According to Kriel (2006) most VOPEs start as informal networks and only embark on a process of formalization once it became necessary. Rushing into premature formalization can cause the valuable resources of a VOPE to be caught up in bureaucratic systems and resources while neglecting the essential networking functions and services of a VOPE. Some of the arguments for and against formalising are presented below:
The Pros and Cons of an Informal Organizational Structure are:
|Supports independence and autonomy of members||Limits accountability and (therefore) participation of members, since all participation remains voluntary|
|Is cost-effective and does not require substantial funding||Does not allow for formal financial procedures and resource administration (e.g. does not permit membership fees being charged and obstructs resource mobilization and fundraising|
|Accelerates decision-making processes||Depends heavily on the personality of the convenor for strategic decisions|
|Flexible||Fragile (e.g. does not allow for the firm anchoring of the organization in civil society)|
|Circumvents issues of control by external partners and supporters||Hinders extension and the establishment of secure partnerships|
|Simplifies functioning by allowing for decentralized systems and secretariat functions based on members’ initiative||Cannot hold management and administration structures accountable|
Prior to formalization, it might be a good idea for your VOPE to build up a track record and support base by hosting one or two events such as an evaluation seminar, or training session in partnership with another organization who are already established. (See section 3 of the toolkit for some ideas on activities that add value in the evaluation field). A university, or an international organization, or a government department or a ministry, or in some cases even an open and transparent consultancy can be an initial institutional home for an informal network of evaluators and evaluation users. Quite a few of the VOPEs in Africa evolved after the African Evaluation Association hosted conferences in association with local groups of persons involved in evaluation. SAMEA is one such organization that developed after the 2004 AfrEA conference was hosted in Cape Town with support of an independent government watchdog body.
Although a host organization may be a good institutional home for an informal network of evaluators and evaluation users, questions of independence, representivity and openness may justify the decision to incorporate as a separate legal entity.
Once you have done this, you may want to read more:
* TOP RESOURCE Here is an example of how local affiliates of AEA are advised to go about their founding. Very useful resource for VOPEs. The Local Affiliates Council. (2006). Starter Kit for AEA Affiliates. American Evaluation Association. Accessed online 02/02/2014 from: http://www.lacaea.org/Documents/NewAffiliatesToolKit.doc
Get advice from other evaluation associations:
* TOP RESOURCE: An IOCE e-book with case studies on how VOPEs were founded in Africa America, Asia, Australasia and Europe. Segone, M. & Ocampo, A. (eds). (2006). CREATING AND DEVELOPING EVALUATION ORGANIZATIONS. Lessons learned from Africa, Americas, Asia, Australasia, and Europe. Accessed online 04/02/2014 from: http://www.ioce.net/en/PDFs/VOPEStudies/IOCE_EvalOrgPack_Jan2007.pdf
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Note that depending on the size, development phase and purpose of your VOPE, the material presented in this post may need to be contextualised for your specific purposes. Also take note of the full toolkit disclaimer here.