Practical Quality Assurance System for Small Organisations (PQASSO)
PQASSO is a quality assurance system that helps management to run an organisation
effectively and efficiently. Created by and for the voluntary sector, it asks organisations
PQASSO is an ‘off-the-shelf’ quality assurance system. First developed in 1997, it was
designed specifically for use within voluntary and community sector organisations, and
Designed as a work pack, it is simple and straightforward to use. It offers a flexible
approach to quality enabling an organisation to work at its own pace without
consultancy fees. It aims to help organisations to set priorities for the future to improve
their performance. Charities Evaluation Services (CES) has also designed a CD-ROM to
complement the work pack and make the self-assessment process more manageable.
It has many useful features that save time and create more efficient ways of working.
PQASSO covers 12 quality standards and promotes continuous improvement through self assessment.
The 12 quality areas are:
PQASSO 3rd edition has a more marked outcomes focus, and the results quality area requires evidence about social, economic and environmental outcomes and impacts as well as financial and fundraising results and user satisfaction.
PQASSO offers a staged approach to implementing quality through three levels of achievement. Very small or newly formed organisations may decide to work towards achieving Level 1 only. After achieving Level 1, more established or complex organisations may decide to progress to Level 2 and then to Level 3. Each level offers guidance on what is required to run a healthy, efficient and effective organisation.
The benefits of working with PQASSO rely on everyone involved being committed to
making the necessary changes. A part of gaining that commitment involves
stakeholders understanding the benefits for their organisations. PQASSO can be used
for a single project or as a self-assessment tool for understanding the quality of the
For those organisations that wish to use PQASSO for more than just an internal selfassessment
tool, the PQASSO Quality Mark is an externally assessed ‘kitemark’ to
show that an organisation has met the PQASSO standards. From 2009 the mark will
offer accreditation against the PQASSO quality standards. Once achieved the mark is
valid for three years. There is a cost for accreditation depending on the size of the
PQASSO was designed for small and medium-sized organisations and projects but can be used by voluntary and community organisations of all sizes, in all stages of development in the voluntary sector both in the UK and internationally. Over 13,000 copies of the work pack have been sold.
The implementation of PQASSO will need to be supported by senior management and trustees, who need to be visibly committed to the process. The process would also benefit from someone to drive the process forward – a ‘quality champion’.
Proficiencies or skills
Honesty, a commitment to quality, and a desire to improve are the attributes required in a group wanting to implement PQASSO. Aside from some knowledge and skills relating to the 12 individual quality areas being present in the organisation, no additional specialist skills are required for self-assessment (the assessment will also identify where skills or information are needed).
Implementing a quality assurance system does require staff time and resources, particularly at the outset. Time will be required for self-assessment, action planning and implementing improvement actions as a result of these activities, but this can be done flexibly and over a period of time.
Courses, support, and information
CES can help organisations to implement PQASSO through training, mentoring,
consultancy, seminars and conferences.
CES offers a range of training courses designed to support organisations to
implement PQASSO. All CES courses can be run at a venue of the organisation’s
choice or participants may attend CES’s subsidised training in London. CES also coordinates
a licensed PQASSO Mentor scheme which enables them to enhance the
quality of support available in the voluntary and community sector to organisations
CES have also produced brief guides on PQASSO designed to provide a detailed
overview of the process for community and voluntary organisations, as well as for
commissioners and funders. A more detailed publication, PQASSO in Practice,
PQASSO is produced by the Charities Evaluation Services (CES).
The PQASSO 3rd edition work pack costs £95 + p+p and the CD-ROM £54 plus
p+p. The CD-ROM must be used in conjunction with the work pack; you will not be
able to implement PQASSO using the CD-ROM alone.
A demonstration copy of the CD-ROM is available free of charge and will allow you to see what PQASSO is like before you buy the work pack.
Organisations that have used PQASSO:
Charities Evaluation Services (CES)
Tel: 020 7713 5722 Fax: 020 7713 5692