FIG PUBLICATION NO. 16
Constituting Professional Associations
Report of an FIG task force established to advise on the
formation and role of national professional surveying associations
2. The reasons for forming an association
3. How does an association begin?
4. Questions to be addressed in forming an association
I. Guidelines for preparing the constitution and rules
of a new professional association
II. Members of the task force
Orders for printed copies
The International Federation of Surveyors (FIG) is a UN-accredited
non-government organisation whose member associations are themselves NGOs
operating within national boundaries.
Many governments are seeking new ways to respond to the needs of their people
and of the demands of market-driven economies. In so doing, many are utilising
the skills and energies of NGOs, including professional bodies. It is therefore
timely that FIG should have prepared guidelines on constituting professional
associations, since one of its aims is to ensure that the disciplines of
surveying and all who practise them meet the needs of the markets and the
communities that they serve.
As part of its strategy for realising this aim, FIG has already published
guidelines on continuing professional development and is preparing a model code
of ethics and professional conduct that reflects today’s social and economic
needs. The third part of the strategy is to give guidance to countries wishing
to form new professional bodies where these do not already exist and to help
existing bodies to improve the services that they are already providing.
As noted in the guidelines, there are four reasons for forming a professional
body - to unify the profession, to provide continuing professional development,
to act on behalf of the profession, and to contribute to society’s well being.
None of us can afford to be complacent about the professional services that we
deliver, so the guidelines are as applicable to existing associations as they
are to new ones. They indicate what a professional body should do, how such a
body can be formed, and how help can be found to improve the services that
surveyors already offer.
On behalf of the Federation I would like to thank Grahame Lindsay and his
team for this document. Although it has been prepared by and for surveyors, it
will be equally helpful to other professions wishing to establish new bodies or
to improve the services offered by existing ones. I therefore commend these
guidelines to all professionals and their clients.
Professor Peter Dale
1.1 The International Federation of Surveyors (FIG) is an international
non-governmental organisation whose aim is to ensure that the disciplines of
surveying and all who practise them meet the needs of the markets and
communities they serve. As prescribed in the FIG Statutes and Internal Rules,
national surveying associations are the only full voting members of FIG.
1.2 At the end of 1997 the voting membership of FIG consisted of 72 national
associations from 65 countries with new applications being received. In addition
there were 19 correspondents from countries in which there is no association. It
is not surprising therefore that, from time to time, FIG receives requests from
individual surveyors and groups of surveyors for advice on how to form a
national professional surveying association and how such an association might
function. It is apparent that there are many countries where, for a variety of
reasons, a surveying association does not yet exist.
1.3 The FIG Bureau accordingly decided to set up a task force to prepare a
paper on the topic so that information might be available to those surveyors who
requested it. The Bureau subsequently agreed that the resultant paper could also
be of use and guidance to the members of associations which are already in
existence - and perhaps even to national associations representing other
disciplines. Whilst the primary reasons for forming an association have not
changed, there are now influences and forces at work which call for new roles
and responsibilities for all professional associations. The members of the task
force and the FIG Bureau therefore hope that this document will help many
professionals in many countries.
2.1 Four reasons for forming and association are:
- to unify the profession,
- to provide continuing professional development,
- to act on behalf of the profession and
- to contribute to society's well being.
2.2 There are eight common functions which lie behind the formation
and operation of any professional association. These are networking,
representing, promoting, educating, setting standards, producing products and
services, providing professional and technical advice, and finance and funding.
Comments on each of these follows.
