inaugural post–it falls into the category of things we’ve wanted to do for a long, long time. On the one hand, I’m looking forward to having another way to communicate with anyone in the GlobalGiving community, and can’t wait to start hearing back from people, and on the other hand I know blogs take time to become a good–and reliable–channel of communication. Patience is not really one of my virtues.

So what will we do on this blog? Here, we will announce new features, reveal our peccadilloes, highlight our community, explain what we were thinking (or not), and look to get feedback from you.

And speaking of getting feedback, this blog was named by friends of GlobalGiving. The community’s top choice was actually “What Gives?” but through our polling we discovered that someone in our community has already called dibs on it. GlobalGoodness came in second–so here goes. Let’s get started!