A Journey of Growth and Accountability: TPO Uganda’s Path to CHS Certification

Michael Muwairwa

by Michael Muwairwa

TPO Uganda's Director Knowledge Development and Innovation

TPO Uganda is proud to have progressed from CHS Independent Verification to Certification. CHS Verification has already made a big difference over the last few years. Learnings from the Independent Verification, carried out by the Humanitarian Quality Assurance Initiative (HQAI), led us to change how we work, so that members of the communities we serve know what behaviour they should expect from staff. 

Now with CHS Certification the people we support, our partners and donors have the assurance of an even stronger framework driving us to make and sustain more improvements. I hope this achievement shows other national organisations who would hugely benefit from CHS Verification that it is possible.

As I reflect on our journey, I can’t help but feel a sense of pride and accomplishment. TPO Uganda has made significant progress, transitioning from CHS Independent Verification to Certification. Over the past few years, being on a verification pathway brought about so many meaningful changes within our organisation.

The path to verification

Our journey towards CHS Certification began in 2018, as we embarked on a mission to improve the quality of our interventions and enhance our collaboration with community structures and stakeholders.

As a learning organisation, we always strive to attain the highest quality services. Although we had received good scores from various donors due diligence processes in the past, we felt a gap between our policies and practices. We wanted to be more accountable to the people affected by crises, to push ourselves beyond our comfort zone.

Getting started on this process can be seen as challenging, especially for local and national NGOs. Fortunately, our membership of CHS Alliance provided us with invaluable support from organisations that understand the process. We were further empowered by the guidance received from HQAI, both while curating a roadmap and during the audit process, not to mention the subsidy they provided to cover the price of the audit. From the beginning, this gave us a clear roadmap to follow.

A woman from a crisis-affected community sharing her story with TPO Uganda staff, 2020. Credit: TPO Uganda.

Learnings from Independent Verification: A Catalyst for Change

One of the most valuable outcomes of undergoing CHS Independent Verification was the realisation that we needed to change how we work. It became clear that the communities we support should know what to expect from our staff. Armed with this insight, we set out to improve our practices and provide better guidance to those we support

  • Realising that our feedback mechanism needed to be better for the people we support, we sought inspiration from organisations who like UNHCR and CARE International. We expanded and strengthened our feedback processes, creating concrete procedures for receiving and managing feedback. We made our feedback platform accessible on our website, allowing individuals to submit feedback and ensuring they receive timely and appropriate responses.
  • We also reinforced accountability through regular review meetings. Every interaction with our partners and beneficiaries became an opportunity to align expectations and assess our performance. This approach will continue in the coming months as we eagerly await comprehensive feedback.
  • Moreover, we recognised that we had not been sharing enough information. Independent Verification shed light on our inadequate practices in this area. To rectify this, we organised meetings, provided more detailed information on our conduct via our website, and strengthened our relationships with the structures we work with. We understood that it wasn’t enough to file reports; we needed to follow through on the issues we raised and engage with staff and beneficiaries more effectively. Communication and documentation became paramount.

After putting these improvements in place felt, TPO Uganda felt comfortable with starting CHS Certification. Achieving CHS Certification had been a longstanding strategic goal for us. We saw Independent Verification as a valuable learning experience that would propel us closer to Certification. By the time we started the certification process, we had already made significant changes to our systems meaning we knew we were applying the CHS well.

Celebrating Success: Attaining CHS Certification

Now, with CHS Certification in place, we can offer even more assurances to the people we serve, as well as our partners and donors that we are making and maintaining continuous improvements – as we could lose our Certification if we do not stay at this level.

CHS Certification has built our donor confidence which has contributed to growth in our programme and financial portfolio. For example, donors like Dan Church Aid, HiltonFfoundation, USAID, UNHCR and ECHO have made reference to our CHS audits reports during their due diligence and accountability assessments.

As we eagerly anticipate our first community satisfaction survey post-COVID, we are confident that the results will be significantly higher as a result of all the changes we have made.

Today, we proudly display the CHS Certificate offered by HQAI on our website and in our offices. It symbolises our commitment to upholding the highest standards and continuously striving for excellence care for those we support. We have come a long way, and we hope our journey serves as an inspiration for others, particularly national NGOs. CHS Certification is not only possible but also a transformative experience that drives organisations towards positive change.

CHS Alliance recognises there are many types of organisations at different stages of their journey to meet their CHS Commitments. That’s why the CHS Alliance Verification Scheme offers three different approaches to verifying against the CHS.

These are:

  • Self-Assessment. Self-assessment is a learning exercise. It helps organisations understand their capacity and performance against the CHS, and builds an improvement plan to make the services they deliver work better for the people affected by crisis.
  • Independent Verification. Provides organisations with an external, independent assessment of capacity and improvement against the CHS.
  • Certification. Offers organisations a forensic diagnostic of the degree to which they have applied the CHS.

Independent Verification and Certification are conducted by an accredited, third-party auditor – currently this service is offered by HQAI.

Learn more about how verifying against the CHS can transform your organisation.