2.3 Networking. It is said that there is strength in numbers and the
life and practice of every surveyor is enhanced by belonging to an association
of his or her professional peers. Such an association provides an opportunity
for members of the same discipline to come together, to learn to know one
another and to learn from one another, to encourage one another, to talk about
their work, to agree to do together the many things for their profession that
individuals cannot achieve on their own, to socialise together and to make
friendships. These are all life and community enhancing and therefore worthy
2.4 Representing. Governments and other national or local authorities
require information of many kinds on many subjects. An association may represent
the distilled views of its whole membership on topics within its area of
knowledge and on matters which impact upon its members and/or the community at
It is under this heading that surveyors must be active in contributing to the
creation of public policy in all levels of government. Surveyors, together with
other physical scientists, tend to be more enthusiastic about technology than
policy. It is true that the "how" is often easier than the "why".
Just as FIG is accepted by the United Nations as a non-government
organisation (NGO) and is referred to as a partner in development, so a
professional surveying association in a particular country should seek to
position itself with respect to the various levels of government of its country
and contribute to the development of policy in matters upon which it can
legitimately have an interest.
2.5 Promoting. Surveying in all its fields provides important services
to a community. An active association can inform the public about how these
services can be made available and how the work of surveyors will satisfy the
relevant needs of clients.
To ensure that the surveying profession attains and maintains its proper
recognition in the whole family of professions and that it makes its maximum
possible contribution to the society in which it is set, the association's
members must act in a professional manner. The association as the representative
of the profession and its members must interact with the public, the government
Through the association's continual and effective involvement in the
activities of commerce, government, education and society at large, the
profession will become recognised as contributing positively to the community.
2.6 Education. The most distinguishing factor of any professional
person is the attainment of a level of tertiary education which demonstrates
both the possession of knowledge and the commitment and understanding necessary
to achieve that level. It is important that the content of tertiary education
courses is developed by the academic institutions in consultation with the
profession. Professional surveying associations therefore have a responsibility
to work with the relevant academic institutions to ensure that the surveying
course or courses being offered in their countries meet the needs of the
profession and equip graduates with relevant knowledge. Professional
associations also work closely with employers to ensure that survey graduates
obtain the practical training and experience that are essential components of a
In countries where there are no relevant courses at university level for
surveyors, FIG will support the local association in seeking to have these
The technology of surveying in all its fields has changed rapidly in the last
few decades and these changes are now occurring at a rate which makes it
extremely difficult for any individual surveyor continuously to maintain
up-to-date knowledge. The use of computers, electronic notebooks and field
recorders, the development of commercially available computer software with
application to the operations of surveyors in both technical areas and in
financial and business management areas, improvements in the collection,
management, manipulation and presentation of data, facilities management
systems, computer aided design and life cycle costing, GIS/LIS, electronic
distance measuring devices, electronic maps and charts, GPS and many other
technological developments all require understanding and knowledge. Producing or
making available existing publications and holding seminars, workshops and
conferences which address these and other matters provide valuable opportunities
for continuing professional development.
Governments produce legislation which will impact on many aspects of the
practice of surveying or on the life of surveyors as members of the community.
Associations can help their members to understand and apply this legislation.
Continuing professional development for surveyors means that there will
always be the need for good communications between the academic institutions and
2.7 Setting standards. Another of the marks of a profession is that it
has set standards of performance for those who follow that profession. These
standards should cover a range of matters including
- standards of ethical behaviour to be adhered to when dealing with clients,
other members of the profession and the public,
- standards of performance in the conduct of the work of individuals and
- standards of education and training necessary for those who would enter
the profession and practise in it and
- standards of continuing professional development so that those who do
practise in the profession may keep their knowledge up to date.
2.8 Products and services. An association will assist its members to
understand how to deliver their goods and services in the way which will be best
for their clients and the community. It will do this by providing opportunities
for discussion, by having experts in various fields impart their knowledge and
by stimulating those who might otherwise not do so to speak of the things that
they have learned through their practice of the profession.
The association will deliver products and services to its members and provide
them with advice and information. This could include information on professional
liability and facilities for professional indemnity insurance. The range of
information services will, of course, depend on the resources available to the
association. It should have a regular newsletter, however modest. It will hold
regular meetings for its members and carry out its agreed objectives.
