This section offers some suggestions on the ways in which a VOPE can communicate with members, share knowledge and increase the credibility of the VOPE using publications and a newsletter. Particular examples of VOPE newsletters and journals are described in more detail.
A VOPE should develop a communication strategy describing the VOPE’s use of various mechanisms to communicate with its various target audiences – including VOPE (potential) members and (potential) partners in industry, civil society, development agencies and government organisations. A communication strategy usually sets out the target audience for each type of publication, the types of messages that will be communicated, the frequency of communication as well as the format in which the publication will be circulated. It may also set out some guidelines for content that are allowed in the newsletter, the language policy as well as sign-off and production procedures and responsibilities.
Some of the occasional or regular publications a VOPE would typically consider are:
At minimum, a VOPE should consider sending out a regular newsletter or bulletin to ensure that its members are informed about the VOPE’s activities. A newsletter or bulletin usually contains a short official statement or broadcast summary of news relevant to the VOPE. Newsletters are an effective platform for communicating with members and sharing information on events, job opportunities, important issues and advancements in evaluation and in the VOPE, as well as being the voice for evaluation practice. They can also showcase the work of the VOPE to potential members and serve a marketing purpose. A newsletter can supplement the information typically provided on the VOPE’s website. A VOPE could consider inviting members to contribute to its newsletter.
A newsletter may be published in the form of a news blog on the website or any of the free blog services such as WordPress or Google Blogger. Alternatively, it could be distributed as an email sent to members and other interested parties; it is prudent to ensure that the text of the newsletter is visible in the body of the email and not merely added as an email attachment, since people are less likely to glance at the content in an email attachment. The newsletter or bulletin may also be distributed in hard copy to existing and potential members if a gathering of evaluators is planned.
It is important to keep the newsletter short, not more than a couple of pages.
A publication like an evaluation journal typically promotes research about evaluation practice and theory, is an excellent additional membership benefit and may help the VOPE to build evaluation capacity. A VOPE could make one or more evaluation journals available to its members, either by publishing its own evaluation journal, or by partnering with an already established journal.
Establishing and publishing a professional or academic journal is a time-consuming and specialised assignment which usually requires the appointment of specialist part-time and full-time staff. It may be possible to partner with an academic or research institution or a development partner to ensure the longevity of the publication.
The roles and skills associated with publishing a journal are defined very well in an article by Dr Lorna Shapiro (Source: 2005, L. Shapiro, Establishing and publishing an online peer-reviewed journal: Action plan, resourcing and costs. Accessed on 8 Feb 2015 at http://pkp.sfu.ca/files/OJS_Project_Report_Shapiro.pdf).
An adapted summary of these roles and skills is:
Apart from the human resources required to run a journal, a VOPE may also consider:
Instead of establishing a new journal, a VOPE may partner with an already existing journal and make it available to members as part of the membership benefits. This would usually mean that the membership fees are adjusted to cover the cost of online or hardcopy subscription to a journal. The American Evaluation Association for example, provides members with a “hardcopy and electronic subscription to the AEA’s two journals, The American Journal of Evaluation (AJE) and New Directions for Evaluation (NDE). Members also receive electronic access to both current and back content from Evaluation Review and Evaluation and the Health Professions right from their desktops”. (Source: AEA, Benefits of AEA membership, http://www.eval.org/p/cm/ld/fid=9)