Building a Strong Framework

Strong organizations begin with a strong foundation.  The structure of an organization is the framework on which programs and projects are built.  There is no “one size fits all” structure as every organization will have a unique set of influences based on their local context. However, there are common elements that should be considered when developing your individual framework such as members, boards of directors, committees, and staff.  An effective governance structure will establish the roles and relationships between these groups and allow the organization to carry out programs effectively and efficiently.

In democratic and market-oriented societies, the members are at the heart of any association.  Through annual dues, members are the main financiers of the organization and can therefore be considered the owners. As such, the governing framework must ensure that members have direct input into the direction and objectives of the organization. They have the legal right and duty to decide the directions in which the group will go. They have the right to choose and discharge the directors through agreed-upon bylaws. For all practical purposes, the members are the association. The terms are synonymous.

In addition to being considered owners, the members are also the primary customers of most associations. The directors and staffs attempt to keep the members satisfied by providing desired programs, activities, and services. A member voluntarily invests money by payment of regular dues in exchange for a perceived value from the association. Therefore, the members are both the owners and the customers.

Importantly, women business owners around the globe are a growing constituency for business associations. There is tremendous potential for women to become more engaged in business associations both through membership and policy advocacy. Business associations and other private sector organizations serving as the voice of the business community can provide a platform for women to engage and advocate democratic and economic reform. Recognizing the numerous barriers to access – legal, social, economic, and political – that exist for women and the need to improve the business environment for women-owned businesses, CIPE has worked around the world to build entrepreneurial ecosystems where associations act as catalysts for empowerment by removing barriers to market entry for female entrepreneurs.

Center for Women’s Economic Empowerment

  • CIPE’s Center for Women’s Economic Empowerment (CWEE) works to inspire excellence among women in the private sector to participate equally in their economies, lead democratic and market reform initiatives, and amplify their voices in the laws that govern them. To learn more about CIPE’s tools and resources on how to promote women’s economic empowerment, please visit

Recent highlights from CIPE’s work on women’s economic empowerment