SECTION: QUALITY MANAGEMENT & SERVICES

601101241 Organise to Implement PQASSO

Published: 16.05.2012 |
Last Updated: 04.08.2017
Derek
Derek
Derek O'Reilly

 Derek is Training Manager with the Carmichael Centre. He coordinates and delivers training and development programmes and customised training for boards and managers. Derek has been involved with the Governance Code Working Group since its inception and is on the Governance...

In the business world the most successful enterprises use quality assurance systems to improve products or services and increase profits. Businesses that traditionally did not prioritise quality are increasingly opting for quality assurance systems to remain competitive. In the community and voluntary sector, the same principles apply. The only difference is we are not motivated by profit. We aim to provide the best possible services to our beneficiaries. The benefits from that for our service users and for the wider community are immense.

In 2007 Carmichael Centre for Voluntary Groups commissioned research into the development of a quality system and quality mark for community and voluntary organisations. This research identified eight existing systems suited to the sector. Of these, PQASSO, originally published by Charities Evaluation Services (CES) in the UK, stood out as a clear leader. The research rated it highly in terms of a number of criteria, including "do-ability" and "sufficiently challenging". The research also recommended that in order for Carmichael Centre to recommend this system to the sector, it would need to implement PQASSO for itself.

PQASSO is built on 12 quality areas:

  1. Planning
  2. Governance
  3. Leadership and management
  4. User-centred service
  5. Managing people
  6. Learning and development
  7. Managing money
  8. Managing resources
  9. Communications and promotion
  10. Working with others
  11. Monitoring and evaluation
  12. Results

 

My Top Tips
Top Tips
1
Be clear about why you want to implement PQASSO
2
Choose carefully when you want to start the process
3
Communicate clearly and consistently with stakeholders
4
Be realistic about how long it will take
5
Embed PQASSO in the culture of your organisation
Suggested reading
1
PQASSO 4th Edition Workpack (online) https://www.ncvo.org.uk/practical-support/quality-and-standards/pqasso
Matthews, S., Ellis, J., Punaks, M. et al, 2008, Charities Evaluation Services, London
References
References
1
PQASSO in Practice

Beardsley, E., Ellis, J., (ed.), 2006, Charities Evaluation Services, London.

2
PQASSO in Practice 2

Beardsley 2, E., Ellis, J., (ed.), 2006, Charities Evaluation Services, London.

Each of these quality areas is divided into three levels. This gives your organisation a framework for step-by-step improvements to both the quality of your activities and the way your organisation works. All organisations should aim to achieve level 1 in all 12 quality areas. This shows that you have met your legal obligations and have structures in place to protect the interests of your various stakeholders. It is important that you are satisfied that your organisation satisfies the requirements of level 1 before starting level 2. Before starting level 3 your organisation should have met the indicators of levels 1 and 2 consistently for at least a year.

As a preliminary step, it is important to have a "conversation" internally in your organisation. This should cover questions such as: Why invest in PQASSO? What are we trying to achieve? Do we have the capacity to take this on right now, and how will it link to other activities in the organisation? How will we engage with our various stakeholders on the process? Who will be responsible for leading the process (a PQASSO Champion)?

If you have answered the above questions satisfactorily and you have a PQASSO champion who has the time, resources and authority to implement PQASSO, you can begin. Your first task is to set up a working group composed of representatives of all parts of the organisation, including the Board. This working group carries out an initial self-assessment to estimate how the organisation is doing against each of the twelve quality areas in the work pack. These quality areas cover both governance and operational indicators. When the initial self-assessment is completed the working group can start on a more detailed evidence-based self-assessment. This involves regular meetings to go through specific quality areas. You may plan to have one meeting per quality area, but inevitably you will have to revisit some evidence sources and action points along the way. It is not a good idea to put a strict timeframe on the number of meetings required, as you will need to let the process find its own pace depending on how much you need to do to satisfy all the indicators.

The process of working through PQASSO involves not just the working group, but also other stakeholders such as staff members, member organisations and external stakeholders. This is a vital element in challenging the working group to view issues from different perspectives. As the work on PQASSO progresses, the working group becomes more comfortable with both the language and concepts relating to quality. It is important to keep the lines of communication open to key stakeholders such as staff, board members, volunteers, service users and funders, and to keep them updated on progress as you go through the process.

Some organisations may decide on take on the services of a PQASSO Mentor. PQASSO Mentors are trained by NCVO (UK) to provide impartial support and advice. This can be particularly useful when a working group finds it difficult to stand back and take an objective view in the self-assessment process.

