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Your Phone Won’t Ring Just Because You Gave Out Your Number

Part of Twaweza’s motivation of joining Feedback Labs comes from Isiolo, a cosmopolitan (if a bit unruly) town in north-central Kenya. In contrast to its frenzied town center, Isiolo’s district hospital is calm and orderly, with wide breezy corridors that connect different departments and spacious patient waiting areas. And at every service point the hospital has large, freshly painted walls which spell out the rights and entitlements due to every patient.

These are not abstract or convoluted – in clear language the signs lay out specific, concrete standards: the types of services on offer, the expected waiting time, the fees for different procedures (and which should be free of charge), the prices of medical supplies. The signs also provide a telephone number to report complaints or concerns. The system appears professional, thoughtful, and organized.hospital feedback sign (335x350)

But there is one problem. Over the two hours we spent at the hospital one afternoon in May 2013, we spoke with about twenty patients. None of them appeared to find the signs helpful, even though the official rules of service were often not followed; for example, free drugs are often not available and have to be purchased from a nearby pharmacy. Despite their bright colors and large size (several over 8 x 10 feet), some patients appeared not to have even noticed the signs. Of those that did, none reported ever using their information or calling the telephone numbers listed. When asked why not, people told us it would be a waste of time – no one will even pick up the phone, much less do something about the reported problem.

So we called the number – and within two rings got through to an administrator. She listened with care and patience. She came across as knowledgeable, interested, and ready to take down the details of our concerns so that corrective action could be taken. At the end of the call she thanked us and asked us to call again anytime.

We were stumped. Here was a mechanism that seemed to be well-organized and responsive. And yet people simply did not believe that using the feedback opportunities would be of any use.

Continue reading on the Feedback Labs website

The post was also quoted in a Guardian piece about the idea of feedback loops.

Read more: citizen engagement

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