Strong Foundations Programme Update

In September 2021 Voluntary Norfolk launched its Strong Foundations Programme. It has been 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.

The Strong Foundations 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. It has provided expertise relating to data protection, volunteer management, youth work, working with older people, and charity governance.


The Two Elements of Strong Foundations

The main element of the Strong Foundations Programme is a Self-Assessment Framework. This is designed to encourage groups to think about what they do and why. It also aims to get them 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. It’s not designed to be a ‘tick box’ exercise where you simply record what policies you have. The framework includes some hints and tips about what good policies should include, and push you to go the extra mile. There’s also a Resources Section at the end with a list of places you can go to find out more.

The second, optional, element is the External Assessment. For this groups will need to gather and submit a portfolio of evidence relating to the sections of the framework. These include, Engagement and Participation, Safeguarding, Valuing People, Planning, Running and Evaluating Activities, Health and Safety, Collecting and Storing Data, Governance and Finance and (optional) Additional Evidence to submit 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.


Commitments involved with Strong Foundations

The Programme is completely optional. There is no requirement to do it. Choosing not to do it won’t prevent you from receiving support and advice from Voluntary Norfolk. You might choose to use the framework internally as part of a policy review but not go for the assessment/certification. That’s absolutely fine. However, going through the whole process gives you the chance to get feedback from a range of different people in the sector about how your group is doing and how it could improve.

There is also no timeframe for this Programme. We understand that completion will depend on organisation’s size and the resources able to dedicate to working through the framework. Small and medium-sized organisations should be able to work through the  framework and gather evidence for assessment within six months. However, if you need to take longer or want to put it on pause for a while then that’s okay. If you’re working towards the certificate, we won’t set a date for your assessment until you’re satisfied with your evidence. That should avoid a last-minute rush to get everything ready on time. Having said that, we do recommend you try to complete it within a year. Otherwise you might find that any evidence you started gathering at the beginning of your Strong Foundations journey is out of date and needs to be replaced.


Benefits of participating in the Strong Foundations programme

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 Strong Foundations Programme is completely FREE of charge for all voluntary groups in Norfolk. This includes 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, and for groups working with young people aged 11-19 the Momentum (Part of Voluntary Norfolk) Team.


Further Information

From the Strong Foundations website, you will also be able to access our Strong Foundations Resources including a link to Download the Strong Foundations Self-Assessment Framework and a link to Download the Strong Foundations Q&A.

To find out more about Voluntary Norfolk’s Strong Foundations Programme, please contact Charlotte Berry (Momentum Groups Officer). She will be more than happy to help!


T: 07810 406136

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