Technical Assistance for
Civil Society Organisations

Quality assurance system

Although the term quality management may sound like a novelty, that is not the case. Its roots originate as far back as the World War I, which triggered mass production and in turn brought about the need for quality control. However, that concept started developing more seriously in North America and Japan only after 1950. Japanese companies trained their workers to ensure that quality became an integral part of routine during the course of production, instead of quality control at the end of the process. Although the application of quality assurance systems is most frequent in commerce, it has spread to the service industry, which includes operations of non-governmental organisations.

The system of quality assurance and management implies introduction of standard, transparent operating procedures designed to contribute to the accomplishment of certain goals and the fulfilment of the mission of the organisation, including non-governmental organisations. Therefore, the introduction of quality management systems could be perceived as a foundation and first serious step towards promotion, establishment and further development of quality infrastructure within non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

NGOs aim to provide the best possible services for their beneficiaries and other interested parties. Since non-governmental organisations are getting increasingly involved in cooperation with the public and private sectors, they are more frequently expected to demonstrate that they provide quality services and that they effectively and efficiently manage their organisations, often under difficult and challenging circumstances.

In addition, most organisations are faced with tough competition with other organisations that provide similar services. They can compete with them for grants, contracts or clients. Commitment to quality is an important way in which an organisation may prepare itself to compete with its rivals.
A non-governmental organisation interested in fulfilling its mission in a committed manner must provide good services to its clients and, at the same time, demonstrate professionalism, transparency and good and rational management of its resources in its interactions with its donors. Sometimes, even organisations that provide good services to their clients have to work very hard to prove it to others.

A high-quality NGO is an organisation, which provides a variety and scope of services as demanded by interested parties, through effective and efficient management of its processes with the intent of accomplishing the agreed and desired results. The Short Guide for NGOs is intended to be a guide for NGOs to improve their own internal systems and their overall organisational performance. It is based on requirements of ISO 9001:2008, and it provides basic guidelines for the self-assessment of different areas of work. This document is not sufficient for introducing quality systems, but it is useful literature for any organisation planning to improve its work.

ISO 9001:2008

ISO 9001:2008 aims at guaranteeing the effectiveness (but not necessarily the efficiency) of the organisation. The standard is applicable to all types of organisations.

The adoption of quality management system should be a strategic decision of an organisation.

The design and implementation of an organisation’s quality management system is influenced by:

  • Its organisation environment, changes in that environment, and the risks associated with that environment;
  • Its varying needs;
  • Its particular objectives;
  • The products it provides;
  • The processes it employs;
  • Its size and organisational structure.

It is not the intent of this standard to imply uniformity in the structure of quality management systems or uniformity of documentation. It is flexible enough to allow each organisation to develop its own documentation and rules as a response to standard requirements.

The methodology known as PDCA (Plan-Do-Check-Act) can be applied to all processes. It is an iterative four-step management method used in business for the control and continuous improvement of processes and products. It is also known as the Deming circle/cycle.

More on quality assurance systems is available in the Short Guide for NGOs, developed by TACSO.