The association will look outwards to the whole community and seek to inform
it about the contribution that its members can make to alleviating problems and
improving the quality of life. It is also necessary in today's world of
information for the association to promote and market the profession itself.
This involves representing to governments and others the benefits which will
accrue to the whole community from the use of the knowledge and expertise of
surveyors. The association will also comment on proposed legislation and seek to
influence the development of sound public policy.
It will give advice on alternative dispute resolution processes and
arbitration procedures; and it will nominate professional persons as
arbitrators, for the provision of expert witness, and as members of advisory
It will look forward and prepare its members for changes which are occurring
or will occur in the way that its members carry out their work.
2.9 Professional and technical advice. The association, representing
the profession, acts as a conduit in supplying professional and technical advice
or assistance to those within its membership, to the clients of surveyors’
services, to standards organisations, to international organisations such as FIG
and to all outside the profession who need it. This is done through
publications, responding to requests for information and participation by
members of the association on its committees and councils.
2.10 Finance and funding. The functioning of an association
requires money and other resources, even when many of the services it provides
are given voluntarily by its members. Newsletters cost money to print and
distribute, places at which meetings can be held cost money to hire and so on.
Membership of an association carries with it the responsibility to help to
provide the resources that the association needs to carry out its objectives.
Most associations deal with this matter by requiring the payment of an annual
membership fee, the amount of which may vary with the grade of membership of
each individual member. Income can also be derived from sustaining members and
from charging members or members of the public for specific services.
2.11 Summary. The foregoing sets out the main reasons why
associations are formed and what they do after they have been formed. It is
possible that there may be other external reasons for the formation of a
professional association or for the review of the objectives and activities of
an existing association - for example, the desire by government to regulate or
de-regulate the activities of the profession. In countries where some elements
of the work of surveyors have in the past been regulated, there is an observable
trend by governments to want to transfer some or all of this responsibility to
the profession itself. In all of these circumstances, the presence of a strong,
well managed, outward looking, widely representative association of surveyors
will ensure that these changes can be dealt with in the best possible way.
3.1 In most cases it seems that the idea of forming an association
starts in the minds of one or two individuals. They may have seen how another
association works or they may have been to a meeting at which the activities of
another association have been seen. Or they may have read about another
association in a publication or newspaper. However it comes about, the seed of
forming an association is planted.
3.2 Those with this idea will talk to other surveyors and encourage
them to think about the possibility. Eventually there may be sufficient interest
for the holding of an exploratory meeting to discuss the matter. Who should be
invited to this meeting? It should be quite satisfactory for this and any other
exploratory meetings to comprise only a small group of interested individuals.
Those who may have had experience with another professional surveying
association should certainly be asked to contribute their knowledge.
3.3 Eventually, after discussion and enquiry, the interested surveyors
should come to the conclusion that an association should be formed. Once this
stage has been reached, there are various questions that need to be addressed.
Some of the most important of these are covered in the next section of this
4.1 Does the new association need a constitution or set of rules?
The answer is "Yes", but the content and shaping of those rules requires thought
and care. Appendix I includes a list of suggested headings for such a set of
rules; but the list may have to be adapted to meet the cultural (including
religious), legal and political life of the community in which the association
is set. It can be helpful to obtain the advice of a lawyer when the constitution
is being prepared.
It is best to keep the set of rules as short as possible and to express them
in language that is understandable to everyone.
