GAVI has evolved from a loosely structured alliance to a more formal international partnership. The initial GAVI Alliance was informal and had no legal status; it relied on its partners and various entities to provide implementation and governance.
As GAVI developed their new funding mechanisms and allocated increasingly larger amounts of funding, its work became more complex. GAVI received income from four different sources: 1) direct contributions of individuals, foundations, and donor governments to the U.S. nonprofit, 2) direct contributions from donor governments to a GAVI trust account at UNICEF, 3) direct contributions from donor governments to other GAVI trust accounts, including a trust at the World Bank, and 4) proceeds of bond sales from IFFIm. In its initial structure, GAVI had multiple boards, secretariats, working groups, and standing committees. These groups had overlapping roles and the lines of accountability were not always clear.
This lack of clarity may have been an advantage early on. In their evaluation of the first phase of GAVI (2000-2005), Abt Associates (2008) reported that a certain amount of ambiguity was at times useful to maintain commitment by all the partnersit enabled partners to interpret GAVIs mandate and their own roles and responsibilities in ways acceptable to the institutions they represented. With respect to governance and management as well as strategic decision-making, ambiguity was sometimes used to facilitate agreement among partners.
With a larger, more complex organization, however, this ambiguity became more problematic. For instance, it led to unnecessary duplication of efforts. In 2005, the alliance chose to undergo a process of convergence, merging the management structures of the Alliance and the Fund under one Secretariat. In 2007, GAVI chose to further modify its structure. An external governance evaluation found that while GAVI had succeeded, the evolution of the organization from a start-up venture to an established force in global public health required re-examination of its structures and processes (CEPA Governance Discussion Paper 2007).
GAVI thus chose to merge the Vaccine Fund and the Alliance into a foundation to be based in Switzerland. This governance evolution becomes official in 2009. For the first time, the GAVI Alliance will be a formal institution (previously only the Fund was a legal entity). This change represents a shift from an informal partnership towards a partnership institution in its own right (CEPA Governance Discussion Paper 2007).