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The Common Assessment Framework
The Common Assessment Framework (CAF) is a unique management tool for self-assessment and performance evaluation for public sector organisations. CAF is the result of close cooperation between EU ministers responsible for Public Administration, the European Public Administration Network (EUPAN) and EIPA. It is considered the European quality tool for good governance and excellence in the public sector, with a focus on digitalisation, agility, sustainability, diversity and innovation.
CAF is an easy-to-use and free tool to assist organisations across Europe in applying quality management techniques to improve their performance. It is a Total Quality Management (TQM) tool which is inspired by the major Total Quality models in general, and by the Excellence Model of the European Foundation for Quality Management (EFQM) in particular. It is especially designed by and for public-sector organisations, considering their characteristics.
The model is based on the premise that excellence in organisational performance for citizens, customers, people and society is achieved through leadership that drives strategy and planning, people, partnerships, resources and processes. It looks at the organisation from different perspectives at the same time; a holistic approach to analysing organisational performance.
How can CAF help you?
The CAF will be your catalyst for a full improvement process within your organisation.
It will help you to fulfil five main purposes:
- To introduce public administrations into the culture of excellence and the principles of TQM.
- To guide them progressively to a full-fledged “Plan-Do-Check-Act (PCDA)” cycle.
- To facilitate the self-assessment of a public organisation to arrive at a diagnosis and improvement actions.
- To act as a bridge across the various models used in quality management.
- To facilitate bench learning between public-sector organisations.
CAF main purposes
The CAF constitutes a blueprint in performance orientation. It is a representation of all aspects that must be present in the proper management of an organisation in order to achieve satisfactory results.
The CAF model
CAF was first introduced in 2000 as a model for achieving quality in the public sector and has since been revised five times, most recently with CAF2020. As of January 2022, over 3,000 organisations are using CAF and the model has been included in the public administration reform strategies of many EU countries. It has also been implemented and used as a good practice in several countries outside the EU.
The model is based on the premise that excellent results in organisational performance for citizens/ customers, people and society is achieved through leadership that drives strategy and planning, people, partnerships, resources, and processes. It looks at the organisation from different perspectives at the same time; a comprehensive approach to analysing organisational performance.
2019 was an important year for the CAF network in general and for the European CAF RC at EIPA in particular: We celebrated the 20th anniversary of the model, we updated and adopted the fifth version of CAF (CAF 2020)
In May 2020, under the Croatian Presidency, and following the mandate of EUPAN, EIPA published the new Guidelines for implementing the CAF. The document serves as a response to the emerging challenges and as a guideline to make the model stronger and more sustainable.
Read the full Guidelines here: Guidelines for implementing the CAF
The CAF External Feedback Procedure
To enable public sector organisations applying CAF to see the results of their efforts and to obtain feedback, the CAF External Feedback Procedure provides external feedback on the introduction of total quality management with CAF.
The CAF External Feedback Procedure provides external feedback on the implementation of comprehensive quality management with CAF. This feedback relates not only to the self-assessment process but also to the path that organisations have chosen to achieve long-term excellence and is based on the principles of excellence.
In 2013 the CAF External Feedback Procedure was elaborated based upon the results of several pilot processes and in strong collaboration between the CAF National Correspondents Network and EIPA and supported by EFQM. They all worked together in the spirit of the common European interest and the conviction that their work will constitute a next step in the further development of a qualitative public sector in Europe.
This feedback relates not only to the self-assessment process, but also to the way forward chosen by organisations in order to attain excellence in the long run and is based upon the principles of excellence. To that end, the CAF External Feedback Procedure is built upon three pillars.
Want to read more? Look at the External Feedback Brochure here: CAF-PEF-Brochure
CAF2020: What is new?
Compared to the CAF2013, the basic structure with nine criteria and 28 sub-criteria 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 sub-criterion 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.
Guiding principles of the 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 Procedure for External Feedback (PEF): external evaluators evaluate the organisation, give feedback for improving the organisation further and if satisfied, award the label ‘Effective CAF User’.
The second most critical area of public administration after local administration is the education and research sector. Therefore, in 2008, the European CAF Resource Centre together with a group of experts in education, developed a tailor-made European CAF version for education and training institutions in Europe. This resulted in 2013 to the launch of the CAF Education Model. The document can be accessed here.
Public education services are of high value to society. This has become even more critical with the COVID crisis. Through short- and long-term studies, citizens acquire knowledge and skills that are important for the labour market, thus contributing to society. As this is fundamental to the functioning of a society, the activities offered by schools and other educational institutions have a major impact on the general perception of a country’s public services and must, therefore, always meet the highest standards.
For this reason, the CAF Working Group is now revising the CAF Education Concept to bring it in line with the CAF2020 model and to enable educational institutions to review and improve their practices accordingly.