Author: Dennis Whittle
Full Citation: Whittle, D. (2013). How feedback loops can improve aid (and maybe governance). (CGD Essay). Washington, D.C: Center for Global Development
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Overview: If private markets can produce the iPhone, why can’t aid organizations create and implement initiatives that are equally innovative and effective? The key difference is feedback loops. Well-functioning private organizations receive constant feedback on what customers like and what they don’t. Companies that listen to consumers modify products and services; those that don’t go out of business. Is it possible to create mechanisms that require aid organizations, and the host-country institutions they work with, to listen to what citizens want, and then act on what they hear? Whittle challenges the effectiveness of using RCT (Randomized Control Trials) in development to generate best practices, since it is the context and institutional capacity that shapes the effectiveness of interventions, and each organizational context has its own capacity and character. Whittle makes a strong case for the use of effective feedback loops using such tools as Participatory Community Scorecard (PCS) of World Vision’s education project in Uganda, Rapid SMS of UNICEF’s health project in Malawi, and Crisis Response Map in Haiti.