Capacity Building Continued with 4th All-Pakistan Secretary Generals’ Conference

“The Secretary Generals’ Conference provides an excellent platform for networking with fellow SGs from all over Pakistan, an opportunity for which we wait for the whole year. This year’s conference was particularly important for us because we realized the importance of governing documents and possible consequences of not having those” – Majid Shabbir, Secretary General, Islamabad Chamber of Commerce & Industry

To be effective organizations that serve their members professionally and act as advocates for policy change, Pakistani business associations need to have strong governance systems and policies in place. CIPE’s work in the area of Chambers and sectoral trade association capacity building has been well recognized in Pakistan. In addition to the Chamber President’s Conference, the Annual Secretary General’s Conference is one of CIPE’s flagship events.

Based on a business association diagnostic conducted in 2006 and reviewed in 2009-10, CIPE’s past three interventions in Secretary General Conferences were mainly focused at developing membership, revenue generation and advocacy. As a result, a number of business associations have reported an increase in membership, and, more interestingly, improved member retention rates and also increases in revenue through better charged services.

Participants at the latest conference were taken a step further with a focus on governance systems, particularly policy advocacy, financial management and fraud prevention, and legal compliance. These themes were selected based on CIPE Pakistan learning that business associations are still struggling to adapt these policies, particularly those related to financial management, human resource and advocacy. This year, the CIPE Pakistan team experimented with an online registration process that also included a questionnaire to understand if registering organizations have key policy documents such an accounting manual, a whistle blower policy, and an HR policy. The questionnaire also asked about standard operating procedures (SOPs) for membership development, media relations, and revenue generation.

The survey results were surprising for the CIPE Pakistan team. Twenty three out of 37 respondents claimed to have an accounting manual; 15 respondents claimed to have a whistle blower policy; 26 claimed to have an HR policy; 35 claimed to have SOPs for membership development; 31 claimed to have SOPs for media relations; and 31 claimed to have SOPs for revenue generation.

However, when conference participants were challenged to confirm these claims, we learned that they did not have those specific document or standard operating procedures, and instead memorandums and articles of association, which are overarching documents, were being referred to as policy documents.

Based on this, participants were engaged in discussion on the repercussions of not having these governing documents, particularly in case of fraud. They were then taken through the process of creating an effective accounting manual, a whistle blower policy, and an HR manual.

Feedback revealed that all participants agreed to develop and adapt policy manuals within the next couple of months and get these documents endorsed immediately after their next elections in September of this year.

At this year’s conference, we showed some glimpses of last year’s conference and asked repeating participants to introduce CIPE. The four best introductions are shown in this short video: