SECTION: QUALITY MANAGEMENT & SERVICES

606091240 Selecting a Quality Assurance Model

Published: 06.09.2012 |
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...

The challenge in choosing a Quality Assurance model for any Community and Voluntary (C&V) organisation is to wade through the wide range of models designed for a plethora of different purposes and contexts. This short article aims only to outline seven of the main generic models currently available and in use the Community and Voluntary Sector, and distil down some of the information about each. This should give you an idea of where to start with a model that suits the needs of your organisation. Please note that while I have tried to present information in an objective manner, some recommendations expressed in this article are my own and are not representative of any third party. Further excellent advice on how to choose the best fit for your organisation (including a tool decider and comparison charts) can be found on proveandimprove.org, the online home of proving and improving: a quality and impact toolkit for charities, voluntary organisations and social enterprise in the UK.

For the purposes of this article I have distinguished between quality assurance models and voluntary codes of practice. Codes of Practice such as the Governance Code and the Statement of Guiding Principles for Fundraising for community and voluntary organisations in Ireland are examples of sets of guidelines that provide comprehensive frameworks for good practice, but are not intended to serve as management tools. The models I have outlined below drill down to more detail at an operational level. Any organisation aiming to run itself and its services well should be in the business of implementing and adopting quality assurance as well as appropriate codes of practice. In these challenging times, quality, and good practice are increasingly topical both within and outside the community and voluntary sector. The challenge for community and voluntary organisations is not to wait for external pressure to implement quality, but to take the initiative themselves to pursue and maintain excellence on behalf of their beneficiaries.

PQASSO

PQASSO: Practical Quality Assurance for Social Organisations, is described fully in Article 41: “Organise to Implement PQASSO”. For the purposes of this article I will only reiterate the main features of the system:
• An off-the-shelf quality system designed specifically for the C&V sector
• A step-by-step approach to what you are doing well and what could be improved
• A workpack (now online) that is simple and straightforward to use
• A holistic and generic approach to quality
• Involves self-assessment supported by evidence
• Option of external assessment leading to a Quality Mark
There are three levels in PQASSO. Level 1 shows that an organisation has met all its legal obligations and has basic systems and structures in place to protect the rights of service-users and employees. Level 2 builds on the achievements of level 1 and assumes a greater capacity to plan and monitor work. Level 3 builds on the first two levels and assumes the organisation has the capacity to act as a quality leader for other organisations. Carmichael Centre achieved the Quality Mark for level 1 in 2011.

Quality First
Quality First was developed by Tony Farly in partnership with Birmingham Voluntary Service Council. It is similar to PQASSO, in that it is a self-assessment tool, but it does not have a Quality Mark. It is designed primarily for small organisations run by volunteers. It covers nine Quality Areas, ranging from “Stating our purpose” to “Communicating Effectively”. The workpack also includes some practical appendices including guidelines to help write down values, complaints and suggestions feedback form, and an equal opportunities statement. If you are a small organisation looking for a relatively simple system to implement at low cost, then this is worth checking out.

ISO 9000
ISO 9000 is a suite of standards representing international consensus on good management practice. It was developed originally for the manufacturing sector, but it can be applied in a wide variety of contexts, including the public sector and the community and voluntary sector. The Standard helps organisations to improve customer satisfaction levels, internal efficiency and employee involvement. The focus is on process; how things are done. It involves a self-audit which can be followed by a client audit and an audit by the National Standards Authority of Ireland, leading to an ISO 9000 certificate. Cost is high, which may be prohibitive for smaller organisations. 

EFQM Excellence Model
The European Foundation for Quality Management (EFQM) set up the Excellence Model in the 1980s. It was initially set up for the private sector in an effort to make Europe more competitive with America and Japan, but is also used in the public and charity sectors. The model is used by organisations to assess and diagnose their performance under nine criteria, ranging from leadership (enabler) to service provision (results). The 'Enabler' criteria cover what an organisation does and how it does it. The 'Results' criteria cover what an organisation achieves. The process involves self-assessment, which can be facilitated. Validation can be applied at three different levels: Committed to Excellence, Recognised for Excellence and EFQM Excellence Award. Cost of implementing this model can be significant as it also involves staff training and input.

