Knowledge, quality and continuity
In 2017 we enthusiastically started applying all the new methods and tools that we had developed in 2016. Our Knowledge & Quality team supports us in this, both within the organisation and in the projects with our partners. Of course, we want to guarantee that the organisation is future-proof and that we can continue to do our work safely. A detailed risk analysis and an adapted safety policy help us to achieve that.
Knowledge & Quality
Knowledge development is of great importance for an organisation like Free Press Unlimited. How does press freedom develop in the countries in which we work, how can we help journalists to protect themselves better? How do we continuously monitor whether we are achieving our goals? What are the most important issues that we need to lobby internationally and who can we work with? Which topics do children find important in country X and which partner in country Y can help his colleagues in country Z? Just a cross-section of the questions we face every day. To answer this, the work of our Knowledge & Quality team is indispensable.
In 2017, the Knowledge & Quality team introduced various methods to monitor our projects and evaluate the results. Outcome Harvesting, for example, the Most Significant Change stories and tracking media attention for women in gender media monitoring. For partners, they developed a Stakeholder Analysis: a questionnaire and step-by-step plan with which organisations can determine their policy influencing strategy.
At the end of 2017, the Knowledge & Quality team enriched the organisation with an innovative experiment: a database in which we collect ‘evidence’ for our Theory of Change. What works and what does not work as we expected? In this evidence base we find stories, reports, evaluations and results from our own employees and external experts. Each document teaches us something about a step in our Theory of Change. The database contains, for example, an external report that shows how investigative journalism contributes to combating corruption and building a democracy; a recognition of media’s watchdog task.
This ‘proof’ and the stories, can also be used to clarify what Free Press Unlimited actually does and what results we achieve (e.g. fundraising). Or on which issues we want to influence policy. Thanks to this database, we can also quickly see which gaps there are in our knowledge – and where we need to carry out further research. For the time being, the team fills and tests this promising source of knowledge itself, but if everything works satisfactorily, it will become accessible to the entire organisation. For that reason, the evidence base has already been built within our internal Wiki.
Project management information: we just do it ourselves
Last year we wrote about the issue that was giving us sleepless nights: the search for a good information system to manage our projects. In 2017, this quest ended unexpectedly right where it started: at the Free Press Unlimited office. What happened? At the end of 2016 we initiated a pilot with our (then) best option, open source software that most fully met our requirements. But it turns out it is very difficult to put Free Press Unlimited’s work into a system. Moreover, the chosen information system was very user-unfriendly. Then we had a eureka-moment: why not build a project management information system ourselves, on our internal Wiki? It would also be a lot cheaper than buying expensive external software. No sooner said than done. We will probably be able to work with this system by early 2018.
Free Press Unlimited meets several recognised quality standards.
- A variant of ISO 9001 that applies specifically to the development sector. This is also called the Partos standard, after Partos, the Dutch association of development organisations. Because our certificate for ISO 9001:2008 expires in April 2018, in 2017, we prepared ourselves well for the new version, ISO 9001:2015. We had an external expert investigate whether we had done so well enough. They judged our management processes to be ‘adequately organised and secured’ and that ‘the organisation is well on the way to full implementation of the elements of the new standard ‘. In early 2018, our ISO project team will make sure the transition runs smoothly.
- Free Press Unlimited is a Recognised Charity. In 2016, this quality label replaced the old CBF quality label and is the initiative of cooperating quality label organisations such as CBF and Charity Netherlands. In 2017, Free Press Unlimited also met the strict standards of this quality label.
- Free Press Unlimited reports on the projects in the Strategic Partnership in accordance with the standards of the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI). However, there is an agreement that we do not publish data that might endanger people and organisations. We have recorded what we do and do not make public in a special Exclusion Policy.
- Free Press Unlimited has drawn up its own code of conduct to which all employees must adhere. Moreover, as a member of Partos and Charity Netherlands we abide by their codes of conduct.
