Accountability and Feedback Loops

CDA is widely recognized as a thought leader on effective listening and feedback processes, with evidence-informed recommendations on improving community engagement and accountability practices. Lessons from Time to Listen: Hearing People in the Receiving End of International Aid have been extended to the development of practical tools, and CDA leads in a number of interagency forums that promote improving community engagement and accountability practices.

CDA’s work on aid effectiveness, accountability and feedback loops began in 2005 with the launch of the Listening Project. The Listening Project used CDA’s listening methodology in 20 collaborative listening exercises around the world with 130 local and international aid organizations. We engaged 6,000 people in listening conversations about cumulative impact of aid efforts in their societies and communities. The resulting lessons are presented in Time to Listen: Hearing People on the Receiving End of International Aid.

CDA continues to facilitate learning regarding aid agencies’ efforts to listen to, engage with, and be accountable to those affected by their policies and programs.

Learning Questions

  • In what ways does the aid system, widely regarded as “externally-driven”, need to reform to meaningfully engage local actors and communities?
  • How can aid providers be more accountable to the people they aim to support?
  • How can international and local organizations actively seek feedback from the people affected by their programs—and then act on that information?
from our partners

Yo Winder, Partnerships and Accountability Advisor / Oxfam GB

“CDA are, pretty much, the world experts in how feedback loops can work and the benefits to be gained in terms of programme quality”

Ask the Experts

CDA provides services to donors and international aid agencies, both at headquarters and at the country level.  Ask us how we can customize our resources and expertise to help you improve your community engagement, feedback loops and accountability practices.


Isabella Jean, Director of Collaborative Learning and Evaluation [email]

Sarah Cechvala, Senior Program Manager [email]

Featured Projects


Thought Leaders in Learning Speaker Series: Time to Listen / CDA presented its research which aggregated the input of nearly 6,000 people in 20 aid receiving countries, as well as the reflections of aid workers themselves, on the effectiveness of international aid efforts as captured through CDA’s Listening Project at the USAID Learning Lab‘s Thought Leaders in Learning Speaking Seminar.

Beneficiary Feedback Mechanism Learning Event / April 2016. This shared learning event on Beneficiary Feedback Mechanisms was hosted by World Vision UK. With funding from UK Aid, World Vision supported 7 organisations in 6 countries to pilot Beneficiary Feedback Mechanisms in their maternal and child health programs. This event drew on experiences of the pilots and wider experiences of beneficiary feedback mechanisms within the NGO community, and provided participants an opportunity to contribute to BFM practice and guidance notes. Isabella Jean led several discussions at the event and co-authored CDA’s Lessons from the Beneficiary Feedback Pilot in Pakistan report.
Is International Humanitarian Aid Broken? / December 2014. An online discussion with international humanitarian aid professionals and students.

Frontiers for Development Cooperation / August 2014. Keynote speech by Prof. Robert Chambers at the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) 2014 Development Cooperation Forum.

Adaptive and Accountable Response: Use of Technology and Feedback Loops / December 2014. Isabella Jean presented on this panel at the Canadian Humanitarian Conference, hosted by the Aga Khan Foundation in Ottawa, Canada.

Are We Asking the Right Questions? / 2013. CDA discussed engaging local communities in collecting, analyzing and using evidence for needs assessment and impact evaluation. The talk was part of ALNAP’s “Local Knowledge and Evidence of Impact Meeting.”

Exemplary Evaluations in a Multicultural World / 2015. Isabella Jean sat on the following panels at the 2015 AEA Conference: Accountability to Beneficiaries in Humanitarian Work: (1) Citizens in the Driver’s a Seat: Shifting Power in Evaluation, and (2) Listening Skills for Design, Monitoring and Evaluation.
Shifting Language and Practice Towards a More Democratic Evaluation / October 2014. Isabella Jean presented on the panel “Visionary Evaluation for a Sustainable, Equitable Future.” at the American Evaluation Association (AEA) 2014 Conference in Denver, CO.

Local Communities Say Aid is ‘Too Much, Too Fast’ / 2013. Mary B. Anderson, founder of CDA Collaborative Learning Projects and author of ‘Do No Harm’ and ‘Time to Listen’ speaks frankly about what aid recipients and local communities told her about humanitarian aid and asks “whose evidence counts?”

Mechanisms and Motivations: Engaging Communities in Feedback Processes / June 2014. A workshop presenting evidence-informed guidance on establishing and implementing effective feedback mechanisms in humanitarian/relief programs. Part of the 2014 InterAction Forum, Washington D.C.
“Time to Listen” Presentation and Panel Discussion / November 2014. Isabella Jean, spoke on the findings reported in Time to Listen and deliberated the question; “Is international assistance – as it is now conceived and delivered – working as we intend it to?” as well as how the answer impacts The Heller School for Social Policy and Management students as they advance in their careers. This presentation and panel discussion was the launch of Heller’s COEX Wednesday Series, at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management.
Effective Feedback Loops Webinar / January 2015. Isabella Jean facilitated this session about how humanitarian agencies can gather and utilize feedback from disaster-affected communities.

Seven-Minute Expert Talk on Humanitarian Affairs / 2014. Interview with Mary B. Anderson, CDA’s founder, author of “Do No Harm,” and co-author of “Time to Listen.” What beneficiaries really think of international aid; The “proceduralisation” of the aid system; The drawbacks of funding mechanisms and the responsibility of donors; Some proposals to disentangle the threads; and the role of quality and accountability initiatives. Part of The Sphere Project “Seven-minute Expert Talks on Humanitarian Affairs” series.

Thursday Talk, Closing the Loop: On-Going Research into Effective Feedback Practices / November 2014. Isabella Jean discussed her research into effective feedback practices. Including guidance on how to integrate listening and feedback mechanisms into existing organizational systems and how to use the feedback to steer program adaptation and implementation; and, evidence and guidance on lessons and practices around feedback for program and context monitoring in fragile and conflict affected states. Hosted by DM&E for Peace.

‘Rhetoric or Reality? Putting Affected People at the Centre of Humanitarian Action’ / October 2014. A publication launch and discussion of findings at Overseas Development Institute (ODI) London, UK.


Accountability and Feedback Practices / February 2014. CDA worked with colleagues from DFID and Save the Children UK to provide training and guidance on accountability and feedback practices to local and international NGO partners of DFID in Myanmar on behalf of DFID’s PPA Empowerment and Accountability Learning Group.
What Can we Learn from Organizations’ Experiences with Feedback Mechanisms? / March 2015. Isabella Jean presented at InterAction’s event “Promoting Local Ownership in Evaluation”.
Accountability to Affected Persons: Feedback in Humanitarian Contexts / October 2015. Isabella presented at the FeedbackLabs 2015 Summit, hosted by OpenGov Hub at Washington, DC.
Shaping Civil Society Engagement for the Future: Effective Relationships and Engagement / 2015. Isabella Jean was a panelist on this Twitter chat. This chat was the last of a five part series co-hosted by BOND and DFID as part of DFID’s Civil Society Partnership Review. #DFIDCSPR.