Excellence Through People
Excellence Through People (ETP) is the National Human Resource Management Scheme. It was previously certified by Fás but was transferred to the National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI) in 2012.
The process includes six core sections:
1. Business planning and continuous improvement
2. Effective communication and people engagement
3. Leadership and people management
4. Planning of learning and development
5. Evaluation of learning and development
Certification is at three levels: standard, gold and platinum. The focus of this model is on Human Resources but it is also used as a business improvement tool. It is used by a wide range of private enterprises and public bodies in Ireland. This model has some similarities to the Investors in People system in the UK.

Social Accounting
Social Accounting (also known as Social Audit) establishes a framework for ongoing monitoring, evaluation and accountability to stakeholders both internal and external to the organisation. Social Accounting can help an organisation to investigate its performance against social, environmental and economic objectives, and ensure that it is working in accordance with its values. A guide to how to implement social accounting is available from the Social Audit Network (SAN) in the UK. It includes a CD-ROM. It is a useful tool for assessing an organisation’s transparency and impact, but would need the support of a consultant in the absence of in-house expertise in this model.

Social Return in Investment
Social Return in Investment (SROI) was initially developed in the philanthropy sector in the US and was adapted for use in the charity and public sectors in the UK. It is an outcomes-based measurement tool that helps organisations to understand and quantify the social, environmental and economic value they are creating. It involves a participative approach that can capture in monetised form the value of a wide range of outcomes, whether these already have a financial value or not. The tool takes the form of a six-step methodology:
1. Establishing scope and identifying key stakeholders.
2. Mapping outcomes.
3. Evidencing outcomes and giving them a value.
4. Establishing impact.
5. Calculating the SROI.
6. Reporting, using and embedding. This last step involves sharing findings and recommendations with stakeholders, and embedding good outcomes processes within the organisation.
SROI embeds the concepts of outcomes, impact and value for money, which has a strong appeal to some funders. If in-house expertise on the process is not available the services of an external consultant are needed. Training and consultancy are available through the New Economics Foundation and Social Audit Network in the UK.

The seven models outlined above are just a taste of the wide range of models available. While there are obvious variations between the various models described above, there are a number of common elements which need to be considered before embarking on any quality assurance process:
• Why do you want or need to use a quality assurance tool?
• Is there an agreed understanding in the organisation of its mission, vision and values?
• Who are your stakeholders?
• Do stakeholders understand what the organisation does and how it does it?
• How does your organisation show progress and outcomes? Do you have any mechanism in place to measure them?
• Assess your existing planning mechanisms. Are they working?
• Do you collect data. How? Why?
• Do you analyse information? If so, what is it telling you?
• Do you share information. With whom?
• Do you include learning from previous experience in your plans?

With these questions answered you may be pleasantly surprised that you are already involved in quality assurance in some forms. Now it’s a case of implementing a system to help your organisation do better!

