Once your activity has finished you should spend time reflecting on what people have told you. This will help you to better understand people’s input, which will lead to insights and actions, and enable you to make changes.
You should routinely feedback to people explaining the outcome of their input. If it has not been possible to implement their suggestions or ideas, tell them and, whenever possible, explain why not.
This can be really beneficial for the participants involved in the project or activity. For example, giving detailed feedback can make people feel truly valued and often boosts participants’ confidence.
On the other hand, not receiving feedback, especially when it was expected, could leave people feeling cast aside and unappreciated. It’s likely they will be less willing to share their ideas in the future.
How and when you give feedback is a critical part of the influence and participation process and should be included in your planning from the outset.
Where possible, try to give feedback in a manner that’s appropriate to the activity and reflects the participant’s level of commitment and input. For example, if someone has made the effort to write to you with their personal story or views, think about feeding back in writing, too.
Sometimes, the feedback you provide should be quite detailed: a user forum is an example. When forum members share ideas and make suggestions, they are often presented to heads of departments who should be able to give comprehensive feedback about what action is – and importantly, what isn’t – being taken in response, as well as presenting a verbal or written report at each meeting explaining why.
When people have participated anonymously or in a more generic way – for example, by completing a survey, signing a petition, or e-mailing their MP – it’s appropriate to give standardised feedback en masse, rather than personalised feedback directly to each participant. Think about including statistics from your survey, action you will be taking as a result or explaining the impact of their involvement.
This general feedback could be by way of a newsletter, online, by email or on a noticeboard. For instance, you could respond to ideas people have posted in a comments box with a ‘You said, we did’ notice next to it on a regular basis. This method can also be used when feeding back to people via e-mail or online. Our ‘You said…We did’ template can be completed and shared via e-mail or uploaded to a webpage and is an easy method of feeding back after focus groups and discussions.