The Cambodia Trust, which provides rehabilitation and prosthetic limbs for
landmine and polio victims, has become the first Cambodian NGO - and one of the
first NGOs in the world - to gain international accreditation under the ISO
Country director Kathleen Biggs said recent events at local NGOs
highlighted the need for higher standards, something the ISO accreditation
showed the Trust has achieved.
"It was exhausting and very difficult,
but we can now guarantee that our patients will get the same quality standard
across all clinics," said Biggs. "We are constantly looking at empowering staff
- the more they are empowered, the better the service they'll give."
standard that the Trust achieved in its tenth year in Cambodia was for
management. Known as 9001:2000, the standard focuses on two principles: customer
focus and continual improvement. It is part of the NGO's bid to make the
Cambodian operation locally run.
In the past, said Biggs, many
organizations pulled out leaving local people in management positions for which
they had not been properly trained, and without the proper structures and
empowerment of staff.
"I've seen staff in some Cambodian organizations
accept conditions that I felt were abusive because they were too frightened to
do anything about it," said Biggs. "When I came to the Trust the staff were
empowered and we've been increasing that ever since."
Part of the NGO's
approach was to flatten the traditionally vertical management structure. Without
that, said Biggs, staff would not have been able to participate fully in making
"We would not have got the ISO accreditation unless every
single member of our staff was involved," she said. And no less important, she
believes donors will now demand a culture of good governance. The ISO standard
would also help the Trust when it came to raising more funds.
knew we were good, but now we can prove it - somebody from outside has come in
and said, 'Yes, you are good'," she said, adding that other NGOs would likely
embark on similar efforts to improve quality.
That has been recognized at
the Cambodian Mine Action Center (CMAC), which had substantial problems in the
late 1990s. John Gabriel Masson, CMAC's quality assurance advisor, said the
organization was looking to match, rather than be awarded, the ISO
"We are benchmarking our internal practices against ISO and
sent a Cambodian staff member to Singapore last month to train as an auditor for
ISO 9000," said Masson.