My Top Tips
Top Tips
1
Identify the key reasons why you want to implement quality assurance, your expectations about the process, available resources, leadership and the appropriate tools or methods.
2
Make sure the timing is right, both for the organisation and its stakeholders before starting out. A QA model does not provide quick-fix solutions.
3
Consider the financial cost, both in terms of purchasing a quality system, and the time required to implement it.
4
Discuss with funders/potential funders the possibility of covering the cost of Quality Assurance through existing or new grant mechanisms if this has not already been built in to funding.
5
Consider how quality assurance fits in with the work of the organisation, including strategic and operational planning, and how it will be reflected in communications, reporting and grant applications.
Suggested reading
1
PQASSO in Practice, Charities Evaluation Services, London.
Beardsley, E., Ellis, J., (ed.), 2006,
2
Quality First 2nd Edition Workpack, Birmingham Voluntary Service Council, Birmingham.
Farly, T., 2004,
3
PQASSO 4th Edition (Online) https://www.ncvo.org.uk/practical-support/quality-and-standards/pqasso Charities Evaluation Services, London.
Matthews, S., Ellis, J., Punaks, M. et al, 2008,
4
First Steps in Quality, Charities Evaluation Services, London
Murphy, E., Ellis, J., 2002,
5
Tools for you: approaches to proving and improving for charities, voluntary organisations and social enterprise, new economics foundation, London.
Sanfilippo, L., and Cooper, M.,(1st edition), Murray, R., and Neitzert E., (update) 2009,
References
References
1
Barclay, J., Abdy, M., 2001, Quality Matters: Funders and Quality in the Voluntary Sector, Quality Standards Task Group, London.
2
Beardsley, E., Ellis, J., (ed.), 2006, PQASSO in Practice, Charities Evaluation Services, London.
3
Cairns, B., Harris, M., 2005, Getting Ready for Quality, Quality Standards Task Group, London.
4
Farly, T., 2004, Quality First 2nd Edition Workpack, Birmingham Voluntary Service Council, Birmingham.
5
Matthews, S., Ellis, J., Punaks, M. et al, 2008, PQASSO 3rd Edition Workpack, Charities Evaluation Services, London.
6
Murphy, E., Ellis, J., 2002, First Steps in Quality, Charities Evaluation Services, London
7
Velthuis, S., 2007, A preliminary study for Carmichael Centre for Voluntary Groups into the development of a quality system and quality mark for small and medium community and voluntary organisations in Ireland, Carmichael Centre, Dublin
8
Sanfilippo, L., and Cooper, M.,(1st edition), Murray, R., and Neitzert E., (update) 2009, Tools for you: approaches to proving and improving for charities, voluntary organisations and social enterprise, new economics foundation, London.
Appendix: Jargon Buster

C&V Community & Voluntary
CES Charities Evaluation Services, 4 Coldbath Square, London EC1R 5HL, UK
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
EFQM European Foundation for Quality Management
ETP Excellence Through People
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
ISO International Organisation for Standardisation
NEF New Economics Foundation
NSAI National Standards Authority of Ireland
Peer Review Checking or assessing an organisation operating in the same area of work as the reviewer
PQASSO Practical Quality Assurance for Social Organisations
QA Quality Assurance
SAN Social Accounting Network
SROI Social Return on Investment
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

606091240 Selecting a Quality Assurance Model

Published: 06.09.2012 |
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
Identify the key reasons why you want to implement quality assurance, your expectations about the process, available resources, leadership and the appropriate tools or methods.
2
Make sure the timing is right, both for the organisation and its stakeholders before starting out. A QA model does not provide quick-fix solutions.
3
Consider the financial cost, both in terms of purchasing a quality system, and the time required to implement it.
4
Discuss with funders/potential funders the possibility of covering the cost of Quality Assurance through existing or new grant mechanisms if this has not already been built in to funding.
5
Consider how quality assurance fits in with the work of the organisation, including strategic and operational planning, and how it will be reflected in communications, reporting and grant applications.
Suggested reading
Suggested Reading
Suggested Reading
1
PQASSO in Practice, Charities Evaluation Services, London.
Beardsley, E., Ellis, J., (ed.), 2006,
2
Quality First 2nd Edition Workpack, Birmingham Voluntary Service Council, Birmingham.
Farly, T., 2004,
3
PQASSO 4th Edition (Online) https://www.ncvo.org.uk/practical-support/quality-and-standards/pqasso Charities Evaluation Services, London.
Matthews, S., Ellis, J., Punaks, M. et al, 2008,
4
First Steps in Quality, Charities Evaluation Services, London
Murphy, E., Ellis, J., 2002,
5
Tools for you: approaches to proving and improving for charities, voluntary organisations and social enterprise, new economics foundation, London.
Sanfilippo, L., and Cooper, M.,(1st edition), Murray, R., and Neitzert E., (update) 2009,

The challenge in choosing a Quality Assurance model for any Community and Voluntary (C&V) organisation is to wade through the wide range of models designed for a plethora of different purposes and contexts. This short article aims only to outline seven of the main generic models currently available and in use the Community and Voluntary Sector, and distil down some of the information about each. This should give you an idea of where to start with a model that suits the needs of your organisation. Please note that while I have tried to present information in an objective manner, some recommendations expressed in this article are my own and are not representative of any third party. Further excellent advice on how to choose the best fit for your organisation (including a tool decider and comparison charts) can be found on proveandimprove.org, the online home of proving and improving: a quality and impact toolkit for charities, voluntary organisations and social enterprise in the UK.

