Peer Reviewer

I recently had the opportunity to travel as an accreditation peer reviewer to a social service organization in the southern states.  My responsibility as a volunteer reviewer was to assess the organization’s practices against applicable accreditation standards. In this case, the organization was reviewed against USA standards according to their specific range of programs and services. Although Community Services is an accredited organization working towards our re-accreditation visit in June 2015; this was my first chance to experience the process as a reviewer. Boy did I underestimate the amount of work involved as I was tasked with pre-reading all of the organization’s program descriptions, policies, narratives and documents of evidence. I quickly gained an appreciation from our past accreditation visits for the ease at which previous reviewers had developed an understanding of our services and treated us with respect and knowledge. I was determined to provide an equal experience in my role as reviewer.
The size of an organization, number of facilities and varying programs will determine the length of the accreditation visit and the required number of peer reviewers.  This visit involved an experienced team leader and me.  Each visit begins on a Sunday with an extensive review of all documents including personnel files, incident reports, financial statements and case records. The following two days are filled with individual and group interviews with board members, volunteers, staff and clients as well as observations of safety, facilities and general practice.  At the conclusion of each day, we were tasked with recording the interviews and observations and accounting for the organization’s practices by allotting a score for each and every standard of best practice. Although exhausted, the overall process was significant; both humbling and invigorating.
I was humbled by the amount of pride and hard work that the organization put into their accreditation visit.  Although I’m intimately familiar with the level of work it takes for our organization to receive the accreditation success that we’ve experienced in the past; experiencing the process from the reviewer perspective provided a whole new appreciation. In my role as peer reviewer I had the privilege of honoring another organization’s hard work, relating to them as peers within the social services sector and encouraging their dedication and meaningful practices.  Throughout the process, it became evident that it didn’t really matter what part of the world or what type of program was offered; it comes down to commitment. To doing what is best for our clientele and doing the work honestly and ethically. My experience as a peer reviewer invigorated me with new ideas, innovative approaches and most importantly a greater appreciation for the shared commitment to helping others no matter if it’s one coast to the other, USA or Canada.