|Award for Excellence|
What is the Award for Excellence?
The Award for Excellence is a way to recognize and reward excellence that already exists throughout the network of over 1,000 Community Action Agencies (CAAs). It assists CAAs to advance by learning from the best CAAs and instituting improvements in their organizations. The process works by identifying organizations that can demonstrate excellence in seven organizational categories. Promoting excellence and helping others adopt proven best practices generates a commitment to excellence that is contagious and beneficial. The Award process closely follows the prestigious Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, adapted to reflect CAA's language and operations. Like the Baldrige Award, the Award for Excellence is both a "recognition" system, and a "learning" system for the CAA network.
What Are the Benefits?
Every organization can and should strive to improve how they do business, serve their customers, and exceed the expectations of their community and constituency. CAAs now more than ever need to compete for diminishing resources by improving the efficiency and effectiveness of their operations. Excellence is about identifying and exceeding customer expectations, and striving for maximum possible performance. The Award for Excellence in Community Action serves as a vehicle to recognize and reward the very best Community Action Agencies and, of equal importance, improve how they conduct business and deliver services. By participating, CAAs will help identify and proliferate excellence throughout the CAA network.
What is the Selection Process?
The Award for Excellence in Community Action is voluntary and confidential. It is open to all CAAs that are Community Action Partnership members in good standing. It involves completing a rigorous Self-Study, submitting it for third-party peer expert review, and hosting a verification site visit by a peer review team. The Award for Excellence Commission and the Partnership Board of Directors complete the selection process for the Award.
Is Selection Competitive?
No, there is no competition with other CAAs. The 34 Standards of Excellence embedded within the Award's seven Categories of Excellence are the criteria used to determine a CAA's standing. The Award process follows the Malcolm Baldrige Performance Excellence model where standards of excellence or "best in class" practices in specified categories determine standing. The idea is to set high levels or "benchmarks" of excellence for any and every organization to strive for, much like world class athletes strive to meet or exceed a state, national, or world record.
How Long is the Self-Study Period?
Applicants may begin their Self-Study at any time after completing the application requirements (between August 15 and September 15 of each year). The Organizational Self-Study must be completed and submitted by the first of February each calendar year. Feedback from previous applicants indicates that it takes at least 4-5 months to complete the Self-Study.
Why Is There a Fee and What Is It Used For?
The Partnership Board adopted a fee structure to help defray the cost of conducting the technical and consensus reviews, site visit process, and completing the comprehensive feedback report provided to each applicant. All of these processes are staff intensive and involve substantial volunteer time from peer experts and Award Commission members. Application fees combine with an OCS grant to fund the program.
Is it Worth the Time and Cost Involved?
Based on feedback from previous Award applicants, the Self-Study and subsequent review process is considered a very cost-effective and worthwhile undertaking. Most view it as the equivalent of conducting a comprehensive, third-party organizational assessment - something most applicants have never undertaken.
For an application fee ranging from $1000 for smaller CAAs to $7,500 for large ones (based on total agency funding), applicants receive training in conducting a self-study and a written feedback report. A minimum of five CAA peer and/or quality experts spend at least 300 hours of technical analysis and review to prepare the self-study feedback report highlighting strengths and areas for improvement . Site visits generate an additional 200 hours of in-depth peer-generated technical review and analysis. Taken on a purely cost-per-hour basis, the Award for Excellence process is a true bargain in consulting services and technical assistance.
What are the Chances that I will be an Award Winner?
To be an award winner, the CAA must demonstrate and document evidence of excellence in all areas examined. In reality, this may take applicants two years. The Partnership established the Award for Excellence as a two-year opportunity (for the fee paid) for every organization to demonstrate excellence. Your Self-Study Report will determine your chances. With the feedback report as a guide, a CAA can achieve the Award for Excellence during the two-year period. The application fee is good for two consecutive years, thus allowing any organization to learn from and improve sufficiently to become an Award recipient. Some exceptional applicants will achieve the Award in the initial year.
How do I Apply for the Award?
Each year, the Award for Excellence application period is August 15 - September 15. The Award application package offered each calendar year contains all application instructions including a single-page application form and information on the sliding fee structure, based on CAA overall funding level is on the CAP website under the tab identified as Excellence. A resolution from the applying CAA's Board and a support letter from its state CSBG office are also required. Remember, the Award for Excellence application deadline is September 15 of each year.
I'm interested, but we're just not ready yet!
No problem! If you are interested in getting better at what you do, but do not feel you are quite ready to compete for an Award, you may enroll in the Award's capacity-building/getting started initiative - Pathways to Excellence. This initiative focuses on getting organizations started on their own unique journey toward excellence using the Self-Study and Comprehensive Feedback Process as a diagnostic tool for setting agency priorities for improvement. Keep in mind that you can't improve what you don't measure, and you can't set in motion an improvement strategy if you don't first establish "what's most important" to improve, and where you need to begin.
Pathways to Excellence
What's the Difference Between the Award
and Pathways Enrollment?
The Standards set out a critical set of excellence benchmarks and the self-study serves as a comprehensive diagnostic tool for identifying what strengths to build on, and what areas within your organization are most critical to improve. If your goal is to move toward CAA excellence, this is the way to secure a road map and, more importantly, the impetus to start your journey.
Through the Pathways to Excellence Initiative, selected members of your agency staff participate in a two-day training session covering the Standards and the methodology for conducting your internal Organizational Self-Study. You have up to nine months to complete your agency-wide Self-Study. Groups of expert peer reviewers develop a self-study feedback report to guide your "next steps" to improvement, thus providing a pathway to achieving excellence. Pathways does not offer a site visit.
Through Pathways, you can set your own pace, and assess your readiness for the Award for Excellence or simply conduct the self-study to assess where you are along the continuum of excellence. How you prioritize your improvement plan with the feedback results will be up to you. The Standards and the Self-Study are powerful tools - they offer the power to take positive action to improve your agency. The process is the same as that of the Award, except for a site visit. Upon enrollment, your agency will have the opportunity to attend a two-day training session and receive a written self-study guide. Upon completing and submitting your self-study, you will receive a third-party peer expert review and comprehensive feedback report. The Pathways fee structure ranges from $500 - $1,200 with an open national enrollment period and training offered at least annually.
What is the State-Based Pathways Initiative?
The Partnership is also interested in working with state CAA Associations and CSBG administrators to offer the Pathways initiative and associated training within a state. This initiative offers support from the state association for several CAAs in a state to participate in Pathways simultaneously. Often, CAAs find it valuable to come together at state or regional functions to share ideas about approaches and strategies for carrying out the self-study. If you and other CAAs in your state are interested in having Pathways offered closer to home as a voluntary capacity-building strategy, we would be pleased to talk to your state CAA Association and CSBG Office about hosting this option.
How do I get more Information about the Award for Excellence or Pathways to Excellence Initiative?
The Award application package and information about Pathways are downloadable from the Partnership's web site located at: www.communityactionpartnership.com - under the "Excellence" button.
You may direct further inquiries to Lil Dupree, Director of Training, Community Action Partnership, 1140 Connecticut Avenue NW Suite 1210 Washington DC, phone 202-449-9775 or email to firstname.lastname@example.org
A Guide to Achieving the Community Action Standards of Excellence