The self-assessment, a “heavy exercise” or a helpful investment for the future?
In March 2019, Medical Teams International joined the ever-growing group of organisations that have verified their performance against the Core Humanitarian Standard (CHS) through one of the four options of the CHS Verification Scheme, bringing its total number to 55 organisations. Congratulations!
As this group of organisations grows, the CHS Alliance is determined to make the self-assessment process as smooth and helpful as possible. It is with this objective in mind that the guidance for conducting the exercise has been revised, making those processes clearer.
In this blog we want to challenge an assumption often raised by organisations as an obstacle for starting their self-assessment: the perceived heaviness of the process. Is this just another “heavy exercise”?
A self-assessment is a full evaluation of your organisation’s performance against the nine commitments of the CHS. Same as for an external audit conducted for a certification, it looks at your systems and policies in place, it questions your staff, both at HQ and in the field, and it even goes as far as engaging the crisis-affected populations you assist to get their views. The value of the process lies precisely in its inclusiveness, comprehensiveness and rigour. You will learn how your organisation as a whole can improve, and what areas should be focused on, with an unprecedented level of precision. That’s why organisations like Care, LWF, ACF UK or Spain, Medair and World Vision are completing self-assessments, sometimes even at country level. That’s also why donors are looking at it with interest, and potentially as a credible tool to reinforce the confidence they need in the organisations they fund. This wouldn’t be possible with a “light” or “easy” form of verification.
Secondly, the amount of resources to commit to the process depends on the size of your organisation, with smaller organisations requiring less than larger ones. Based on experience from users, a national organisation can complete a self-assessment in 15 days of work, an international organisation working in less than ten countries can do so in 35 days, and the number goes progressively up to 53 days as the number of countries of operation surpasses 20. In the most recent example, Medical Teams International (an international organisation operating in 7 countries) completed its self-assessment in two months (or 30 days of work).
While this amount of effort is not negligible, it should be interpreted as an investment for the future rather than just another expense. By completing a self-assessment your organisation will know where resources can be committed to being the most impactful. Should you invest in policies on a specific matter? Or in training your staff? The self-assessment will give you those insights.
Finally, while acknowledging that the total amount of required resources is indeed important, not all of them have to be committed at the same time. The process goes through various steps and lasts for around six months. So, it’s never too early to start planning. “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can,” Arthur Ashe, the famous tennis player and AIDS campaigner, said once.
For your organisation, this can be today with a message to me at email@example.com, for a first conversation on your future self-assessment. I look forward to working with you on this.
 The four verification scheme options are: self-assessment, peer-review, independent verification or certification.
 The tools can be accessed at: https://www.chsalliance.org/what-we-do/verification/self-assessment
 DANIDA requests its grantees to be certified against the CHS.
 Average figures based on information collected from users – the number of days is for the team Leader of the assessment.