What is an evaluation organization and how are they organized generally
Voluntary Organizations for Professional Evaluation (VOPEs) are evaluation nonprofit membership organizations that are open to individuals interested in evaluation. Each word in the acronym VOPE has important meaning, as follows:
Voluntary: VOPEs are nonprofit organizations that do not benefit any one individual or corporate entity. They are open to anyone who wants to join. Most VOPEs charge a low annual fee to cover costs of a website, communications such as a newsletter, and possibly a journal.
Organizations: VOPEs are organizations with a democratic and inclusive process to elect representatives in their leadership. They share information openly among all members about opportunities to get involved, and any evaluation competitions that are directed to the leaders of the organization. These organizations have different names in different countries and cultures such as: association (e.g. American Evaluation Association), society (e.g. Canadian Evaluation Society), network (e.g. Brazilian Network), and conclave (e.g. Community of Evaluation of South Asia).
Professional Evaluation: Evaluation is a profession, and as such, VOPEs are organizations whose members conduct, use and commission professional evaluation, and who promote the use of professional evaluators in conducting evaluations.
Why evaluation organizations are important and how can they help serve their countries
Evaluation is a critical function for managers and policy makers in every sector, as it promotes clear and strategic thinking, learning, and accountability. VOPEs are important, first and foremost, as professional networks or guilds where evaluators and commissioners of evaluation can meet and discuss issue of mutual interest including promoting the profession, strengthening member evaluation competencies, finding employment opportunities, partnering for professional collaborations, etc. As the evaluation profession as a recognized, distinct profession is less than 20 years old, VOPEs have important roles to play in helping governments and civil society in their countries to understand what evaluation is, and the role evaluation can play in supporting better informed public policy and decision making.
How evaluation organizations are funded and opportunities for funding support
VOPEs are generally started by uncompensated individuals who believe in the value and power of evaluation to inform better policies, make better decisions, and instill greater civic accountability. VOPEs can obtain funding from international funders who are interested in promoting evaluation in a country. They can also apply for small grants from the IOCE under the EvalPartners Initiative in order to seek technical advice and support from other VOPEs with more experience.
Why membership in IOCE is important and how IOCE can help emerging evaluation organizations
All VOPEs benefit significantly from being part of the IOCE. The IOCE is their international voice, and a channel for national voices to become strong by joining, and be heard. The IOCE came with the idea of Peer-to-Peer grants for VOPEs, advocated for it successfully, and now administers the small grants program. Also, the IOCE publicizes all VOPEs on an interactive map, so they can be accessible to those looking for local evaluators in different countries. Through its website and newsletter, the IOCE offers important updates of interest to VOPE members, and links to resources to help strengthen VOPE capacity to manage themselves, hold conferences, publish newsletters, and conduct successful advocacy in their own countries with governments and other key partners. The IOCE also offers opportunities for international visibility to VOPE leaders and members.