Feedback loops can map local and government priorities

The social value of feedback loops can be a bit more abstract than the typical work of organizations, such as feeding children and innoculating babies. But organizations that gather information and facilitate its flow through village level and government level bureaucracy are no less valuable. To gleam its importance, take a look at what Sarathi does in Uttar Pradesh, India:


This is my vastly simplified outline of a more complex process that repeats every month in every village. The steps:

Define shared goals

The organization begins by hosting 5-day workshops in each one of the villages or slums. People define their own priorities (what NGOs call outcomes) – things that would make the biggest difference in their lives if they happened. Then this feedback is brought to the attention of local government offices and merged with their own itemized lists of internal goals. This step is a human algorithm that mirrors the “map-reduce” algorithm so popular in big data science in 2015.

Recruit and train local village volunteers

In the next stage, Sarathi recruits 4 to 6 volunteers per village or slum block and trains them in how to collect feedback. They are then assigned 25 households to visit each cycle. The open-ended feedback process involves families (usually women) drawing a map of the village and showing what services are working or not working for them. Then the volunteer summarizes this and writes it on a slip of colored paper. The colors represent which department in government that needs to follow-up on this issue, and it is already encoded into the checkbox format that defines already-agreed-to goals. I gather the person is converting open feedback into a list of checkboxes that relate to government key performance indicators at this step.

Issue tracking and resolution

In the third stage, that volunteer brings the slip to the appropriate office and follows it through many layers of Indian bureaucracy until it is resolved.


Sarathi has already replicated this improvement process in over 1000 communities, both rural villages and urban slums. Traditional NGO services, such as providing latrines in school or innoculating babies are actually getting done by others more efficiently because of this feedback process optimizing the coordinated work of all agencies responsible. It takes an NGO to find citizens who can represent communities before government offices without falling victim to the allure of graft and corruption, or who can really listen to their brothers’ and sisters’ needs.

Feedback on this process: How are we doing?

To make this complex process work, it isn’t enough to rely solely on the integrity and diligence of the trained community volunteer. Instead, they could use a one question micro survey after each stage to determine whether they are meeting the needs of the citizen.

  1. During the goal-setting and aligning process, they could ask, “On a scale of 0 to 10, how close do these merged goals align with what you wanted?”
  2. During the feedback collecting phase, they could ask, “On a scale of 0 to 10, how well did your community volunteer describe this issue to the authorities?”
  3. During the follow-up phase, they could ask, “On a scale of 0 to 10, how well was this issue resolved?”

The third question is just like the Fix Rate that integrity action uses. And these light-touch continuous micro-surveys are exactly what my latest Keystone tool makes easy to manage – check out where you’ll find you can pick from one of 8 net promoter-inspired questions that match up with the most common types of non-profit work:


Try it out:

A radically simple one question survey

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