How do we perform in our own application of the Core Humanitarian Standard?

By Geneviève Cyvoct
Geneviève Cyvoct is the CHS Alliance's Senior Quality & Accountability Officer.

As we keep encouraging our members to verify their application of the Core Humanitarian Standard (CHS), it is key to assess our own achievements with regard to the  Nine Commitments. Although we are much smaller than most of our members organisations, we figured that going through the self-assessment process ourselves would allow us to better tailor the assistance and guidance we provide.

Since we are not an implementing agency, and considering that some of our member organisations have similar mandates, we first adapted the CHS Self-Assessment tool to make it more relevant to our line of work. A tailormade CHS Self-Assessment tool for Secretariats is now available online. 

CHS Alliance's Self-assessment dashboard
Download CHS Alliance's Self-assessment dashboard 

What we found out

The overall results of the self-assessment are not too bad considering that we have been in existence for less than two years. Quite a number of policies and processes have been developed in 2016 and members have been consulted on several occasions. Here is an overview of the scoring:

Our services (1) and their timeliness (2) are considered relevant by members, as is the level of communication between the Secretariat and our members, and opportunities by members to contribute to our work (4). We do however lack a policy on data protection (3), our ambition does not always match our resources (2), and  we do feel that we can enhance communication with our members (4). There is no negative effect associated with our services (3). We have a complaint mechanism and, although it could be readvertised, members reported that they would feel comfortable contacting us in order to report an issue (5). We do make a point to work in collaboration with other stakeholders on quality and accountability initiatives (6). While it is early to tell whether we are a learning organisation, we do contribute to innovation in the sector (7). Staff is perceived as being professional and two staff surveys carried in 2015 and 2016 have shown improvement in staff satisfaction, despite limited resources (8). We have set up comprehensive financial policies and procedures, which are well followed, and we understand that value for money on membership fee is an important point in how members perceive us (9).

How we could improve 

Some of the actions included in our improvement plan include: increase the use of webinars to reach out to our members in a meaningful yet cost effective way; develop a network of champions to communicate more closely with our members and promote the CHS in line with our newly adopted communication strategy; develop key messages together with Groupe URD and Sphere on tools and possibilities around the use of the CHS at policy and field levels, and the complementarity of our respective services; develop a data protection policy; review the features of our internal database for more effective tracking of communication with members etc.

In addition, we will soon be launching our annual member survey, in which we will be including some questions that have come out of the self-assessment process such as, topics for webinars, knowledge of our complaint mechanism, ways to enhance communication with our members etc.  

How we went about it 

We appointed a Steering Committee which included about a third of our team, so it was quite representative, to say the least! Since I was in charge of spear-heading the self-assessment process within our Secratariat, I submitted a work plan to the Committee and our Executive Director, Judith F. Greenwood, who in turn shared it with our Board.

We started with the desk review, involving a set of colleagues in charge of various portfolios within our Secretariat. I collated results and planned staff interviews based on the desk reviews. A focus group discussion took place in Geneva and several interviews were conducted with our colleagues who work from London. In addition, we carried out a specific member survey to complement the information that we had already collected through preceding perception surveys. We also interviewed two Board members.

In August, I presented the draft summary report to the Steering Committee and to our Executive Director and we allocated scores. At one of our staff meetings, we split up in groups and discussed findings and possible courses of action. The outcome was then translated into an improvement plan, which will be presented to our Board in January 2018 and made available to our members soon afterwards.

It has definitely been worth going through the experience! Interstingly, our findings mirror some of our members' findings in that it offered us space to raise and discuss issues in relation to our work and the systems that we have (or not) in place. Thanks to the level of discussions we can say also that there is good ownership of the improvement plan, from which some actions have already started to be implemented.

Of course, as some of our members have also found out, carrying out a self-assessment process requires time and dedication, and it is not always easy to manage amidst other workstreams. That's why we have decided to develop additional guidance and tools to make the self-assessment process easier thanks to our own learnings, but also to the learnings that our members have shared with us so far.