Quality standards in the voluntary sector: join the debate
Quality standards in the voluntary sector. A fascinating subject? A topic to spark debate and generate a huge amount of interest? I am pleasantly surprised to say yes on both counts. Honestly - please read on!
When completing research with our partners at OPM for the BIG Lottery Fund on the topic, the level of response we got to our survey, and the willingness of people to take part in interviews was an early indication that it was a topic people wanted to talk about. Returning back from being on holiday to an inbox full of emails from people wanting to engage in discussion about the report and its contents confirmed this to me, and the 2000+ people who have downloaded the report in the last few weeks further evidences this.
In response to the clear desire amongst people working in the voluntary sector to share their views, knowledge and opinions I am writing this blog to summarise some of these conversations and to encourage you to join in and share your views.
You didn’t include my quality standard. Why not?
Because we included standards that people told us about in response to our direct survey questions. I have been told about more standards, including the Rape Crisis National Service Standards and I am updating Appendix B to the report to reflect additions and amendments.
I have useful information – let me share it
More useful places for information and support that people have shared with me include: Accredited Providers Forum and Newcastle University Business School's work on benchmarking quality standards.
Can you do more work on this?
We’d love to. We were commissioned by BIG to do this work though, and there is no follow up resource to be able to continue work. However, this forum is a good place for discussion, networking and knowledge sharing so please feel free to use it and generate ideas about future work.
I like ISO and find it useful
One person contacted me to say this – they had been using ISO for over 30 years and did not find it onerous, and believed the comments were dated and did not reflect the current standard.
I want to talk more about this and be kept informed
Watch this space. Use it to network and share your ideas. And keep in touch with the Accredited Providers Forum, Charities Evaluation Service, and your local Council for Voluntary Service.
What about small community groups? Where do they appear?
We received survey responses from 27 representatives from organisations that can be considered small, with an income below £25,000 (9% of our sample). A clear finding across the sample was that the resources involved in working towards a quality standard prevented some organisations from doing it.
I had a very interesting conversation this morning with someone from Slough CVS about Simple Quality Protects, a standard developed for all sizes of voluntary organisations and being taken up in a range of areas. Another person recommended VISIBLE for community groups.
How are your recommendations being taken up?
This is a trickier one to answer. The remit of the research was a scoping study. We have the power to make recommendations, but not to make sure they happen. NCVO will do everything it can to fulfil the recommendations we make to ourselves and we’re keen to hear your views via this forum.
Do quality standards make a difference?
It depends why you want a quality standard. If it is to tick a box, no. But if you want to do things better and implement standards properly, they can be a great tool for continuous improvement. Good governance can really help with this, to quote from an email I received this morning – this ‘ensures that the foundations of the voluntary organisation are built on rock not sand’.
Well done! It’s useful and important research that echoes my experiences.
Thank you to everyone who emailed me simply to say this. Not only does it give us an even deeper confidence in our research findings, it means a huge amount that we are doing research that reflects the wider experiences of those in the sector that took part.
Please do comment and add your views and knowledge to this important topic.
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Ellie Brodie, Research Consultant, writes about the latest research, evaluation and consultancy projects from NCVO and our partners.