Closing the Feedback Loop

Closing the feedback loop is one of the biggest tasks organizations face today. The feedback loop refers to the process through which organizations hear and respond to those in need through reporting mechanisms. In the realm of development assistance and human rights monitoring, a “broken feedback loop” describes a situation in which organizations hear but fail to respond to citizens in need. The feedback loop between citizens and organisations thus remains infinitely open, leading to ineffectiveness as well as lack of trust and accountability.

For years, international development agencies, governments, and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) have been hindered by time, cost, and distance in closing the gap between hearing and responding to citizen feedback. In order to repair a broken feedback loop, it must be closed through ensuring all voices are fairly heard and responded to. Attempts at closing the feedback loop involve putting in place mechanisms that aim to ensure all voices are heard and elicit an appropriate response. These practices often stress citizen feedback, participation, or civic engagement.

In development assistance and human rights monitoring, it is important for citizen feedback initiatives to clearly identify the roles and responsibilities of all stakeholders within the feedback loop. This not only includes determining who is involved, but also their roles with regard to providing, monitoring, responding to, or acting on citizen feedback.

Modern information and communication technologies (ICTs) have laid the groundwork for connecting citizens on the ground and third party stakeholders/NGOs at the response end. The Whistle aims to make use of recent innovations in the field of ICTs and Human Rights, to facilitate the reporting and effective verification of violations, using human and algorithmic techniques.

Over the years, academics have identified three generations of fact-finding actors and tactics. First generation fact-finding was undertaken by intergovernmental bodies and involved traditional monitoring mechanisms, such as on-the-ground research undertaken by intergovernmental bodies, which were often too infrequent or not timely enough to be of use in cases warranting rapid responses. Second generation fact-finding, primarily undertaken by international human rights organisations, relied heavily on witness reports. Third and current generation fact-finding is centered on the growing number of players and the use of ICTs for fact-finding. This generation is increasingly flexible in its fact-finding methods and tools. Intergovernmental organisations, INGOs, and NGOs now collect and verify facts through an array of methods and mechanisms including crowd-sourcing, social media, photographs and videos.

Unfortunately, catalyzing and sustaining the motivation of citizens to participate are among the greatest challenges associated with feedback mechanisms. For this reason, it cannot be taken for granted that citizens, when given the opportunity to provide feedback, will do so. Citizen confidence and education are important in this respect. If citizens are informed about digital human rights reporting mechanisms, educated about to use them and what happens to their data, they become more confident that their voice will be heard and responded to. If this is achieved, more abuses could be reported, and more victims could receive redress. This underlines the importance of closing the feedback loop.

The Whistle aims to close the feedback loop by empowering all stakeholders within the feedback loop. By strengthening citizen’s capacity to submit information by prompting them with required information fields at the front end. The NGO Dashboard prompts fact-finders with several cross-check indicators, enabling them to rapidly filter out false information, not only ensuring that citizens upload verifiable information that can, and will, be acted upon by third party organisations such as NGOs and INGOs, but also reducing the time, cost, and distance associated with hearing and responding to citizen witnesses of human rights abuses.

To learn more about our verification techniques, read our piece on The Art of Verification

Published by

Sarah Villeneuve

Communications Lead @ The Whistle