The Group scheme’s main principle is that it allows several organisations to apply for and benefit collectively from one of HQAI’s quality assurance services. The end result is that the Group as such is independently verified, certified or benchmarked against the CHS or any other applicable standard.
Within the Group scheme, the independent organisations collectively commit to the standard and shall establish a management system to ensure the quality control of the group. This management system, or group manager, will create an internal auditing capacity and regularly assess the compliance of the group members with the standard.
The Group scheme is a common auditing scheme in other sectors and is specially intended for small organisations, i.e. national organisations or international organisations. HQAI's Group scheme is addressed to organisations that do not carry out their missions in more than five countries.
Currently, a group is limited to a maximum of 20 members.
One major benefit of the Group scheme is that it allows for small organisations to benefit from economies of scale that would otherwise be available only to large networks. Audit costs can be distributed between the participants in a group, hence, reducing the individual financial burden. As a consequence, the Group scheme allows audit services to become financially accessible for a wider range of organisations.
The Group members strengthen their internal quality assurance capacities as they jointly establish a system to regularly check the compliance of all members of the group. Ultimately, this leads to an inside-driven collective learning process, through exchanging experiences and knowledge between the member organisations. Organisations join forces and minimise the individual administrative workload during the audit process and over time.
Members of a certified group can credibly show to external stakeholders, including donors, that they have robust mechanisms in place to ensure the quality and accountability of their work.
To summarise, the Group scheme is an effective way to simplify access to independent audit services for all sizes and types of organisations.*
HQAI offers three types of services, as explained here: benchmarking, independent verification and certification. Within the Group scheme each of these services can be applied. In all cases HQAI will audit the management system of the Group, check the internal quality assurance mechanisms implemented by the Group, and audit a sample of member organisations (from the headquarters to project sites and including the voices of people the organisation works with).
How does the Group scheme contribute to the Grand Bargain?
The Group scheme is a very practical tool to support the localisation agenda. Offering significant economies of scale, it reduces the costs for local or small organisations and facilitates their access to independent quality assurance. Moreover, the scheme creates national capacities (auditing capacity within the group), and allows organisations to benefit from national and international recognition as organisations that are part of a Group that is certified, independently verified or benchmarked against international standards.
Another important tool that supports the localisation agenda is HQAI’s subsidy fund which can cover up to 90% of the auditing costs.
16 organisations of ActionAid were the first to accomplish the independent verification process by HQAI as a Group. The learnings for the group have been tremendous and will be shared with the entire federation to improve and mainstream best practices to ensure quality and accountability programming throughout ActionAid. Further, an ActionAid representative mentioned that “the people affected are also more powerful now, especially women leaders that we work with.” HQAI’s final report on the independent verification profoundly helped the group to identify high performance areas and others in which improvements are needed. The full report can be found here and the experience of ActionAid can be read in-depth in an article by the CHS Alliance.
Do you wish to learn more about the Group scheme or have questions?
It is time to reach out to HQAI’s quality assurance team and discuss your specific case: firstname.lastname@example.org
* A group is also eligible for a subsidy thus making the process even more affordable.