Accreditation: The backbone of a strong Alliance

The Alliance has recently revamped its accreditation system, which is how we guarantee standards and ensure a shared vision and values across our membership. As all Linking Organisations prepare to be re-assessed, the international secretariat is the first organisation to go through the process. So how did we do?

About accreditation

Alliance accreditation guides the admission of new organisations and maintains standards for existing Linking Organisations. By signing our Charter and Linking Agreement, Alliance Linking Organisations commit to reaching the accreditation standards every four years. In this way, our accreditation system ensures that Linking Organisations are able to demonstrate their commitment to maintaining appropriate governance and organisational management systems.

A peer review process

Great care is taken when selecting the peer review team to carry out the assessment. The members are chosen for their complementary skills and expertise in the three main areas covered by the accreditation standards: governance and sustainability, organisational management and HIV programming. In January 2014, a peer-review assessment team of colleagues from Peru, Ukraine and Cambodia spent three days in the Alliance international secretariat in the UK, interviewing 27 internal and external stakeholders in order to rigorously assess our work against the 9 principles and 38 standards in the guidance.

“I was very excited to be part of the team and learnt a lot from the process.”

— Pen Monorom, Cambodia

The team members in this case were:

Monica Davison, Accreditation Advisor explained, “The varied and balanced experience of the field review team ensures that a constructive dialogue will occur when the team visits a Linking Organisation or in this case the secretariat. This enables the review team to gain a better understanding of the organisation, and ensure that recommendations are practical and effective.”

Pen Monorom who has worked for KHANA for 16 years said, “I was very excited to be part of the team and learnt a lot from the process.”

Results

The secretariat passed – and in some cases exceeded - all but two of the standards. They key strengths noted included the structure of the international board of trustees and its committees which had a well-organised information flow. The team highlighted our strong financial and human resource systems, with a recommendation that these should be shared further with Linking Organisations. Effective knowledge sharing through standards, case studies and good practice guides was also a strength. These are seen as important tools that benefit the wider Alliance.

The review team had significant insights and made helpful recommendations. For example, Gonzalo Iparraguirre (who focused on the governance and sustainability standards) expressed concern about the duration of the Alliance’s current strategic framework. He felt that seven years was too long given how rapidly the external environment is changing with regard to the HIV response and donor priorities. Pavlo Smyrnov, whilst praising the Alliance’s monitoring and evaluation systems, felt the system would benefit from more data audits in order to quality assure the information received from Linking Organisations.

In addition to the core standards, there are seven programme-related HIV and health technical areas containing a further 28 standards. The secretariat was required to select two technical areas and meet all the standards these contain. We chose harm reduction and integration of HIV and sexual and reproductive health services. We met both of these areas, which Pavlo Smyrnov also assessed.

Areas for improvement

We did not meet the required standards in two areas. The first was standard 32: our organisation is committed to the effective implementation of the Greater Involvement of People Living with HIV (GIPA) principles. While we demonstrated huge efforts in this area, including human resource programmes and policies, a friendly working environment, and provided examples of collaboration with organisations of people living with HIV, we had not conducted the formal organisational GIPA assessment.

The second was standard 36: our organisation is committed to ensuring the participation of those populations intended to benefit from programmes at all stages of the programme cycle. We provided evidence that we strive to ensure all programmes are focused on the people and communities most affected by HIV. However, from internal and external interviews, it was clear that some stakeholders think the Alliance secretariat can seem disconnected from these groups. Pavlo Smyrnov commented, “It was surprising to me to hear these comments but I would say we have the same issue within Alliance Ukraine, and probably for many Linking Organisations.” The review team have made detailed recommendations in this area, which the secretariat team has committed to address.