An analysis of existing sector level quality approaches: identifying
lessons to inform Bond’s effectiveness framework
One World Trust
Purpose of the study:
With a number of initiatives already existing that offer approaches to quality that are
applicable to a diverse range of organisations, this research set out to better understand the
individual and collective lessons that have been learnt by ten initiatives, both within and
outside the NGO community, with regards to how sector wide frameworks are designed and
in turn implemented. In doing so it highlights key issues for Bond to consider as it moves
forward with its own effectiveness framework.
The study however also goes beyond an individual and comparative analysis. Reflecting on
the lessons of other initiatives and the expertise of the One World Trust more broadly, it
proposes a potential approach for an effectiveness framework and makes some tentative
suggestions about its content.
15 Interviews were conducted with representatives of ten quality initiatives. In these
discussions five common themes were explored:
1) Design process – when the framework was developed how, did the organisation
work with users / members to get agreement on how to develop it, what it should do and
2) Structure – What is the framework for and what are the main things that it looks at
3) Implementation – How does the framework stimulate buy in and the engagement of
its users / members? Over time what have been the main reasons why they want to use
4) Compliance mechanisms - How does the organisation monitor the application of the
5) Support infrastructure – What kinds of infrastructure and support does the
framework need to maintain itself?
The frameworks included in the study were: the ACFID Code of Conduct, the CCIC Code of
Ethics, the Practical Quality Assurance System for Small Organisations (PQASSO), the
Disasters Emergency Committee Accountability Framework, the HAP Humanitarian
Accountability and Quality Management Standard, European Foundation for Quality
Management (EFQM) Excellence Model, ISO 9001 Quality Management Standard, the ISEAL
Code of Good Practice for Setting Social and Environmental Standards, NCVO’s Campaign
Effectiveness Programme, People in Aid Code of Conduct, and The Sphere Project.
In order for an effectiveness framework to be successful, there needs to be clarity
around why it is being developed, and for whom? This is crucial, as the answers to
both questions will shape both the content and structure of the initiative and the
approach taken to incentivising its implementation.
In order to be successful a framework needs to be seen as adding value and
responding to a well-defined need. It needs to occupy a niche within the wider
landscape of quality frameworks and approaches.
While building consensus around the components of a framework is important, when
working with a very diverse set of organisations consensus decision-making can lead
to agreement slipping towards the lowest common denominator.
Effectiveness is a product of different parts of an organisation such a programmes,
leadership and HR working together. While this makes the task of improving
effectiveness more complex, a framework needs to present this integrated view.
While frameworks have components that are common to all organisations, they need
to be flexible enough to allow different types of organisations to ‘see themselves’ in
Developing a framework is only the first step along a much longer journey towards
effectiveness. Organisations implementing the framework will need ongoing support
APPROACHES TO PARTNERSHIP
What was the purpose of the research?
The purpose of this piece of work was to gather and synthesise sector best practice, such as
is available, regarding the conduct of “partner relations” by UK NGOs in international
development, with a view to incorporating the learning into the Bond Effectiveness
Programme emergent framework.
a) To determine as comprehensive a list as possible of those organisations who have, in the
last 3 years or so, conducted systematic internal assessments/ evaluations/ surveys of
the quality of their partnerships with southern organisations – and who have documented
the resulting knowledge/learning.
b) To select from the list as diverse and representative sample as possible of (around 10)
organisations, representing the highest quality of thinking and process, and to examine in
more depth their documentation and experience to draw together the common learnings
and significant variations amongst them.
c) From b), to build a robust analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of NGOs work and
relationships with partners and to create a digest of the recurrent lessons regarding their
d) Furthermore, where organisations have gone beyond this learning and reflection to
develop their own “Partnership Policy” or “Partnership Guidelines” etc to apply their
knowledge and upgrade/standardise their practice, the consultant will compare and
contrast these for their shared features and innovations, and to present an annotated
draft composite for discussion by Bond Effectiveness Programme NGOs.
Who was involved?
21 development agencies, who all whom have range of between 10 to 1,500 partner
relationships at any one time, participated in the research and were able to share information
on their approach. Of these 10 were contacted and asked more specifically
What makes for partnership success?
What elements would you change in your current practice to improve your partnerships
How do you know your partnerships are working well? What demonstrable evidence do
Given the time limitations only International NGOs based in the north were consulted and
therefore no southern partners were asked for their views.
What are the key areas covered in the research?
The research report looks at the different types of partnership, examines why agencies
choose to work through partners and then looks at elements which make for partnership
success. These include having clear partnership principles, defining roles, responsibilities
and accountabilities as well as conducting partner reviews. The report goes on to identify
some common practices, assesses the strengths and weaknesses of current approaches and
identifies some good practice. Finally the report looks at some emerging trends around
approaches to partnership in the sector before making some recommendations.