4.2 Should the association seek to have a legal entity by becoming
incorporated under the relevant laws of the country? In most countries it
will be wise to follow such a course and to prepare the new association's
constitution so that it meets the requirements of the laws of the country. One
of the primary reasons for having a legal entity is the protection it provides
to the members of the association under certain circumstances. There may also be
taxation or other benefits available to the association. For these reasons, it
can be helpful to have legal advice and the advice of a financial/taxation
4.3 Who should be able to become members? This is a most
important question as the answer which is arrived at will have a vital impact on
the interests and activities of the association. The first question to be asked
is "Who are the surveyors in our country?" FIG has produced a publication
entitled "Definition of a Surveyor" and copies of it are obtainable from the
office of the FIG Bureau. Surveying associations in a number of countries have
adopted the FIG definition as their own and accept as members all those who meet
this description and carry out the activities in one or more of the various
fields described in the definition. This is a most desirable approach; but it is
recognised that it may be too ambitious for the formation of a new association.
More frequently, associations begin with a smaller and less widely
representative membership and expand and join with other associations as they
It is most important that all surveyors who practise in the public, private,
corporate, armed services and academic or teaching sectors should be able to
become members. For the association to be as effective as possible, none should
The FIG Statutes provide that associations seeking to become members of it
may be what is referred to as "vertically structured" - that is, they may
provide grades of membership for those who have full professional qualifications
and, as well, for those who have a lesser qualification. This is an issue which
needs careful thought and a solution found which will work in the particular
country. In the view of the task force, it is desirable that the association
should provide for those who have less than a full professional qualification,
whilst at the same time giving due recognition to those who have made the effort
to equip themselves with a professional qualification. Once again, it may be
desirable to begin with a small and cohesive membership and expand as experience
4.4 Should the association have a code of ethics? Since
adherence to a code of professional conduct is one of the marks of a
professional person, it is important that the new association adopts a code of
ethics at its beginning. In doing so it will state publicly the standards to
which it expects its members to adhere. FIG is preparing a model code of ethics
which may be adopted by the new association or, if this cannot be done for valid
reasons, adapted as necessary to meet the requirements of the particular
4.5 What office bearers are needed by the new association? At
its commencement, a new association needs, at least, a chairman or a president
to call and chair meetings and provide some leadership. It needs a secretary to
record the minutes or proceedings of meetings and to ensure that the decisions
of the association are carried out. It needs a treasurer to administer money and
keep accounts. If there are sufficient interested persons a few additional
committee members may be appointed to assist by accepting some other essential
responsibilities. It is best to keep the original committee to a small
manageable size, recognising that good communications are essential in the early
stages of formation. The larger the committee, the more difficult it may be to
achieve this objective. It will also be helpful to involve younger members of
the profession. They can bring their energy and enthusiasm to these important
4.6 Can a group of surveyors wishing to form an association get
help or advice from outside? The answer is fortunately "Yes". Contacting the
FIG Bureau will always be a helpful step, because by that means the group will
be able to receive up-to-date advice and information. FIG has publications
available, including the one on the definition of a surveyor, which will be
useful. The Bureau office is also the contact point for the world leaders in
surveying. Their advice will be valuable to a group of surveyors wishing to form
an association. The FIG Statutes and Internal Rules can also be helpful in
drawing attention to the kinds of matters that will need to be considered.
The Bureau may be able to do other things as well. It is possible that an
association from another country might be prepared to develop a "sister"
relationship with the new group and FIG can be the catalyst for bringing the two
together. By this means the experience and knowledge of the one can strengthen
the other and provide valuable support at an important stage in a new life.
It is possible that FIG may be able, depending on the resources available to
it and the timing of the request, to send a representative to meet the new group
and offer first hand advice and support. FIG may also be able to conduct
seminars and workshops for associations wishing to do some future planning for
the profession in their country.
The technical and scientific commissions of FIG cover all aspects of the
surveyor’s work. They produce newsletters and other publications and hold
meetings, and their members communicate by e-mail and through the Internet world
wide web. Linkage into the FIG network of people and information can bring many
4.7 What about the name? The name that is chosen for the
association is important because it gives to both the members and the public an
idea of the purposes of the association. The name should be broad enough to
allow for an enlargement in the activities and membership of the association in
the future and sufficiently descriptive to leave no doubt as to its main reason
for existence. Perusal of the list of names of the member associations of FIG
shows that there is a wide range of possibilities.