Every year, Free Press Unlimited analyses the most important risks that the organisation faces. We do this in accordance with ISO 31000 risk management. In the table below, we list the most important risks, how likely they are, what the consequences are and what measures we take to prevent these risks. This table is, among other things, in line with the new RJ650 guideline. To help our employees avoid risks, the internal Wiki contains a detailed analysis, complete with sample scenarios.
|Digital safety||By hacks, phishing, spying or unsecured digital communication leaks privacy sensitive information that may endanger people’s lives.||Digital environment is outsourced to specialist IT-hostRegular training of employees. Information security is part of the general safety policy.||Probable||Major|
|Survival||Funding of media projects becomes difficult due to changes in the political environment.||Active lobby for developing media and compliance with Sustainable Development Goal 16.10 (access to information)||Average||Major|
|Performance||Projects are not or are poorly carried out, resulting in damage to the reputation of Free Press Unlimited, its partner and/or the donor.||Compliance with and regular monitoring of project procedures.Crisis management plan is integrated in the organisation and MT is trained.||Improbable||Major|
|Fraud||Fraud or wrong information during the performance of a project.||Compliance with project procedures, financial controls, location visits, limited sub-grants (1 year), sanctions.||Average||Small|
|Strategy||Directors are too involved in performance instead of strategy.||Training and coaching for directors and managers.||Average||Limited|
|Reputation||Threats of damage reputation to Free Press Unlimited through negative reporting about our projects or in crisis situations.||Compliance with and regular monitoring of project procedures.Crisis management plan is integrated in the organisation and MT is trained.||Average||Limited|
|Conflict areas||The country where we are carrying out one or more projects becomes too instable, resulting in the suspension of projects.||Context analysis before carrying out project, so that risks are known. In case of an unexpected crisis, contact donor immediately and inform partner of steps (closure, hibernation).||Probable||Major|
|Compliance||Free Press Unlimited or its partners do not or insufficiently meet the agreements with the donor during the performance of a project, resulting in damage to the reputation of Free Press Unlimited.||The Finance Department checks all the demands in advance and the reports during performance.
Financial start-up meeting per project, in which donor demands are determined and measures are taken to meet them.
|Finance||Insufficient financial control over local offices.||Annual financial checklist, continuous monitoring, regular contact with local financial staff.Pay advances monthly.||Average||Limited|
Free Press Unlimited not only helps journalists do their work as safely as possible, safety is also top priority within our organisation. All our employees must follow a safety course. In January 2017 we organised a training in crisis management, which we will do every year.
Our internal Wiki contains various security protocols that every employee can check. But all those separate regulations and manuals do not make things much clearer. That is why in 2017 we combined all agreements and procedures into one security policy, which will take effect in January 2018. This tells you, for example, how you can effectively prepare for a trip to a high-risk country. Or what measures you need to take to work safely with digital information – for example, encrypting e-mail messages or surfing the Internet via a detour (VPN). It also explains how you can identify the risks per project and what measures you can take to minimise them.
Because new European rules for the protection of personal data come into force as of May 2018, we carried out comprehensive preparations in 2017. A major advantage for us is that our own security policy is already so stringent: Free Press Unlimited is accustomed to working with sensitive information (from partners). We identified all the personal data in our databases and then thoroughly investigated them. Conclusion: the data are properly protected, and the risks are as small as possible.
Digital security is becoming more important every day. It is no coincidence that the risk of hacking, phishing or spying was a red flag in our risk analysis. If we are not constantly on our guard when we store or share something online, we may unintentionally endanger the lives of our partners. That is why we work closely with our partner Greenhost and have our own security team (including a digital security specialist). They keep a sharp eye on ensuring that Free Press Unlimited employees keep themselves and their data safe.
Free Press Unlimited tries to reduce its CO2-emissions as much as possible:
- We encourage travelling by public transport and working from home.
- We purchase green energy from renewable sources, i.e. solar and wind.
- We fly climate-neutral. We compensate our air travel through the Climate Neutral Group.
- Our paper consumption has dropped significantly in the last few years, particularly by printing less. What helps, is that we digitally share almost all the internal information and revise it through our Wiki. If we buy products, installations or services, we opt as much as possible for the most sustainable and greenest variant.