For the purposes of this article I have distinguished between quality assurance models and voluntary codes of practice. Codes of Practice such as the Governance Code and the Statement of Guiding Principles for Fundraising for community and voluntary organisations in Ireland are examples of sets of guidelines that provide comprehensive frameworks for good practice, but are not intended to serve as management tools. The models I have outlined below drill down to more detail at an operational level. Any organisation aiming to run itself and its services well should be in the business of implementing and adopting quality assurance as well as appropriate codes of practice. In these challenging times, quality, and good practice are increasingly topical both within and outside the community and voluntary sector. The challenge for community and voluntary organisations is not to wait for external pressure to implement quality, but to take the initiative themselves to pursue and maintain excellence on behalf of their beneficiaries.

PQASSO

PQASSO: Practical Quality Assurance for Social Organisations, is described fully in Article 41: “Organise to Implement PQASSO”. For the purposes of this article I will only reiterate the main features of the system:
• An off-the-shelf quality system designed specifically for the C&V sector
• A step-by-step approach to what you are doing well and what could be improved
• A workpack (now online) that is simple and straightforward to use
• A holistic and generic approach to quality
• Involves self-assessment supported by evidence
• Option of external assessment leading to a Quality Mark
There are three levels in PQASSO. Level 1 shows that an organisation has met all its legal obligations and has basic systems and structures in place to protect the rights of service-users and employees. Level 2 builds on the achievements of level 1 and assumes a greater capacity to plan and monitor work. Level 3 builds on the first two levels and assumes the organisation has the capacity to act as a quality leader for other organisations. Carmichael Centre achieved the Quality Mark for level 1 in 2011.

Quality First
Quality First was developed by Tony Farly in partnership with Birmingham Voluntary Service Council. It is similar to PQASSO, in that it is a self-assessment tool, but it does not have a Quality Mark. It is designed primarily for small organisations run by volunteers. It covers nine Quality Areas, ranging from “Stating our purpose” to “Communicating Effectively”. The workpack also includes some practical appendices including guidelines to help write down values, complaints and suggestions feedback form, and an equal opportunities statement. If you are a small organisation looking for a relatively simple system to implement at low cost, then this is worth checking out.

ISO 9000
ISO 9000 is a suite of standards representing international consensus on good management practice. It was developed originally for the manufacturing sector, but it can be applied in a wide variety of contexts, including the public sector and the community and voluntary sector. The Standard helps organisations to improve customer satisfaction levels, internal efficiency and employee involvement. The focus is on process; how things are done. It involves a self-audit which can be followed by a client audit and an audit by the National Standards Authority of Ireland, leading to an ISO 9000 certificate. Cost is high, which may be prohibitive for smaller organisations. 

EFQM Excellence Model
The European Foundation for Quality Management (EFQM) set up the Excellence Model in the 1980s. It was initially set up for the private sector in an effort to make Europe more competitive with America and Japan, but is also used in the public and charity sectors. The model is used by organisations to assess and diagnose their performance under nine criteria, ranging from leadership (enabler) to service provision (results). The 'Enabler' criteria cover what an organisation does and how it does it. The 'Results' criteria cover what an organisation achieves. The process involves self-assessment, which can be facilitated. Validation can be applied at three different levels: Committed to Excellence, Recognised for Excellence and EFQM Excellence Award. Cost of implementing this model can be significant as it also involves staff training and input.

Excellence Through People
Excellence Through People (ETP) is the National Human Resource Management Scheme. It was previously certified by Fás but was transferred to the National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI) in 2012.
The process includes six core sections:
1. Business planning and continuous improvement
2. Effective communication and people engagement
3. Leadership and people management
4. Planning of learning and development
5. Evaluation of learning and development
Certification is at three levels: standard, gold and platinum. The focus of this model is on Human Resources but it is also used as a business improvement tool. It is used by a wide range of private enterprises and public bodies in Ireland. This model has some similarities to the Investors in People system in the UK.

