In the humanitarian and development field, it is widely accepted that the needs and perspectives of the most marginalized, vulnerable, and underserved people are not effectively incorporated into the design and funding of the services aimed at supporting them. They are treated as charitable beneficiaries rather than active agents of change.
To try to address this, Loop, in partnership with ZGF in Zambia, will soon launch a platform that allows recipients of aid, anywhere in the world, to share their experiences to help contribute to better services and improved impact. In this interview, Alex Ross, Loop’s Managing Director speaks about the importance of Loop in capturing feedback that can improve services and help to #ShiftThePower.
What is the role of Loop in driving change in the Global Aid Sector?
We believe that by providing a feedback mechanism that is easy for anyone to access and is based on open principles of data ownership and transparency, we are reducing some of the inherent power structures that currently exist in the Global Aid sector. For example: Who chooses to collect feedback or not; Who decides who can provide feedback and how; Who gets to analyse and see what data; Who chooses who to share what with. All of these currently are decisions that donors and providers of Aid decide for every project.
Loop will be a tool that anyone can choose to use whether that budget line was approved or not, whether they were asked or had access to the feedback meeting or not and the data that results will be open and transparent for everyone to own and learn from. Maybe the local chief has the answer to a question posed by a ‘beneficiary’. Maybe two organizations are having the same difficulties in delivering similar types of services across different parts of the country. Maybe people who are disabled cannot usually access the face to face meetings and so their perspectives are never understood.
In so doing we use technology to decentralize humanitarian and development work by making it more local in ownership and impact but also global in reach. For the first time in history, we can communicate at a massive scale directly with people we are trying to help. This is about shifting the business model of social impact work to a consumer-centric approach, where the ultra-poor are the new customer, not the donor. Through technology used to serve millions of people, each individual customer is still the key stakeholder, and engagement and understanding can happen at that person to person level.
The most exciting thing is not the tool or platform, but the way we can think and act differently as a result of its presence. Sharing all of the authentic local insights in an open and transparent manner, for anyone to engage with, provides data and evidence for New Power to be used. This resource will help others to acquire, influence, and leverage political, economic, and cultural power.
As we know in all other industries, feedback is core to every part of providing safe and appropriate services and support. It is just a good business model. Let us make that the norm in development and humanitarian programs as well. Loop will help people and organizations to raise their voices and share their stories and experiences in a safe, equitable, open, and transparent manner, and as a result, create long term systemic change in the ‘Global Aid Sector’ starting in Zambia!
What has motivated you to set up Loop?
Operational frustrations were the driving force. The feeling that there is enough rhetoric about the need to shift the power and not enough levers to drive change against the reinforcing structures, systems, processes, and behaviors. We are inspired by New Power and how, through technology, people’s voices can be harnessed, raised, and challenge existing norms or Old Power structures. #metoo being the prime example. Years of experience have taught me that everyone has an opinion about the Humanitarian and Development aid that they receive and that everyone is an active agent of change. I also believe that by listening, understanding, and engaging with these experiences, there will be more impactful programs, policies, and funding decisions. In addition, technology now exists to listen to everyone; people have the right to be heard and there will be better services as a result.
How does loop work?
Loop is an open and transparent platform, which means that the stories people share, and organizations’ replies, are all public. Everyone owns the data that results. Inspired by rating platforms already developed in the private sector, Loop is free for anybody to use and will be available across a variety of platforms including online via websites, Facebook, and WhatsApp, as well as offline via SMS and USSD technologies. This means that anybody, anywhere can share what is important to them about their experiences of the aid they have received, or services they have made use of, in an open, transparent, and real-time manner, when they want to on a device they have access to. Civil Society organizations, non-government organizations, and local authorities providing services can reply easily and efficiently from their phone or email address when they receive it in their inbox. They can use the feedback to implement project course correction and build trusting relationships with the communities they serve.
The data on OurLoop.io can be aggregated and disaggregated to support and complement other monitoring and evaluation findings. Anyone online can have access to the data on OurLoop.io, fostering greater transparency, accountability, and ownership of data to inform solutions and improvements.
What are the main features of Loop?
We are launching Loop in English to start with and will add Bemba and other languages soon afterward. OurLoop.io will also be accessible via WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and SMS in the future. For our launch in October, anybody with access to a smartphone or computer will be able to logon to OurLoop.io and use the platform instantly.
Loop is anonymous-first, which means you can share an experience without the need to sign-up for an account or provide your name, or any contact details. If you want, you can share an email address so that you can be notified of replies to your story or the stories you engage with. You can also share information about yourself and your story to increase the chances of it being replied to and resulting in change.
You can show support for stories on Loop by upvoting them, or if you want to join the conversation, anybody can reply to anyone else’s story. It is an entirely open platform.
The stories on Loop are tagged by the original author, or by the Loop moderator. This makes it easy for people to be notified about specific topics or organizations that they are interested in.
You can filter for stories that have been posted based on geography, organization, demographic information, or sector/ thematics. This will enable an analysis of trends about what people are experiencing and thinking based on their area of intervention or interest.
What can readers do now?
If you want to be seen as an organization leading by example in accountability and shifting the power, then there are three calls to action:
- Click here and register yourself on the site by sharing your name and organisation. We can then send you an announcement of when the platform is live, and you will be notified if there is a story about your organization.
- Talk about Loop to your friends, community, and colleagues and see how you might want to use the free platform in your monitoring and evaluation processes, in your assessment visits, and in your communications. Maybe it can be a topic to discuss at your next coordination meeting or webinar.
- When we launch next week, use Loop with your partners, communities, and programs to gather feedback and make sure that you are timely in responding to people’s stories to show you care about their views and experiences.