"The certification process was a huge effort for the whole organisation but, at the same time it was a unique learning experience and we are proud of what we have accomplished."
Istanbul/Geneva - November 2019.
The Turkish iNGO International Blue Crescent Relief and Development Foundation is certified by HQAI against the Core Humanitarian Standard on Quality and Accountability. This article explores the experience, challenges and benefits of their certification journey.
IBC is a Turkish iNGO established in 1999 that mainly works in emergency relief, health, education, livelihood & resilience and reconstruction & rehabilitation. The organisation works in more than 20 countries and the majority of its programmes are now located in Turkey responding to short- and long-term needs of vulnerable people fleeing conflicts in neighbouring countries. Turkey currently hosts the largest number of refugees and asylum seekers worldwide with approximately 3.6 million Syrians and 360’000 other personas of concern who have fled from crisis in Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran and Somalia. In this challenging environment, Nalan Üker, Programme Director, found precious time to talk about her experience of becoming a certified partner of HQAI.
Why did IBC decide to embark for certification against the Core Humanitarian Standard on Quality and Accountability (CHS)?
Nalan Üker (NÜ): The environment we work in is fast-pacing and requires a lot of time, energy and capacity. At heart of IBC has always been the endeavour to work with good governance, accountable and continuously learn as an organisation. But given the challenging circumstances in Turkey, IBC was more concerned with the delivery of daily activities than working on the quality and accountability of its programmes. Newly arrived people had to be registered, shelters had to be organised, food parcels delivered and health care facilities established… Taking a step back IBC realised that institutional improvement was necessary to stay true to its values of alleviating the suffering of people responsibly. We committed to the CHS by starting the certification process with HQAI. IBC saw the best way to go for the CHS through HQAI’s independent audits to explore the weaknesses of IBC and to improve our institutional capacity. We wanted to see the reality through an independent audit. IBC has just gone through its maintenance audit.
We wanted to see the reality through an independent audit.
How have you experienced the certification journey so far?
NÜ: The audit process was challenging for the organisation because it involved not only the development of new policies and mechanisms but we had to build capacities throughout the organisation on the implementation of the CHS. It was a team exercise and meant to invest profound time and resources for the dissemination of knowledge in the organisation. It took hours, days, months and years but today we are very pleased with the outcome and the support provided by HQAI and its auditors. The biggest challenge was to undergo this institutional development while being operational and serving the people in need. However, this process resulted in the end in a tremendous learning exercise for the whole organisation.
We had to build capacities throughout the organisation on the implementation of the CHS.
Can you describe some of the major learnings for IBC?
NÜ: One major novelty for IBC after the first certification cycle was the introduction of an in-depth context analysis before starting a new project. The use of disaggregated data now helps IBC to plan projects more relevantly. Monitoring and evaluation of projects became an inherent part of the project cycle and allows IBC to adjust projects according to the feedback of affected communities. Another novelty is the design of exist strategies for all of our programmes. Financial, geographical and other risks are now assessed continuously to adapt programmes accordingly and guarantee for the safety and security of its staff and the people affected by crisis. Not only staff has been trained on the new mechanisms but also the people who are part of IBC’s programmes are now informed about what they can expect from IBC and how to file complaints, if needed. One example was the new policy and mechanism on the Prevention of Sexual Abuse and Exploitation (PSEA) that was introduced as part of the certification process. This mechanism was not present before the audit process and was tested only recently. Although the incident itself is very unfortunate, it demonstrated that the new mechanism in place, works well and allows IBC to react and address such issues effectively and timely.
Not only staff has been trained on the new mechanisms but also the people who are part of IBC’s programmes are now informed about what they can expect from IBC and how to file complaints, if needed.
NÜ: IBC proudly communicated its certification to its donors and they were pleased. However, we were surprised by the general lack of knowledge about the CHS from other stakeholders and would really hope for better awareness of the CHS and recognition from the donor side. Today, IBC is the only certified partner of HQAI in Turkey and it took us a great amount of time and resources to get there. But we are very pleased with the outcome. This is also reflected in an increase of 7% of funding since our certification. I can only recommend the certification to other organisations. Maybe they can obtain a subsidy from HQAI, like IBC did.
We would really hope for better awareness of the CHS and recognition from the donor side.
HQAI would like to express its profound gratitude to Nalan Üker and IBC for sharing their experience.
Interview conducted by Annina Hunziker, Marketing & Communication Assistant at HQAI, in October 2019