Striving Towards Excellence – a few thoughts on progress (?) towards people-centred services

A new blog from David Warner
Striving Towards Excellence (Quality Standards in London’s Single Homelessness Sector) was a report published about 20 years ago by Homeless Network. Penned by the lovely Heather Petch (@HeatherMPetch) and funded by London Boroughs Grants (now incorporated into London Councils) it set out to present the (then) state of play as to how voluntary homelessness agencies were grappling with quality standards and quality service delivery. But more of this in a moment…..
As regular readers will know (yes all 7 of you) Lesley and I are in the process of relocating to the lovely original English seaside town of Scarborough in North Yorkshire. In between work and lawyers, we are decluttering our current home and sifting through 21 years worth of accumulated stuff!
This Bank Holiday weekend it was the turn of the roof space (attic in our case as there is no fixed staircase – in case you were wondering about the distinction between loft and attic) to have its moment in the spotlight. So after 90 minutes of going up and down the ladder, the contents of the attic were piled up in the back bedroom, and two very dusty humans started to de-clutter, assisted by two very amused dogs.  There was a pile for the charity shop, a pile for ‘Freecycle’, a pile of 7 cases of single malt whisky (42 bottles left to be accurate – but that’s worthy of a blog of its own) joining a few other things that are destined to be transported to the seaside, and a pile for the recycle bin/dump.
A copy of  Striving Towards Excellence was placed in the last pile (along with a variety of other annual reports and papers from that period of my career).
Nostalgia kicked in and I decided to have one last skim through, and after a few minutes it went from the dump/recycle pile to the keep and take to Scarborough box. The reason why is very simple: despite it describing a world 20 years in the past the report could be talking about the here and now, albeit the language has changed slightly. Gems like:
“…(the) recommended a more client-centered approach based on greater co-ordination amongst all relevant partners…..”
“…….there are some indications that the general public wishes to see more openness and accountability in the charitable sector……..”
“…..getting to the heart of an organisation’s mission and the activities and outcomes required….are critical to the process of ……….achieving quality”
“………….there is some concern…….(that quality) standards would be used to consolidate and rationalise the sector….”
And my personal favourite (something I hear week in and week out):
“Co-ordination of expectations and requirements amongst funders is as much a concern as co-ordination amongst providers in creating more efficient and effective standards of monitoring and evaluation.”
So that’s why it’s travelling to Scarborough, to remind me (in case I ever forget), that the challenge of putting people at the heart of the system, the importance of a relentless focus on mission and impact, and the need for effective collaboration, are as important today as they were 20 years ago, and (I suspect) will be 20 years in the future!