4.8 What is left to be done? When all the preparations have
been made, when the framework of the new association has been decided, when
plans for what it might do have been made and when there is agreement about the
way forward, the next step is actually to form the association. It may be done
in a very simple way by holding a meeting at which the foundation membership is
constituted, the first office bearers are elected, a short speech from a
visiting eminent person is made and the new chairman or president replies. The
meeting might conclude with supper or other social event, relevant to the
culture and practice of the country.
The opportunity should be taken to issue a media statement and publicity so
that the commencement of the new association is as widely publicised as
The new association is on its way and its new life has begun! Like any other
new life it will need nurture, care, energy, commitment, time and other
resources to make it survive and grow; but its value to those who are involved
in it, the community within which it is set and all who need the work and advice
of surveyors will increase as the association moves on.
Everyone from the international community of surveying represented by FIG
will express goodwill and interest and will encourage the association. A step
which the association will unquestionably want to take at some appropriate time
will be to become a member of FIG. We wait to welcome you!
Guidelines for preparing the constitution and rules of a new professional
- As was mentioned in section 4.1 of this document, it is best to keep the
constitution or set of rules of an association as short as possible. A common
and useful approach is to have a short formal constitution and provide in it
the right to have subsidiary by-laws or internal rules which explain and
enlarge upon matters raised in the constitution. FIG itself follows this
- It is important to remember that constitutions and rules must provide
flexibility and that they also need to be up-dated from time to time as change
occurs in the goals, structures and forms of the association in response to a
changing community. This is especially so for the by-laws and internal rules.
- Money matters are important and it will be wise to provide for a person
outside the organisation, and not necessarily an accountant, to audit the
accounts of the organisation each year. In this way, members will have the
confidence that the resources of the association, even if they are very small,
are being properly managed. There are several avenues which may be available
to associations seeking independent auditors and enquiries should be made of
other professional associations to determine the most cost effective approach.
- The following list of suggested headings for the constitutions is not
exhaustive, nor is it suggested that it be followed completely. Every
constitution should reflect the laws, customs and culture of the country
within which it is set. However, the list may be useful by providing some
ideas for discussion as the constitution is being prepared.
- Preamble - to present the association to the reader.
- The name of the association.
- The goals and objectives of the association.
- The mechanisms to achieve the goals and objectives.
- Any essential definitions - for example, who is a surveyor?
- Membership matters including the categories of membership and their
qualifications, who approves applications for membership and how membership
may be relinquished.
- Obligations of members - to support the association and adhere to its
- Rights and responsibilities - to participate in its assemblies, prepare
and deliver papers, invite guests, elect the officers, pay membership fees
- Operating structures - which officers make up its management committee,
how often must they meet and when an annual meeting is held, how persons are
elected to office, the quorum of members to be present to hold a business
meeting and the business to be transacted at ordinary and annual meetings.
- The responsibilities of elected officers.
- Finance and how the association will raise its funds - how the annual
membership subscription is decided upon and what the association might do
with its money, provision of an auditor, etc.
- Language - which language or languages are to be used in communication?
This matter might be relevant in countries with multiple languages.
- The process for amending the constitution.
- Providing for the making of by-laws or internal rules.
- How the association might be dissolved if this should become necessary
at some time in the future.
- The by-laws or internal rules will expand on matters in the constitution
where this is necessary. The FIG Bureau can provide examples of the
constitution and rules of some existing associations for guidance.
Members of the Task Force who prepared this document
Grahame Lindsay (Chairman) - Vice President (and formely Secretary-General)
of FIG (Australia)
Ken Allred - Chairman, FIG Commission 1 (professional practice) (Canada)
Ernst Höflinger (Austria)
Jerome Ives (USA)
David Macoco (Kenya)
Michel Mayoud (France)
Wee Soon Kiang (Singapore)