|“||Respond to questions and comments.
Make people feel heard.
When you ask for feedback, you generally get it. So care has to be taken in how you’re going to systematically listen and respond to that feedback (in a realistic way — you can’t always personally reply to everything) and how you’re going to close the loop, in terms of communicating back to people how their feedback will be acted on, and why.
Make people feel seen and heard
- “I was surprised by how far collegial interactions can go, especially in virtual spaces. Even the loud voices and trolls can provide useful information when their concerns are acknowledged, and information is provided for them."
- "The storm of questions, responses and comments were so overwhelming that we didn't manage to respond to everything. But we made sure everything was seen"
Be systematic about how you listen and respond
For large-scale consultations, you can’t always just respond in an ad hoc, hyper-individualized way. The key is to be collaborative and systematic about it, as part of your overall Communications Plan.
- “Having formal ‘reply roles’ was super helpful. Each team member was monitoring and replying in different forums, so that we had all of our ground covered.”
- “We were able to jump in and respond, communicating collectively. When a question is asked of a particular person, the team members were helpful in closing those communications loops for and with others.”
- “Have each others’ backs. A lot of the success of the team came not only from what we said, but what we did for each other.”
- When you’re in listening and feedback-gathering mode, your plan should include key ingredients like:
- Reply Roles. Which teammates are responsible for monitoring which communications platforms?
- Triage. Prioritize around what actually requires response. Set clear criteria for what needs to be replied to, and what doesn’t.
- Key Messages. Draft shared talking points so that answers are clear, accurate and consistent.
- Enlisting allies. You don’t have to do all the talking; enlist liaisons or community champions to help.
Triage. Know when to engage and when to ignore.
You can’t respond to everything. Triage and having clear group agreements around what to respond to can help.
- “We had clear protocols and responses around what *needed* to be responded to.”
- “We figured out when it was good to respond, and when it was better to just leave stuff alone. Our responses tended to focus on factual corrections. This helped avoid fueling conversations that were actually just a distraction.”
Enlist allies to help with listening and responding
- “Having allies step up was invaluable, as opposed to doing all the communicating yourself. Someone coming up from the community to speak up instead."
- “These allies also knew the loud voices well enough to understand when we needed to respond, versus when it was better to ignore.”
Close the loop. Communicate how feedback will (or won’t) be acted on
“Closing the loop” can often be the most difficult (and contentious) part of the process.
- “Make sure people's feedback can be acknowledged. Show how the feedback was used. People want to be acknowledged and they want to be recognized for their input and contributions.”
- “How can we make sure people see the results of their ideas and feedback in the final recommendations? We tried to take this idea seriously. Versus: sometimes consultations feel like they're done as a fig leaf.”
- “[Sometimes the community] read what the feedback was, but it wasn't clear to them how the feedback was going to actually be acted on.”
Some participants reported that this was a challenge for them, and that it wasn’t clear to them how (or if) their contributions and feedback were being acted on.
- “There were a lot of conferences and meetings. But we didn't hear anything about the results. I didn't know where to look.”
- “Some Wikimedians are already asking me: ‘We participated in so many discussions. So where are the results? Where are the improvements?’ We’re not sure how to discuss this with our community members.”
- “Listing footnotes and links to community input in the pre-final version of the recommendations felt intuitive, but people still really needed to be ‘led’ there. Maybe we should have made this even more prominent and / or compiled this in a report that was prominently featured.”'
- “If you are radically open on the one hand, you raise the expectation for some that everything that is said will then be implemented. At the end of the day, that is not possible; you need to diverge and converge. That is something we needed to learn also in a painful way: giving feedback does not mean that ALL of the feedback you are giving is implemented.”
- “At the same time, we tried to tackle some of the really difficult questions. Like power structures, or who decides when and how money is going into the movement. We started this, but did not finish it yet.”
Tools and examples for responding for feedback
Do you have tools, methods or ideas that you, your community or organization use for this? Add them to this section for others to see.