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.