Using Feedback Loops to Drive Success

Nov 2, 2017 by Jake Thomsen Comments (2)

The success of the Nigeria Education Crisis Response (ECR) activity has largely been determined by its ability to adapt to changing contextual factors and develop meaningful relationships with a broad network of key stakeholders. Read about how ECR used feedback loops and strategic collaboration and decision-making to achieve better development outcomes.

Development Challenge: Nearly three million young people in northern Nigeria have no access to education. More than 600 teachers have been murdered, 19,000 have been displaced, and 1,200 schools have been damaged or destroyed. The Nigeria Education Crisis Response (ECR) activity was created to expand access to quality and relevant non-formal education opportunities for internally displaced and out-of-school children and youth.

CLA Approach:

  • Relationships & Networks: ECR forged relationships with partners that have a stake in providing access to basic education, such as: government counterparts, local NGOs, local communities, traditional and religious leaders, and parents/caregivers. The activity holds routine consultations with these partners to share information and seek unified solutions to local problems.
  • Continuous Learning & Improvement: ECR employs feedback loops to gather and analyze evidence, and alter implementation where needed. Formal feedback loops generate evidence through structured data and information collection while informal feedback loops are open, collaborative fora, such as unstructured dialogue with stakeholders.
  • Decision Making: ECR convenes various groups to review data and determine next steps. For instance, bi-monthly mentor teacher coordination meetings are held to review quality assurance officers’ reports. Participants discuss the performance of learning facilitators, identify gaps in instructional skills and retrain the learning facilitators in specific areas.

Outcomes: CLA transformed ECR from an international donor model to a local solution. It has succeeded in mobilizing community coalitions to troubleshoot local implementation challenges and improve the quality, delivery and inclusiveness of its non-formal education model. To date, this activity has enrolled more than 88,000 learners in a nine-month non-formal education program focused on basic literacy, numeracy and social emotional learning.

Read the full case here.

This blog post is part of a series featuring the 10 winners of the 2017 Collaborating, Learning and Adapting Case Competition. A new case will be posted on USAID Learning Lab each Thursday: October 12 - December 14.

Filed Under: 2017 Winners


The title of this is about using feedback loops, and then you mention "Formal feedback loops generate evidence through structured data and information collection while informal feedback loops are open, collaborative fora, such as unstructured dialogue with stakeholders." Just curious as to how they developed their feedback loops and how they got the staff to engage with the feedback loops to use them as a learning tool.

Also, you mention formal feedback loops- what the heck is that? There are reinforcing feedback loops (vicious downward cycles that lead to market failure also known as positive feedback loops), balancing feedback loops (the interventions applied at leverage points also known as negative feedback loops) but formal feedback loops? That is not a systems term seems like it is a development term. Where can I get more information on this project? Thanks Mary

posted A year ago

Dear Mary,

Thanks for your comment! The project team developed numerous feedback loop mechanisms through its relationships with stakeholders and through its learning agenda. In our case, we tried to distinguish between formal and informal feedback loops (FLs). Formal FLs are planned meetings, engagements and discussions aimed at eliciting input and contributions from specific stakeholders. Informal FLs could be any comments or feedback received in other forms, often unplanned, such as spontaneous comments during dialogues, advocacy visits and focus group discussions as well as conversation with partners and ECR staff members during meetings/trainings.

On the classification/terminology, the distinction we make might be compared to formal vs. informal learning: while formal learning takes place in a classroom with curricular content, informal learning occurs during unplanned moments via conversations with friends, colleagues, at any hour and in different locations outside the structured classroom setting.

Staff are proud to have been engaged in the project’s feedback loops because they have seen the benefits of such a community-based approach in which a wide variety of partners have a voice and can help brainstorm localized solutions to implementation challenges.

To learn more about ECR, try searching “Nigeria Education Crisis Response” in USAID’s DEC (, where we’ve uploaded all the project’s assessments and reports. You can also visit Creative’s website for more info:

Feel free to email me at if you have further questions.



posted A year ago