• Getting Started
  • Who?
  • Benefits
  • Cost and Benefits
  • Example: Super stoves
  • Try it out

Getting Started with Constituent Voice

Systematic listening

Constituent Voice™ is a methodology, a systematic way to listen. It transforms what you hear into performance data,so you can learn through a dialogue with the people whom you aim to serve.Your "constituents" are the people who you affect, but they are also the experts on what they want and what "works" for them. It takes two to collaborate. The end result are programs that improve lives, and also relationships.

You know you are doing it when constituents tell you they feel heard and participate more in the work.

Who are the constituents of my organization?

Citizens, staff, colleagues, activists, and funders

Most organizations have four main types of constituents:

  • those who are meant to benefit from the organization’s work;
  • the staff and others who do the organization’s work;
  • those who provide financial and other support to the organization; and
  • the external actors who can influence results.

The four categories often overlap, but are nevertheless usefully held distinct for applying Constituent Voice methodology. A fully developed Constituent Voice system will use feedback from all four groups and will leverage the synergies between the groups to achieve your mission and a shared vision of success.

Why do they matter?

Citizens, staff, colleagues, activists, and funders

Constituent Voice enables you to measure and manage your performance. Relationships define the likehood of eventual success. Are you spending as much time building and measuring themas you are trying to count the goods and services delivered? The more you inspire your constituents, the more they will invest in and define your shared success.

One example is the net promoter question, which business use to measure how much people love or hate a company and its products. It is a reliable predictor of brand growth. Yet in many community efforts,the people affected are never asked how they feel, or what they think would improve the work.

You score is calculated from how people answer the question "On a scale of 0 to 10, how likely are you to recommend..."

Costs and Benefits

Not free, but saves time and money over the long term

There is a modest up-front investment in setting up and running a Constituent Voice system at first - less than 2 percent of an organization’s budget - but its value is readily seen in improved relationships and performance. The FeedbackCommons lets you explore these benefitsfor free, using a slimmer approach that you can build on over time. Start with one question about relationships and grow it into a set of indicators that explain the results you are (or are not) seeing.

Not convinced yet? Take our 5 minute feedback loops quiz and see how you rank against your peers.

Example: Super Stoves

Monthly listening yields more satisfied clients.

Super Stoves promotes fuel-efficient low-cost cooking stoves. The stoves promise economic, health, and environmental benefits, and improved quality of life. Stove users save time otherwise spent collecting wood. Through manufacture, distribution and sales in Asia and Africa, Super Stoves creates jobs. They improve health by reducing smoke inhalation. They help the environment by reducing deforestation and carbon emissions.

Surveys: Assuming that increased use of the stoves will lead to improved health outcomes, Super Stoves puts in place the data collection processes that would capture these results – if they happen – in a few years time.

But we want to know how effective Super Stoves is right now and why. Long before we will be able to see changes in the health or environment, we can watch for the critical predictive indicators of actual stove use and likely future use. The best way to discover this is by asking people the right questions about the stoves, the impact of the stoves on their lives, the interest in the stoves in their community, and about their engagement with the organization introducing them to the stoves.

The most efficient sub-set of questions to ask will require some simple experimentation, but it could be as few as five, and the information will not be expensive to collect. In addition to direct questions about whether and how they use the stoves, we will want to ask how likely they are to recommend the stove to a relative or friend. If women no longer spend hours each day gathering firewood, we will want to ask what they are doing with their “extra” time. This will discover previously undiscovered benefits from the stove while providing new insights for the organization.

Independent social data: Super Stoves will keep track of existing health, welfare and environmental indicators available from government and academia. It will compare its measureable outcomes against these more macro indicators.

Internal management: Super Stoves monthly management reports show client satisfaction and stove utilization along with comparisons across regions. Management teams discuss further innovations for clients that will enable them to enhance family welfare.

Reporting back: Super Stoves runs regular focus groups of its clients as well as open community meetings at which the findings from the feedback surveys are reported and verified. Ideas for improvements and new products and services arise. Clients begin to organize new initiatives to advance the welfare of their families and communities.

Reporting out: After only one year of conducting feedback surveys, Super Stoves decides to publish its client feedback on its website. Then it integrates its feedback data into its funder reporting and its annual public report – after it discusses its results for the year with its clients. Funders take renewed interest in Super Stoves’ work, increase their support for it, and begin to ask its competitors to provide comparative data.

Try it out

Start small, test often, listen carefully.

The best way to get started is to just try doing it. You will make mistakes, but when you come back and continue this tutorial, you will know exactly what questions you need answered.

From here you can either build a survey or continue reading about how to design your feedback system using simple surveys and iterative listening.