In 2016, we first launched Listen4Good (L4G), an initiative which helps direct-service nonprofits implement high-quality feedback loops with the people they serve. We decided to prioritize working with organizations that would collect feedback from those whose voices are least heard, which we came to define as people or groups who have been marginalized due to historical inequality and enduring structural barriers, such as systemic racism. The many discussions we had to clarify our definition of “voices least heard” also helped us to understand the importance of being explicit about EDI.

More than 400 organizations in the U.S. are participating in Listen4Good, supported by more than 100 funding partners. We have collected feedback from nearly 122,000 people across the country, including clients at SRVS, a Memphis, Tennessee organization working with people with developmental disabilities, and Our House, a homeless-services nonprofit in Little Rock, Arkansas. Both these organizations, and many other L4G nonprofits, have made systemic and structural changes in response to feedback from the people they serve. But even with this track record, we know that asking for feedback in and of itself is not automatically an EDI practice unless organizations make an explicit connection and practice feedback through an EDI lens

This journey has taught us that feedback reflects diversity only if organizations survey broadly to ensure that those who are hardest to reach are included. Feedback promotes inclusion only if people surveyed feel they are being heard and their opinions matter. And feedback advances equity only when those hearing the feedback are open to change, and are willing to engage those giving the feedback as partners in designing that change. At its best, feedback empowers people and shifts power in the sector.

Like many other funders on an EDI journey, we’ve come to recognize that working with an EDI lens means more than supporting organizations working toward equity. It has an impact on everything we do. Here are some of the ways we have expanded our commitment to EDI:

  • We now have an EDI partner as a member of our core staff team who is involved in every aspect of our work.
  • We’re committed to recruiting and hiring staff and other partners from diverse backgrounds and to intentionally networking outside of our usual contacts.
  • Our theory of change now includes explicit EDI markers. For each activity and focus area, such as building feedback practice in the social sector, we ask the same guiding questions: How does this reflect our commitment to advance equity, diversity, and inclusion?
  • Our evaluation and learning partner has added EDI-focused questions to their surveys to help us learn and hold ourselves accountable.

Read the full article about DEI journeys by Roderick Griner at FeedbackLabs.