Thursday, 11 September 2014

Certification Review Project Update: Pilot studies completed and next steps

Project Update – remaining pilot studies, findings and next steps

As the Certification Review Project reaches its final stages, we need to provide some additional updates on where we’re at and what we’re doing.

All four of the project’s pilot case studies were completed by June and the reports are now all available on the website. So far, we have only reported here on the Ethiopia study, but you can now download and read the remaining three from the ‘all document link’ on the certification page, or find them on the front page of the website.

The project would like to thank Save the Children for hosting and providing resources and giing staff time for eth team in Pakistan. Staff provided open access to their policiers and procedures and were generous in sharing their time and opinions around how certification could improve their work.

We would also like to thank CARE Internationa (CARE) and Oxfam International (Oxfam) DRC Country offices for hosting the pilot case study in DRC. Oxfam provided transportation and logisitics support for the Kinshasa portion of the field research, and the bulk of the reseacrh was conducted in eastern DRC, where CARE provided transportation and logistics support and staff gave the study team full access to their policies, procedures and time.

Thanks are also due to Catholic Relief Services (CRS), Caritas Switzerland and teams in Tacloban and Cebu and Caritas Philippines (referred locally as NASSA) for hosting the study and facilitating field visits and contacts with other stakeholders in the Philippines. We also appreciate the role of CAFOD for its early commitment and support in the study.

Below are some of the recommendations coming from individual pilot studies. These ideas, comments and recommendations, in themselves, do not convey the full extent and details of information shared, and are not comprehensive.

These provide a small sample of what is in the reports, below from Pakistan:

1.      The model should clarify how the assessment process will consider contextual issues that might affect an organisation’s ability to fully meet the core requirements.
2.      The project should share the detailed findings of the draft core requirements and indicators with the CHS process so that stakeholder’s views are considered in the subsequent drafts of the standard.
3.      Focus on the role of governments, donors and UN agencies and the potential for alignment with existing processes to promote accountability, quality and effectiveness in aid efforts.

Suggestions and recommendations emerging from the DRC:

1.      Consider using similar objectives and indicators, but with an alternative structure for the model that is more familiar to humanitarian agencies and donors
2.      Consider a version of the model that can be more easily understood by disaster-affected communities and have a more realistic “vision” of participation of communities affected by disasters.
3.      Focus more on program support indicators that directly affect the quality and accountability of the response.
4.      To be realistic in humanitarian contexts, accommodate a “Good Enough” approach that emphasizes simple and practical solutions.
5.      Additional field testing is needed, and the model needs to be more relevant to field staff by, for example, contextualization by country and referencing the agency’s own policies and codes (as long as they meet minimum humanitarian standards) and providing a tool kit to help with implementation

Ideas and suggestions from the Philippines:

1.   Explore more ways to include local organisations. Numerous suggestions were offered regarding ways to include them, and this means capacity building in humanitarian action and programme management, and exploring ways to help with the financial costs associated with certification.
2.   Avoid creating an additional administrative burden as organisations already spend significant time and resources fulfilling the different administrative and reporting requirements of their donors and other certification bodies. In fact, those who supported the model were often most excited about the prospect of only having one set of requirements to follow. For some, however, this does not seem probable.
3.    Consider expanding the model to include other humanitarian actors. Stakeholders interviewed understand that it makes sense to begin with NGOs, but many expressed strong feelings that it should be expanded to include other humanitarian actors as soon as possible in order to have a larger impact on the quality of humanitarian action.

The project team obviously found widely differing opinions about certification and the sector’s priorities, however, in the main, the proposal was received positively by stakeholders. The final project outcomes, conclusions and recommendations must walk a fine line amongst all of these in order to propose something that is realistic and acceptable to the majority. Not an easy task!

