Draft Guidelines for Interest Groups and Working Groups

Draft Guidelines for Interest Groups and Working Groups


Accra, Ghana

Draft Guidelines for Interest Groups and Working Groups

1. Introduction

These guidelines define the relationship between a self-organized group of members and the INDEPTH Secretariat, the central organization of the INDEPTH Network. They provide the structure necessary to ensure consistency and coherence throughout the organization, while supporting the autonomy and creativity of the groups.

With consistent and regular reporting mechanisms, INDEPTH Interest Groups (IGs) and Working Groups (WGs) will be highly visible to the rest of the organization, improving their ability to attract new members and attention to their work.

2. Definitions

Groups whose intentions are simply to act as a constituency of experts for the general discussion of research issues or themes, or that want an initial idea to be discussed, will be considered as Interest Groups (IGs). However, Interest Groups can upgrade to Working Groups which are defined below.

IGs are mostly 'virtual' with members rarely, if ever, meeting face-to-face, unless perhaps at Annual General and Scientific meetings. IGs may have value simply by having a presence and contact on the INDEPTH website.

Working Groups are often small teams focusing on single research question or theme that fall within the INDEPTH research portfolio. They are an important opportunity for fostering research collaboration within the Network.

The Secretariat will accord such a group the full status of a Working Groupif and only if it has a defined research question with a draft proposal that will lead to a cross-site collaborative project within the INDEPTH research portfolio.

3. Purpose of Working Groups

INDEPTH actively utilizes WGs dedicated to key issues of interest to the Network. The WGs act as generators and incubators for multi-site research and development projects.

WG members are encouraged to identify issues, conduct research, perform analyses, and help shape the future of the Network.

The WGs ultimately report to the Executive Director of INDEPTH.

4. Composition and structure of an Interest Group or a Working Group

IG and WG members may include scientists from INDEPTH sites, the Secretariat, the Board of Trustees, the Scientific Advisory Group and research collaborators.

Each IG and WG will appoint a steering committee of at most five members. This committee will appoint a leader from among the members.

5. How to create a Interest Group

  1. First determine whether your idea might fit within an existing group. Check out the established Working / Interest Groups at You can solicit initial feedback from the Executive Director by writing to . Include a brief description of your idea as text within the e-mail message. The Executive Director might suggest your idea fits well within an already existing Working or Interest Group, and can advise you about its "fit" with the overall INDEPTH mission.
  2. If approved the Secretariat will announce your idea to the entire Network membership to find more members interested in joining the new Group and solicit feedback.
  3. Develop a statement of the group's purpose and what it sees as its end product: simply discussion? Does the group wish to be set up as a continuing or task-based group? If the former, why? If the latter, what is the anticipated duration and, again, what are the interim/final products of the group.
  4. This is a good time to begin to line up others who would support the proposed Interest Group. At least five members from different sites are required to start a new Interest Group.
  5. When thinking through your idea, match it to the goals and mission of INDEPTH, and outline objectives and intended activities to make a case for its approval.
  6. If the Executive Director does not give immediate approval but sees value in the idea, you will be given suggestions and encouraged to re-submit the proposal.

6. What the Secretariat will provide each Group

  • The Secretariat will be ready to act as the liaison. The IG or WG should keep the liaison informed of its upcoming activities.
  • The Secretariat can provide materials for events, and can help organize and promote a group's activities.
  • Every IG and WG (as defined above) will have web hosting at
  • Every group will be provided a discussion list for its members on the INDEPTH e-mail server.
  • If a concrete proposal is approved by the Executive Director, the Secretariat may fund meetings/workshops and other activities of the group.

7. What the Secretariat needs from each Group

Regular Communication: The Secretariat needs to know what's going on in the groups. The groups should communicate with their members, and with the Secretariat as much as possible to continually inform other INDEPTH members, and reduce duplication of effort.

Clearly Understood Financial Arrangements: The Secretariat must be included in financial issues. This is because the Secretariat is responsible for INDEPTH funds. Funding for WG activities must be pre-approved for reimbursement. Working Groups should not commit payment for services before receiving approval from the Secretariat.

Projects That Fall Within INDEPTH’s Mission: WGs must work within the bounds of INDEPTH's Mission, Cross-Site initiatives of the Network to insure that INDEPTH's name and activities remain true.

8. From Working Group status back to an Interest Group

Just as we hope to enable groups to form easily to meet the ever-growing number of issues, we need to let groups that have fulfilled their usefulness, pass away. Inactive groups are misleading to new members.

If a WG is inactive for more than six months - reporting requirements are unmet, the Secretariat can first ask for new WG leadership. If this doesn’t work, the WG will be classed as an Interest Group. However, no group will be dissolved without strenuous effort to gather feedback and to take all steps possible to preserve the group.

9. How the Secretariat can help with Funding

The Secretariat is very aware that money is needed in addition to the energy of our members. However, our ability to stretch our resources across our many worthwhile projects is limited. Please remember that INDEPTH has limited resources and that the needs of many Working Groups must be taken into account.