Having worked through all 12 quality areas, you may decide to apply for the PQASSO Quality Mark. This involves two "peer reviewers" appointed by NCVO (UK), coming in to review all of the evidence you have accumulated to demonstrate that your organisation has reached the required level. The peer review is conducted in a very thorough and professional manner. After some feedback from the peer reviewers, you may need to clarify and update of some of your evidence and documentation. All going well, your organisation will then be recommended by the peer reviewers to NCVO for the PQASSO Quality Mark.

Achieving a quality mark is a great morale booster for any organisation as it affirms to the organisation itself and the wider world that it is on the right track. It should be marked by publication of the fact and the quality mark logo on your website, newsletter or any other medium used to communicate with stakeholders and the wider community. It is important to maintain the momentum by continuing to utilise PQASSO as a touchstone for the work of the organisation at both governance and operational levels. With the implementation of the Charities Act, the Statement of Guiding Principles for Fundraising and the Governance Code for the charity sector, there is an increasing emphasis on quality assurance, and a growing need for tools such as PQASSO to guide organisations through the challenging times ahead.

Appendix: Jargon Buster

 

Charities Act 2009: an act to provide for the better regulation of charitable organisations, and, for that purpose, to provide for the establishment of the charities regulatory authority

Governance: Systems and processes concerned with ensuring the overall legality, direction, effectiveness, supervision and accountability of an organisation

Governance Code for the charity sector: A code of practice for good governance of community, voluntary and charitable organisations in Ireland

NCVO: National Council for Voluntary Organisations

Peer Review: Checking or assessing an organisation operating in the same area of work as the reviewer

PQASSO: Practical Quality Assurance for Social Organisations

PQASSO Champion: A person within the organisation who can lead the process of implementing PQASSO

PQASSO Mentor: An individual who is licensed by NCVO to provide PQASSO related training and support to organisations

PQASSO working group: A group, representative of all parts of the organisation, which oversees the implementation of PQASSO

Statement of Guiding Principles for Fundraising: Statement that sets out best practice and general principles that should be applied by all charities that fundraise

SECTION 5: QUALITY MANAGEMENT & SERVICES

601101241 Organise to Implement PQASSO

Published: 16.05.2012 |
Last Updated: 04.08.2017
Derek
Derek
Derek O'Reilly

 Derek is Training Manager with the Carmichael Centre. He coordinates and delivers training and development programmes and customised training for boards and managers. Derek has been involved with the Governance Code Working Group since its inception and is on the Governance...

My Top Tips
My Top Tips
My Top Tips
1
Be clear about why you want to implement PQASSO
2
Choose carefully when you want to start the process
3
Communicate clearly and consistently with stakeholders
4
Be realistic about how long it will take
5
Embed PQASSO in the culture of your organisation
Suggested reading
Suggested Reading
Suggested Reading
1
PQASSO 4th Edition Workpack (online) https://www.ncvo.org.uk/practical-support/quality-and-standards/pqasso
Matthews, S., Ellis, J., Punaks, M. et al, 2008, Charities Evaluation Services, London

In the business world the most successful enterprises use quality assurance systems to improve products or services and increase profits. Businesses that traditionally did not prioritise quality are increasingly opting for quality assurance systems to remain competitive. In the community and voluntary sector, the same principles apply. The only difference is we are not motivated by profit. We aim to provide the best possible services to our beneficiaries. The benefits from that for our service users and for the wider community are immense.

In 2007 Carmichael Centre for Voluntary Groups commissioned research into the development of a quality system and quality mark for community and voluntary organisations. This research identified eight existing systems suited to the sector. Of these, PQASSO, originally published by Charities Evaluation Services (CES) in the UK, stood out as a clear leader. The research rated it highly in terms of a number of criteria, including "do-ability" and "sufficiently challenging". The research also recommended that in order for Carmichael Centre to recommend this system to the sector, it would need to implement PQASSO for itself.

PQASSO is built on 12 quality areas:

  1. Planning
  2. Governance
  3. Leadership and management
  4. User-centred service
  5. Managing people
  6. Learning and development
  7. Managing money
  8. Managing resources
  9. Communications and promotion
  10. Working with others
  11. Monitoring and evaluation
  12. Results

 

Each of these quality areas is divided into three levels. This gives your organisation a framework for step-by-step improvements to both the quality of your activities and the way your organisation works. All organisations should aim to achieve level 1 in all 12 quality areas. This shows that you have met your legal obligations and have structures in place to protect the interests of your various stakeholders. It is important that you are satisfied that your organisation satisfies the requirements of level 1 before starting level 2. Before starting level 3 your organisation should have met the indicators of levels 1 and 2 consistently for at least a year.