Social Accounting
Social Accounting (also known as Social Audit) establishes a framework for ongoing monitoring, evaluation and accountability to stakeholders both internal and external to the organisation. Social Accounting can help an organisation to investigate its performance against social, environmental and economic objectives, and ensure that it is working in accordance with its values. A guide to how to implement social accounting is available from the Social Audit Network (SAN) in the UK. It includes a CD-ROM. It is a useful tool for assessing an organisation’s transparency and impact, but would need the support of a consultant in the absence of in-house expertise in this model.

Social Return in Investment
Social Return in Investment (SROI) was initially developed in the philanthropy sector in the US and was adapted for use in the charity and public sectors in the UK. It is an outcomes-based measurement tool that helps organisations to understand and quantify the social, environmental and economic value they are creating. It involves a participative approach that can capture in monetised form the value of a wide range of outcomes, whether these already have a financial value or not. The tool takes the form of a six-step methodology:
1. Establishing scope and identifying key stakeholders.
2. Mapping outcomes.
3. Evidencing outcomes and giving them a value.
4. Establishing impact.
5. Calculating the SROI.
6. Reporting, using and embedding. This last step involves sharing findings and recommendations with stakeholders, and embedding good outcomes processes within the organisation.
SROI embeds the concepts of outcomes, impact and value for money, which has a strong appeal to some funders. If in-house expertise on the process is not available the services of an external consultant are needed. Training and consultancy are available through the New Economics Foundation and Social Audit Network in the UK.

The seven models outlined above are just a taste of the wide range of models available. While there are obvious variations between the various models described above, there are a number of common elements which need to be considered before embarking on any quality assurance process:
• Why do you want or need to use a quality assurance tool?
• Is there an agreed understanding in the organisation of its mission, vision and values?
• Who are your stakeholders?
• Do stakeholders understand what the organisation does and how it does it?
• How does your organisation show progress and outcomes? Do you have any mechanism in place to measure them?
• Assess your existing planning mechanisms. Are they working?
• Do you collect data. How? Why?
• Do you analyse information? If so, what is it telling you?
• Do you share information. With whom?
• Do you include learning from previous experience in your plans?

With these questions answered you may be pleasantly surprised that you are already involved in quality assurance in some forms. Now it’s a case of implementing a system to help your organisation do better!

Appendix: Jargon Buster

C&V Community & Voluntary
CES Charities Evaluation Services, 4 Coldbath Square, London EC1R 5HL, UK
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
EFQM European Foundation for Quality Management
ETP Excellence Through People
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
ISO International Organisation for Standardisation
NEF New Economics Foundation
NSAI National Standards Authority of Ireland
Peer Review Checking or assessing an organisation operating in the same area of work as the reviewer
PQASSO Practical Quality Assurance for Social Organisations
QA Quality Assurance
SAN Social Accounting Network
SROI Social Return on Investment
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
Barclay, J., Abdy, M., 2001, Quality Matters: Funders and Quality in the Voluntary Sector, Quality Standards Task Group, London.
2
Beardsley, E., Ellis, J., (ed.), 2006, PQASSO in Practice, Charities Evaluation Services, London.
3
Cairns, B., Harris, M., 2005, Getting Ready for Quality, Quality Standards Task Group, London.
4
Farly, T., 2004, Quality First 2nd Edition Workpack, Birmingham Voluntary Service Council, Birmingham.
5
Matthews, S., Ellis, J., Punaks, M. et al, 2008, PQASSO 3rd Edition Workpack, Charities Evaluation Services, London.
6
Murphy, E., Ellis, J., 2002, First Steps in Quality, Charities Evaluation Services, London
7
Velthuis, S., 2007, A preliminary study for Carmichael Centre for Voluntary Groups into the development of a quality system and quality mark for small and medium community and voluntary organisations in Ireland, Carmichael Centre, Dublin
8
Sanfilippo, L., and Cooper, M.,(1st edition), Murray, R., and Neitzert E., (update) 2009, Tools for you: approaches to proving and improving for charities, voluntary organisations and social enterprise, new economics foundation, London.