How PQASSO works

PQASSO is built on eleven quality areas - the building blocks an organisation needs in order to be able to operate to a high standard. Working through the quality areas enables you to assess how your organisation is doing and plan a clear path for development in each area.

The PQASSO quality areas

  1. Governance
  2. Planning
  3. Leadership and management
  4. User-centred service
  5. Managing people
  6. Learning and development
  7. Managing money
  8. Managing resources
  9. External communications
  10. Working with others
  11. Assessing outcomes and impact

Levels of achievement

Each quality area consists of two levels of achievement, allowing organisations of varying size to choose the most suitable option. Your organisation will choose the level according to its staff capacity, resources, organisational culture or working patterns.

You can apply for PQASSO accreditation after either level of self-assessment.

Level 1

Level 1 lays the foundation on which to build a strong organisation. When your organisation achieves level 1 in all quality areas, you will be able to show you have met your legal obligations and put in place basic systems and structures which protect the rights of your users and employees. For some organisations it will be sufficient to stay at this level.

Level 2

Once your organisation is able to show that you have met the indicators for level 1, you may decide to plan further improvements by aiming to achieve level 2, particularly if your organisation is well established, larger or more complex.

The decision to progress to level 2 will depend on your aspirations as an organisation and the resources you have available. You don't need to have accreditation at level 1 apply to be assessed at level 2, but you must be able to show that you have met all the indicators at level 1.

Evidence

An evidence-based self-assessment involves asking yourselves whether you meet each of the indicators in a quality area and supporting this with objective evidence. There are suggested sources of documentary evidence in PQASSO self-assessment to help you in this process, but you should always look for evidence that is appropriate for the way things actually work in your organisation.

Remember, documentary evidence must always be CARD:

  • Consistent – is practice consistent with policy and procedures? When evidence is collected, do documents complement and not contradict other documents?
  • Accessible – are relevant staff, board members and users aware of the existence of the evidence and where they can find it?
  • Recent – is the evidence up to date? Has it been recently developed or reviewed?
  • Dated – do you know when the evidence dates from? Is there a date on it?

Making improvements as you work through the quality areas

Governance

Ignoring governance or being ignorant of governance responsibilities can cause your organisation a number of problems including operating with unnecessary risk, lack of transparency, and even operating illegally.

Using PQASSO gives your organisation a framework within which to review and improve your governance, but you also need to understand your own requirements and responsibilities.

  • Read and review your charitable objects (at the top of your governing document), and make sure that all the work you are delivering is still within these.
  • Read carefully all rules in your governing document, and make sure you implement them in practice - from electing and resigning trustees, to quorums, eligibility for trusteeship, sub-committees, roles of officers, and so on.
  • Make sure all proceedings – meetings, decisions, conflicts, etc – are undertaken in a transparent way.

Financial stability

Working through quality areas 7 (managing money) and 8 (managing resources) enables your organisation to evaluate how effective it is in key areas of financial management. This will lead to greater financial stability by:

  • enabling the building of better, more robust systems for tracking how money is generated, received and spent
  • maximising income so that it is invested for best return, ensuring fundraising is targeted effectively and is a good use of staff time
  • diversifying income to a wider range to minimise risk and increase opportunity
  • enabling effective financial planning for new activities, projects or appeals
  • managing resources to minimise expenditure.

The importance of engaging trustees

PQASSO encourages a holistic, inclusive approach to carrying out the assessment. Staff from all levels are encouraged to take part in the process, benefiting the organisation as a whole, by:

  • improving cross-department communication
  • breaking down barriers to reduce silo working
  • creating a shared understanding of how implementing PQASSO benefits the organisation - now and in the future.

None of this would be possible without the authorisation, involvement and participation of the trustees. In many cases, trustees are only intermittently involved in the organisation – perhaps only attending board meetings, being involved in sub-groups, and having a limited operational role – but their involvement is a crucial component of ensuring a successful PQASSO process.

While involving trustees is a necessary step in the PQASSO process, constraints around time, availability and the perception of not interfering in operations may be obstacles to full trustee involvement and engagement.

Engage trustees by showing:

  • how the PQASSO process will help develop and strengthen the organisation by being applied as a holistic tool
  • how implementing PQASSO can lead towards financial stability
  • how PQASSO acts as a self-help tool that enables the board to evaluate itself against quality area 1 (governance)
  • how focusing on strategy setting and assessing if current practice meets the requirements of PQASSO can stimulate the board to make improvements
  • that implementing PQASSO gives the organisation the ability to be examined as a whole, to assess if it is focused, working to its potential and maximising all revenue potential
  • that becoming a PQASSO-accredited organisation makes it more attractive to funders, commissioners and stakeholders.

Trustees can also be engaged by being invited to actively participate in the process, perhaps in sub-groups focusing on specific units, such as quality area 1 (governance) or 2 (planning).

Trustees will be interviewed as part of the PQASSO Quality Mark assessment process, but by having them actively engaged, involved and communicated with from the earliest stages will make for a smoother, more joined up and thorough process for an organisation.

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