Feedback mechanisms in international assistance organizations

This CDA Collaborative Learning Projects paper outlines research conducted with international development organisations on the use of recipient/primary stakeholder feedback in humanitarian aid projects and programs.

It looks at the different kinds of feedback processes used and provides examples of how feedback has influenced organisational policies and strategies and program and project-level decisions. The paper also outlines some of the emerging approaches in this field.


"Feedback mechanisms provide organizations with data and perceptions from primary stakeholders about the quality and effectiveness of their efforts. An ideal feedback process involves the gathering of feedback and the communication of a response, which forms a ‘feedback loop.’ However, the language and terminology used to describe feedback systems in international assistance organizations varies, and few organizational reports and websites explicitly refer to feedback mechanisms or feedback loops. Likewise, in e-mail correspondence and phone conversations, many staff of aid organizations did not necessarily use this term. Instead, most reported on and described various processes and mechanisms that they utilize to solicit opinions and feedback from recipients of aid about their work, including: participatory methods and processes for assessments, program design, monitoring and evaluation; real-time evaluations; accountability frameworks and mechanisms; complaints and response mechanisms; listening exercises; perceptions studies; social audits; social performance management systems; community score cards; citizen report cards; constituency feedback, story-telling, and others." (CDA, 2011)


  • Section I: motivation for seeking recipient feedback   5
  • Section II: demand for recipient feedback and organizational values   6
  • Section III: lessons learned from recipient feedback processes   8
  • Section IV: documenting, communicating and decision-making   13
  • How is feedback synthesized and presented?   13
  • Where does the feedback go?   13
  • Examples of Feedback Influencing Organizational Policies and Strategies   14
  • Examples of Feedback Influencing Program and Project Level Decisions   15
  • Section V: what do genuine feedback loops look like?   17
  • Section VI: investments in and incentives for recipient feedback processes   20
  • Section VII: emerging approaches   22
  • Section VIII: recommendations   23
  • Section IX: conclusions   26
  • Appendix 1: bibliography and list of relevant resources   27
  • Resources in the humanitarian sector   27
  • Resources in the development sector   28
  • Research reports and publications   29
  • Methodology guides and manuals   30


CDA Collaborative Learning Projects. (2011). Feedback Mechanisms in International Assistance Organizations. Retrieved from:

'Feedback mechanisms in international assistance organizations' is referenced in: