The Constituent Voice Methodology
Ground Truth’s approach is to systematically collect the views of affected people on key aspects of a humanitarian programme, analyze what they say, and help agencies to understand and communicate the resulting insights back to affected communities. The objective is to provide agencies with real-time, actionable information from people at the receiving end of aid that can be translated into programme improvements, while empowering people to express their views.
The methodology we use is called Constituent Voice™ (CV). CV draws on participatory development approaches and embraces techniques borrowed from the customer satisfaction industry. The research design is simple, and can be adapted to suit the needs and constraints of different contexts. We ask very few questions, typically 5-8 per survey, but ask them frequently. Respondents score their answers on a scale, which thus become a measure that can be tracked over time. Collected data is analyzed to foster use and deeper dialogue among staff, encourage follow-up action, and increase engagement with communities.
The Feedback Cycle
The feedback cycle lies at the core of the CV methodology. It consists of five steps: design, data collection, data analysis, dialogue, and course correction.
Designing the right questions is the starting point. We look at the ‘theory of change’ of a given program to understand what it sets out to achieve, and talk to staff of the agencies involved – what do they know already, what don’t they know etc. Next, we check the questions with affected people themselves. The aim is to produce questions likely to bring out issues that are both important to affected people and amenable to action by agencies. In general, questions relate to four critical dimensions: the quality of relationships, the quality and relevance of services, perceptions of outcomes, and empowerment.
2. Data Collection
Ground Truth’s approach is to ask very few questions, but to ask them frequently. The pace of data collection can vary between monthly and quarterly, depending on agencies’ capacity to digest and act on feedback, and on how quickly a situation evolves. Methods of data collection are context-specific, and range from face-to-face interviews using paper and pen or smartphones, to SMS surveys and enumerated calls. To collect data, we usually hire local enumerators but it is also possible for agencies to collect their own data.
The next step is to make sense of the data and to present it in a clear, simple, and visually compelling format that agencies can easily understand and track. We disaggregate and analyze the data, try to compare with other data sources, sense check with agencies, and produce a report with recommendations for follow-up and action, where appropriate.
This is the stage where agencies begin to drive the process. We help agency staff make sense of the data and translate into practical steps for follow-up actions. In addition, we advise on the broader dissemination of feedback findings to affected communities. Affected people need to feel that their feedback is taken seriously. This means prompt communication of results to communities and provision of information on how agencies plan to respond.
5. Course Correction
This stage is driven by agencies. It is when agencies adjust their programmes to take account of the feedback and respond to it. In some cases, they may not respond immediately. Rather, they use feedback to get a better understanding of people’s views in order to address persistent obstacles down the road. Whether action is taken or merely considered, the cycle of data collection, analysis and dialogue soon begins over again, providing a continuous stream of feedback data against which agencies can track their performance and manage their programmes.
Support and Sustainability
Ground Truth provides close support to agencies as they interpret the feedback, engage with affected people in dialogue, and decide on corrective action. Overtime, agencies can gradually take over Ground Truth’s facilitating role, integrating the collection and use of feedback data into their regular programme management and M&E systems. GT offers a range of services to assist with quality assurance on an ongoing basis. We can also develop more detailed surveys to drill down into specific issues that may arise. Finally, we have a repository of training materials, survey designs, and benchmark data that agencies can access when designing their own surveys in the future.