In September 2021 Voluntary Norfolk will be launching its Strong Foundations Programme, created to help small charities and community groups understand what policies, procedures, processes and practices they need to have in place to run safely and well. With strong foundations, organisations are more likely to be stable and secure, to inspire confidence and to successfully build on their strengths.

Completion of the Programme will enable groups to demonstrate to their partners, funders, group members, staff and volunteers that they care about delivering high quality, safe services and their systems are robust and in accordance with best practice.

The main element of the Strong Foundations Programme is a Self Assessment Framework, designed to encourage groups to think about what they do and why, to reflect on how well things are going and whether there are any areas they need to develop or improve. To ensure that the assessment is a true reflection of an organisation, this part of the Framework should involve a team of stakeholders, including group leaders, funders, partners and members.

The second, optional, element is the External Assessment, for which groups will need to gather and submit a portfolio of evidence relating to the sections of the framework and submit it to a panel of voluntary and statutory sector leaders. As part of the External Assessment process a member of Voluntary Norfolk’s Communities Team will visit the group and talk to organisers and members. Groups who successfully complete the external assessment will be awarded a Strong Foundation Certificate valid for three years.

The Programme has been designed and developed by Voluntary Norfolk and a steering group of local organisations. The framework was reviewed by officers at the Norfolk Safeguarding Adult Board. Voluntary Norfolk has over 50 years’ experience of supporting voluntary groups in Norfolk and provided expertise relating to data protection, volunteer management, youth work, working with older people, and charity governance.

The Steering Group members were selected for their diversity of size and experience and comprised Rocklanders Youth Club, Attleborough Boxing Club, MTM Youth Services, The Diocese of Norwich and The Safer Programme (part of the Norfolk Safeguarding Children Partnership). All of the Steering Group members had previously achieved the Ambition Quality First Steps ( a similar quality mark that is no longer available), and have experience of running safe, high quality services and know what it is like to go through a quality assurance programme.

The Strong Foundations Programme is completely free of charge for voluntary groups in Norfolk, including downloading the framework, the external assessment and certificate. Groups who participate in the Framework, either wholly or in part, can also benefit from the advice, expertise, knowledge and support of Voluntary Norfolk’s Communities Team.

Contact Aimee Gedge to be notified directly when the Framework is available and for details of how to apply.