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  SQM - Sustainable Quality Management

 

Experiences

 

The SQM system outstanding characteristics

From its beginnings the SQM system has been designed for:

  • Communication and understanding between different cultures

  • Supporting the involvement of actors and interest groups

  • Covering the whole policy cycle of programmes and projects

  • Versatility and upgradeability thanks to a modular structure

  • Transparency and communication with new internet technologies

  • Improving efficiency in programme and project management

Summing up the experiences up to now, SQM has advanced very well regarding these expectations. 

Communication and understanding between different cultures in Europe

SQM has been developed on the basis of a series of European research and pilot application projects in several countries since 1996 (INSURED, D2MiP, ...). The basic terminology has been developed on the basis of the analysis of over 100 projects and programmes in 10 countries by multicultural teams. As a result, the SQM concepts constitute an intercultural "language". SQM is not limited to the cultural or administrative background of a specific country: it has proved to be most useful for cross-cultural understanding, and it can and should be adapted to specific needs and priorities.

The SQM analysis framework not only is so general that it can be applied to very different contexts. It also is so differentiated that it allows to describe and compare these contexts and different points of view. Systematic descriptions of contexts have shown to facilitate the intercultural exchange of experiences.

All tools have been conceived for multilingual use. English, French, German and Italian have been implemented right from the start, other languages can be added as needed. In the terminology and in the instruments provided, special emphasis has been given to EU structural funds. As these are having a strong influence on all systems of public funding in Europe, and as all SQM instruments have been designed to allow for consistent customisation, the SQM approach and SQM systems are applicable to all kinds of public funding programmes and public or private projects in a European or similar environment.

Supporting the involvement of actors and interest groups

SQM can be very helpful to involve local actors, interest groups, politicians and highly specialised experts in the same project. 

The SQM analysis frameworks starts with some basic dimensions that are understandable for everybody and can be detailed for highly specialised questions. The combination of qualitative and quantitative appraisals allow to include unstructured opinions and knowledge. In this way SQM provides a common platform for the dialogue between local  actors, politicians, interest groups and experts. Moreover, SQM procedures and instruments provide tools for the support of participative processes: facilitation methods, questionnaire systems, tools for analysis, synthesis and visualisation.

Covering the whole policy cycle of programmes and projects

Until now pilot projects have put the emphasis on the beginning of the policy cycle, i.e. programme and project development, programme diffusion and transparency and also some minor evaluation. Web-based instruments for programme and project management and for the evaluation of large programmes are in preparation drawing on a long experience in this field using other frameworks. SQM instruments will not cover the financial management of programmes, since there are well-established systems systems which strongly differ from country to country. However, it will be possible to build links form SQM instruments to such systems. 

Versatility and upgradeability thanks to a modular structure

SQM is a modular and scaleable system based on a small number of basic principles. After an easy start, the growing experience of the users opens up more and more possibilities 

Different concepts, methods and tools can be arranged into an optimal combination for specific tasks, users and target groups. The basic analysis framework can be simplified or refined indefinitely.

Online instruments for different needs are based on a common structure and can be configured and upgraded step by step. The fact that all tools and procedures have been conceived as a combination of "elementary appraisals" has led to an initially unexpected versatility. 

Transparency and communication with new Internet technologies

The basic SQM concepts and methods can be used without the Internet. However, the consistent application of new Internet technologies can open up new dimensions.

In order to use the different tools you only need an Internet connection and specific passwords. This avoids any installation and maintenance problems and facilitates the start-up.

Moreover, the central SQM database engine allows for an easy and targeted exchange: Public information pages, programme guides, questionnaires etc. can be made accessible for a large number of users. Complex management systems can provide differentiated rights for many collaborators. Experts all across Europe can easily contribute to confidential projects. Thematic networks can build up databases for the exchange of experiences.

The experiences from SQM pilot projects provide the basis for predefined procedures, tasks and forms that come along with the first SQM online instruments. A growing number of users shall contribute to libraries of procedures, tasks and forms for specific purposes which will be easily accessible.

Improving efficiency in programme and project management

Efficiency gains are being expected on two levels: 

  • by improving the understanding between all actors involved in the different phases of the project or programme life-cycle by providing a common 'language' (concepts and terminology), by enhancing the transparency of objectives and achievements and by facilitating the exchange of experiences

  • by supporting conceptual and administrative tasks with easily accessible internet-based instruments having a coherent logic, structuring the workflow, avoiding repetitive paperwork and strongly enhancing the communication between all involved.

The efficiency gains of the first type have already been shown in a number of projects. The second type of efficiency gains has still to be demonstrated by longer-term large-scale applications of SQM instruments in administrations. We estimate that in structural funds administrations it would be above 10%. 

 

Last update: 16.10.03