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“We can learn from one another”

On 19 October, representatives of accreditation bodies, private sector and government customers, researchers, legislators and representatives of European and global stakeholder organisations will all gather to take part in Swedac’s webinar. It will deal with the future of accreditation as an instrument of quality assurance in society and the challenges that exist.
“I hope that those taking part will be inspired to give these matters further thought. These aren’t issues that have a definitive answer. The important thing is to have a discussion in which we can learn from and be inspired by one another,” says Ulf Hammarström, Director General of Swedac.

“We can learn from one another”

What is the purpose of the conference?
“Initially, the idea was to have some kind of internal CPD event about what we know and don’t know about the value of accreditation as one of several quality assurance instruments available to society and what kind of challenges we face in the future. What are we aiming towards, where do we need to be in five years’ time if we’re to be as relevant as we are today? What do we need to adapt in the way we work in view of the developments taking place? The pandemic and its many different consequences cannot be disregarded, yet it has to some extent simply speeded up processes and societal changes that were already under way, such as those in the area of digitalisation.”

“These are major issues, and we realised that inspiration can be drawn from foreign accreditation bodies and other stakeholders. As we’re no longer able to meet up IRL because of the pandemic, but would have to organise the whole event online, it became clear that we could simply open it up to more participants.”

The factors that have an impact on the future of accreditation do of course span the entire scale. Everything from technological progress and conditions to changes in perspectives on quality. Views on free trade and other political issues are factors that will also be very significant for developments. In a changing world, it is important to remember what you can control yourself.

“The factors that we can control most of all are, of course, our internal work methods. We can shape them to a very large extent ourselves and make sure that we work to increase our value to society,” says Ulf Hammarström. 

What are your thoughts on those factors that accreditation bodies cannot control themselves?
“The spontaneous response is the expression ‘Sailors don’t complain about a headwind, they learn how to sail into it’. This is question of being prepared to change and adapt, and to find solutions to those things you can’t influence yourself, to try and find ways of using it to your advantage.”

Representatives from Ikea and the Swedish Gambling Authority will talk about their experience of accreditation. What’s the idea behind having customers recount their experiences of accreditation?
“Having a discussion about the future without involving those who are accredited would be extremely introspective. When we talk about adaptation and change, it’s important to bear in mind that we exist for someone’s benefit, we’re not here for ourselves. If we thought that, we’d quickly become irrelevant and the world would just go on without us. Ultimately we’ll be judged by our impact on society, which is absolutely right.”

Speakers will include UKAS from the UK, Accredia from Italy and DAkkS from Germany. What can we learn from our European partners – and what can they learn from us?
“We can all learn from one another, big and small. As a general rule, we have too little dialogue with one another. This applies to everything from extremely practical things such as how to use the office during a pandemic with our kind of business to how to prepare for the long-term future, for example the use of technical possibilities such as Artificial Intelligence. We’re all a little bit special in the sense that we don’t have any similar organisations in our own countries, but those organisations are simply in other countries. I think it’s incredibly important to have more dialogue with other accreditation bodies.”

What do you hope that participants will take away with them?
“Essentially, inspiration for continued reflection and discussion. We won’t be solving lots of problems for the future at the conference, but the important thing in my view is that we provide inspiration for a broader, collective discussion in which we can learn from and be inspired by one another. Maybe we’ll also find new contacts to network and continue discussions with, there will be participants not only from Europe, but from China to Brazil, from Paraguay to Canada.”

How do you feel about it being digital?
“It’s a shame that we can’t meet up in person, with all of the small talk that can take place around the actual event. On the other hand, something that was originally intended to be an internal CPD seminar will now be a global event, and you can only do this digitally if it’s to happen in an economic and climate-smart way.”

You find the program for the webinar here.