Listening for Good

“Each of us is more than the worst thing we have ever done.” These are the words Bryan Stevenson, well known author, attorney, and Founder/Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative, shared with an audience of over 400 attendees during the opening evening plenary of the 2018 Fund for Shared Insight Annual Gathering.  Focused on bringing the voice of the individuals nonprofits and philanthropy seek to serve into the fold of programs and services, Fund for Shared Insight provides a proven framework organizations can use to capture consistent and measurable feedback.

We know that beneficiary feedback is not the sole measure of nonprofit and philanthropic impact, but it is certainly an important one.  And often a measure that is underutilized or leveraged toward greater outcomes.

This year’s conference was held in Houston, TX, May 21st – 23rd.  Packed with breakout sessions, plenaries, and an inspiring performance by Tony Award-winning playwright and performer Sarah Jones, this year’s convening focused on building an understanding of the necessity of voice to reach the level of impact organizations desire. Feedback creates the opportunity for organizations to understand the true needs of communities, and more importantly the assets that are already present and can be used for greater good.

Bryan Stevenson urged attendees to allow themselves to “get proximate to the communities” that benefit from their efforts.  It is in this closer proximity that we begin to understand the humanity of all people; not only their frailties but their strengths.  Disparate communities are not the sum total of their shortcomings, but in many ways the picture of resiliency in spite of mounting obstacles.  When we allow our organizations to intentionally listen to these voices, we discover what Stevenson referred to as “the basic humanity that must be respected.”  And through this respect we are able to discover the value that each person holds for our collective success.

Tina Gaudiano and Carolyn Cox both attended this year’s conference to represent Middle Tyger Community Center, a 2017 recipient of the Listen for Good grant. When asked about the conference experience, Carolyn Cox shared, “I always viewed client feedback as a way to pat ourselves on the back and confirm what we already believed; that we do good work and we do it well. After spending the week with so many individuals who are extremely passionate about listening to feedback, I realized it is about so much more. It’s about reducing disparities within communities. It’s about making sure that we are delivering services that are tailored exactly to what our community needs in a way that makes everyone feel respected, valued, and included.”