Without feedback, good ideas go unnoticed. —Akhan Almagambetov
Feedback loops are essential in creating effective systems change. They provide a mechanism to communicate information from the front lines to leadership about barriers to access, or challenges in policy or practice. It’s important that what is being experienced in practice at the program level informs policy decisions for continuous quality improvement.
And because so many community programs from different sectors essentially serve the same children and families, it’s important to think about how organizations communicate with one another in a cross-sector policy-practice feedback loop. Local experiences, whether from families, providers, or community advocates, should inform decision makers at the state, county, municipal, and local level.
The cascading logic model is a helpful visual for planning and identifying layers of the system that need to be part of feedback loops. The cascading logic model also offers a structure to incorporate diverse perspectives, and for understanding each level of the system.
In Illinois, these levels may include:
- Children and families
- Local program teachers and direct service staff
- Local site-based administrators and instructional leaders
- Collaboration, collective, or community network (local collaboration, childcare resource and referral agencies, Head Start system, school districts, Local Interagency Councils, Child and Family Connections, DCFS Local Area Network, Family and Child Resource Centers, etc.)
- Early care and education advocates and leadership (statewide child and family policy nonprofits, national nonprofits with an Illinois Policy team, statewide health and human services nonprofits, affinity leaders)
- County, municipal or regional state policymakers (Governor’s Office of Early Childhood Development, Illinois Department of Human Services, Illinois State Board of Education, Illinois General Assembly, mayors)
Throughout the planning process, it’s important to broaden the collaboration membership to ensure diverse voices are at the table. Parent representation may inform the local school administration, elected official, or statewide policy decision maker. Programs may also engage in the feedback loop to bring their experience of system barriers or strengths to a leader above. Collaboration work groups with diverse representation—from the school district and other influential leaders—can play a pivotal role in linking knowledge from the front lines to the policy decision makers’ table.