As a preliminary step, it is important to have a "conversation" internally in your organisation. This should cover questions such as: Why invest in PQASSO? What are we trying to achieve? Do we have the capacity to take this on right now, and how will it link to other activities in the organisation? How will we engage with our various stakeholders on the process? Who will be responsible for leading the process (a PQASSO Champion)?

If you have answered the above questions satisfactorily and you have a PQASSO champion who has the time, resources and authority to implement PQASSO, you can begin. Your first task is to set up a working group composed of representatives of all parts of the organisation, including the Board. This working group carries out an initial self-assessment to estimate how the organisation is doing against each of the twelve quality areas in the work pack. These quality areas cover both governance and operational indicators. When the initial self-assessment is completed the working group can start on a more detailed evidence-based self-assessment. This involves regular meetings to go through specific quality areas. You may plan to have one meeting per quality area, but inevitably you will have to revisit some evidence sources and action points along the way. It is not a good idea to put a strict timeframe on the number of meetings required, as you will need to let the process find its own pace depending on how much you need to do to satisfy all the indicators.

The process of working through PQASSO involves not just the working group, but also other stakeholders such as staff members, member organisations and external stakeholders. This is a vital element in challenging the working group to view issues from different perspectives. As the work on PQASSO progresses, the working group becomes more comfortable with both the language and concepts relating to quality. It is important to keep the lines of communication open to key stakeholders such as staff, board members, volunteers, service users and funders, and to keep them updated on progress as you go through the process.

Some organisations may decide on take on the services of a PQASSO Mentor. PQASSO Mentors are trained by NCVO (UK) to provide impartial support and advice. This can be particularly useful when a working group finds it difficult to stand back and take an objective view in the self-assessment process.

Having worked through all 12 quality areas, you may decide to apply for the PQASSO Quality Mark. This involves two "peer reviewers" appointed by NCVO (UK), coming in to review all of the evidence you have accumulated to demonstrate that your organisation has reached the required level. The peer review is conducted in a very thorough and professional manner. After some feedback from the peer reviewers, you may need to clarify and update of some of your evidence and documentation. All going well, your organisation will then be recommended by the peer reviewers to NCVO for the PQASSO Quality Mark.

Achieving a quality mark is a great morale booster for any organisation as it affirms to the organisation itself and the wider world that it is on the right track. It should be marked by publication of the fact and the quality mark logo on your website, newsletter or any other medium used to communicate with stakeholders and the wider community. It is important to maintain the momentum by continuing to utilise PQASSO as a touchstone for the work of the organisation at both governance and operational levels. With the implementation of the Charities Act, the Statement of Guiding Principles for Fundraising and the Governance Code for the charity sector, there is an increasing emphasis on quality assurance, and a growing need for tools such as PQASSO to guide organisations through the challenging times ahead.

Appendix: Jargon Buster

 

Charities Act 2009: an act to provide for the better regulation of charitable organisations, and, for that purpose, to provide for the establishment of the charities regulatory authority

Governance: Systems and processes concerned with ensuring the overall legality, direction, effectiveness, supervision and accountability of an organisation

Governance Code for the charity sector: A code of practice for good governance of community, voluntary and charitable organisations in Ireland

NCVO: National Council for Voluntary Organisations

Peer Review: Checking or assessing an organisation operating in the same area of work as the reviewer

PQASSO: Practical Quality Assurance for Social Organisations

PQASSO Champion: A person within the organisation who can lead the process of implementing PQASSO

PQASSO Mentor: An individual who is licensed by NCVO to provide PQASSO related training and support to organisations

PQASSO working group: A group, representative of all parts of the organisation, which oversees the implementation of PQASSO

Statement of Guiding Principles for Fundraising: Statement that sets out best practice and general principles that should be applied by all charities that fundraise

References
References
References
1
PQASSO in Practice

Beardsley, E., Ellis, J., (ed.), 2006, Charities Evaluation Services, London.

2
PQASSO in Practice 2

Beardsley 2, E., Ellis, J., (ed.), 2006, Charities Evaluation Services, London.