The next steps of the project will be to produce:

Ø  A finalised certification model which includes the following: priority criteria; costs; how to fast track certification to gain critical mass rapidly; how to manage high concurrent demand; alternatives to the model which were considered and discarded and why.
Ø  An analysis of the implications of the proposed certification scheme from the perspective of different stakeholders, including that of an INGO which has demonstrated its compliance with InterAction’s Private Voluntary Organisation (PVO) Standard; that of a national NGO which is HAP certified, that of an affected government and that of a donor, to demonstrate what alignment with existing systems and processes of quality assurance implies.
Ø  A proposed road map of what needs to happen over the six months following the end of the project to progress with certification.
The findings and recommendations will also be presented at a conference in Copenhagen on 12th December 2014 - co-organised by HAP and People In Aid, SPHERE and SCHR – at which the Core Humanitarian Standards will also be launched. At this event, a proposal for taking action on the findings on certification will be presented, which is intended to help inform organisations’ decisions in relation to certification. 

Monday, 24 March 2014

Certification Review Project: Phase Two – Pilot testing

In middle of February, a two-person team travelled to Ethiopia to spend several days with the first of the project’s pilot host organisations, the Development and Inter Church Aid Commission of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, (DICAC). The project field research is designed to help us understand the practical implications of certification for organisations, how it could potentially reinforce their own quality and accountability systems and generate more information on how certification can contribute (or not) to improving humanitarian action.

The team’s purpose in their research was to test and validate the draft certification model’s key assumption that external reporting, verification and certification can contribute to improved quality, effectiveness and accountability of humanitarian actions.

The team wanted to:
-        -  identify how participating organisations and their stakeholders understand, apply, measure and promote humanitarian principles, quality and accountability in their humanitarian work;
-       -   determine how relevant and appropriate the proposed model, core requirements and indicators might be to supporting those efforts and how this could be aligned to other, external processes;
-        -  understand the practical implications, risks, costs and benefits of certification for different humanitarian NGOs and their stakeholders, and finally;
-        -  assess the feasibility, relevance and added value of different options around the most appropriate model and approach to take for certification.

The Ethiopia visit was completely successfully, with the team working closely with DICAC staff and other key stakeholders and partners in the country, including other NGOs, UN agencies, donors, key government department representatives and several groups of affected communities and representatives. The report is now complete and can be found with the other project documents.

We would like to thank all of the DICAC staff across the organisation for all of their time assisting us and their positive engagement with the project and our research. 

 Please note: we are still seeking an organisation to volunteer for a fourth pilot study. Costs will be covered by the project, and time in country would be approximately 10 days. If your organisation is interested in volunteering, please get in touch urgently!

Wednesday, 22 January 2014


The revised version of the draft certification model is now available for your feedback. (Translated versions are being prepared and will be shared as soon as possible).

The Certification Project Team are grateful for the considerable written feedback that we received on the previous draft version of the model. It has been invaluable in shaping this version, which attempts to address and clarify some of the issues and concerns raised by your organisation and other stakeholders.

In this version, we have responded to the feedback to the extent possible and have aimed to keep the model as simple yet rigorous as possible. Accordingly, we have organised the proposed core assessment criteria around three pillars: 1) Humanitarian Principles 2) Accountability to Affected People and 3) Quality, Effectiveness and Learning, with a limited number of key indicators.

Much more consultation is needed to refine and improve these indicators, but we hope that this gives organisations a more concrete idea on how an organisation could be assessed as part of a potential external verification and certification process.

We intend to use this version as the basis for the upcoming field research and piloting phase of the project. We aim to get the views of stakeholders in four different crisis contexts on how certification can improve (or not) the quality of humanitarian assistance, as well as assessing the usefulness and relevance of the proposed core requirements and indicators.   

The pilots are not intended as a full-scale testing of the model of an assessment of participating organisations against certification criteria. Instead, the purpose is to test and validate the key assumptions of the model, review the assessment criteria, and gather more detailed information on the potential costs and benefits of the proposed model in order to improve it.

Please feel free to share this with your colleagues, and to provide any additional comments, feedback or critiques. The next round of feedback will continue until March 31. In particular, we would like your views on the following questions:

1. Is this revised version closer to your vision of a successful, sustainable certification model?
2. Does it address your concerns? If not, what is missing?
3. How useful and relevant are the proposed indicators and assessment process?
4. Do you have any specific suggestions on how the indicators or assessment process could be improved?
5. Are there any critical issues that are missing or need further clarification?Please get in touch if you have any other questions or would like additional information.
Bethan and Philip