The new CAF 2020 – 20 years of excellence in public administration


On 28 November 2019, the EUPAN Directors-General in Helsinki unanimously adopted the CAF2020. Since the launch of the CAF in 2000, this quality management system for the public sector has continued to evolve. CAF2020 is the fifth version of the Common Assessment Framework, which is a European guide to good governance and excellence in public sector organisations. Currently, around 4,100 organisations use the CAF, and many countries have included the CAF in their administrative reform strategies. CAF2020 was developed by the European CAF Correspondents Network and EIPA’s CAF Resource Centre in an interactive two-year process. The idea to develop CAF2020 began in Tallinn in September 2017.

What’s new in CAF2020?

The basic structure with 9 criteria and 28 subcriteria has been preserved. The language has been simplified, shortened and is now more concise. CAF2020 reinforces the focus on digitisation, agility, sustainability, innovation, collaboration (participation) and diversity. As a result, there have been significant changes in each individual subcriterion and examples. However, users of previous CAF versions will not find it too difficult to become familiar with the new version; the compatibility with the predecessor, CAF2013, is ensured.
The permanent acquisition of information and participation has become an indispensable part of everyday life and work for many people. Citizens demand more, have become more critical and want to participate. This has put more pressure on traditionally shaped administrative structures and cultures. More agility and innovation in strategy development, in the organisation’s structures and processes and above all in the awareness of the staff is required in order to master the necessary change.

The core of CAF2020 is a questionnaire with 200 examples of self-assessment of public organisations. The aim of the CAF is to initiate a continuous improvement process and to create the conditions for efficient and high-quality public services. Managers, together with employees, improve their organisation of the basis of common European principles and values of public management and governance.

Selected keywords in CAF2020

These topics were built into CAF2020 using practical examples. Innovative service designs and new ways of delivering services must be created and implemented. Moreover, CAF2020 recognises the importance of having motivated employees who help shape and contribute to the development of an organisation. Self-responsibility and sense-making are of paramount importance, and must be developed through flexibility of working hours, working place and new leadership skills.
When it comes to sustainability, the emphasis was placed on the energy-efficient management of in-house infrastructure, reuse rather than disposal and the full life cycle approach. The role of the public sector in the area of sustainability is also highlighted.
With more opportunities and more knowledge produced on a daily basis, diversity must also be repositioned in the management and governance structures of public administrations. Diversity in the sense of the CAF means to productively use the variety and heterogeneity of the employees as well as the citizens/customers. This has a direct impact on recruitment and staff development, accessibility to public services, and opportunities for participation in public opinion and service delivery processes.
The new CAF2020 provides a comprehensive and updated reflection framework by which each public administration can autonomously find the appropriate tools for administrative development. Think: ‘Change it – CAF it’.

The guiding principles for CAF2020 are the principles and findings from:

  • the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations;
  • the toolbox – Quality of Public Administration, European Commission, 2018;
  • Principles of Public Administration, SIGMA OECD, 2019;
  • Embracing Innovation in Governments Global Trends, OECD 2018;
  • Observatory of Public Sector Innovation (OPSI), OECD;
  • the five principles of the European Ombudsman’s public service: commitment to the European union and its citizens, integrity, objectivity, respect from others and transparency.

Guiding principles of the new CAF2020

  • Better services for citizens: CAF initiates and manages the advancement and change of public administrations in order to better serve the citizens.
  • Tailored for the public sector: CAF was developed by the public sector for the public sector.
  • European principles and values: CAF is based on common European principles and values of public management and governance. This is ensured through cooperation within the European CAF network
  • Common language: CAF enables leaders and staff to constructively discuss organisational improvements and fosters dialogue and bench learning in the organisation.
  • Involvement of employees: the self-assessment process is the basis for the systematic involvement of the staff and continuous improvement of the organisation.
  • Evidence-based administrative reform: CAF encourages public sector organisations to undertake reforms based on objective information and data.
  • No external costs: CAF is free and is provided by the European CAF Resource Centre and the network of national CAF correspondents.
  • CAF PEF (procedure for external feedback): external evaluators evaluate the organisation, give feedback for improving the organisation further and if satisfied, award the label ‘Effective CAF User’.


More information about CAF


The views expressed in this blog are those of the authors and not necessarily those of EIPA.

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