Responsive feedback: Towards a new paradigm to enhance intervention effectiveness

Gates Open Res. 2019 May 28:3:781. doi: 10.12688/gatesopenres.12937.2. eCollection 2019.


The current dominant models of intervention design in the development sector do not account for the complexity and unpredictability of implementation challenges. Decision makers and implementers need timely feedback during implementation to respond to field realities and to course-correct. This letter calls for a new approach of "responsive feedback" or "feedback loops" that promotes interactions between project designers, implementers, researchers and decision-makers to enable course corrections needed to achieve intended outcomes. A responsive feedback approach, in theory, should be agile, flexible, adaptive, iterative, and actionable. There can be multiple challenges associated with incorporating this approach into practice including donor requirements, organizational structure and culture, concerns about the additional time required to adopt such an approach, resource and operational constraints, the absence of skill sets needed for such an approach within smaller organizations and inadequate inter-departmental communication. However, these barriers to adaptation can be overcome. For responsive feedback to become a part of the culture of development organizations, commitment is needed from donors, decision-makers, project designers and implementers. We believe that, to generate opportunities for learning and adaptation, donors should provide the stimulus to break down silos between implementers and researchers.

Keywords: Implementation science; adaptive implementation; feedback loops; monitoring and evaluation; responsive feedback; theory of change.

Grants and funding

This work was supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation [OPP1177285].