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International Organization Networks

A Complementary Perspective

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Printed in A J R Groom and Paul Taylor (Eds). International Organizations: a conceptual approach. Frances Pinter, 1977, pp. 381-413. Also appeared in Anthony Judge, From Networking to Tensegrity Organization: collected papers (Brussels, Union of International Associations, 1984, pp. 121-130)


This chapter first discusses briefly the extent to which an inter-organizational perspective is currently used in connection with the theory or practice of international organization. The distinction between 'network' and 'system' is then examined and the complementarity of the two perspectives in relation to a structure-process continuum is emphasized. An attempt is made to sketch out a network model of society and the challenge it poses for data collection. The availability of data on organizational and related networks is then discussed before reporting on one extensive data collection exercise which demonstrates the feasibility of the approach. Some directions for analysis, and the possibility for predicting various kinds of network growth, are then considered. Finally, the question of network design and various policy implications are examined.

The conventional approach to the analysis of organizations, and especially international organizations, has focussed on individual organizations. (1) These have either been studied in isolation as particular cases (embedded in an environment of pressures and processes) or considered as members of a set on which some form of quantitative analysis could be performed (members, personnel, budget, and the like). Both these approaches tend to avert attention from the pattern of linkages between existing international organizations or to the 'international organization' which emerges from any relatively stable pat tern of linkages across national boundaries.

Clearly there are exceptions to this statement. For example, Edward Miles has undertaken a number of studies of the complex of international organizations concerned with special issue areas (e.g. space, law of sea). However, he is more concerned with the particular case and less with the general problems of analyzing and describing such patterns of structural interaction. There has also been much work on the analysis of transactions or exchanges across national boundaries and on the formation of coalitions between nation states. The former tends naturally to emphasize the flows rather than the pattern constituted by the set of flows. The latter is, of course, primarily concerned with the nation state as air actor, and the power blocs constituted by such coalitions, rather than their fine structure.

William Evan, in his introduction to a reader on inter-organizational relations (2), makes the point that:

There has of course been no lack of studies of the 'international system' but these have tended to focus on aggregated quantitative data relating to geographical areas or individual nation states rather than to organizational 'fine structure' which is the vehicle for the international system Where a network orientation has been specifically used, it has been applied to the network of relations between nation states as in the case Harary and Miller, Schofield or Vaughn (3)

Although Vaughn, in fits analysis of the EEC, also includes enterprises and the Commission itself. Where individual organizations or groups of organizations have been considered, they tend either to have been studied in terms of their use as control mechanisms for the international system (e.g. the United Nations) or as being limited in their activities by features of that system. Again the richness and diversity of the interacting organizational forms has been ignored (for example, the variety of forms discussed in Chapter 2 of this volume). Efforts to move towards a broader perspective have been made: by various people advised by Chadwick Alger, focusing on problem-area organization networks; by Elise Boulding, in connection with women's organizations and religious groups (4); and by Diana Crane, in extending her work on discipline-related networks of scientists and the invisible colleges to networks of international scientific and professional associations (5). The author, partly in collaboration with Kjell Skjelsbaek, has explored possibilities of tracking evolving networks of international organizations. (6) This resulted recently in the establishment of a data base on networks of organizations, problems. treaties, disciplines, and the like, which was used to produce the Yearbook of World Problems and Human Potential.

Before considering the contribution of research on social networks or the distinction, if any, between 'system' and 'network', it is useful to note the emergence of the use of 'network' in the practice of international organizations.

'Network' in practice

It is no exaggeration to state that the number of interlinked international organization units is such that no one has a clear overview or understanding of how the complex functions (if at all, as some would have it). This was first clearly stated in 1969 with respect to one international organization system in the Capacity Study of the United Nations Development System under Sir Robert Jackson, who commented:

Elsewhere it is noted in the Study that:

The situation remains the same in 1977. There is no unit within the UN system which records the existence of all other units in the system or has a mandate to do so. This shows how difficult it is to obtain an overview of the interlinkages in even one large organizational complex. The impression of complexity and the operational constraints imposed by it have led those working with or within such environments to use the term inter-organizational 'network' to describe their perception. The term is also used to describe any complex of organizations (UN or not) which may be relevant to a particular issue. As will emerge from the discussion of the relationship between 'network' and 'system' there is obviously a well-founded reluctance to speak of a 'system' under such circumstances. (Sir Robert Jackson even went as far as to refer to the UN development system as a 'non-system'.)

In such an environment, therefore, when a proposal is now made for the creation of some broad-purpose organizational instrument, there is a tendency to advocate the creation of a 'network' of some kind even at the intergovernmental level. This deliberately avoids introducing the kinds of systemic linkages which are perceived as having malfunctioned in previous exercises.

Consider the following examples:

1. United Nations International System for Information ot Science and Technology: 'UNISIST is a continuing. flexible programme based on a joint Unesco- ISCU Study whose aims are to coordinate existing trends towards cooperation and to act as a catalyst for the necessary developments in scientific and technical information. The ultimate goal is the establishment of a flexible and loosely connected network of information services based on voluntary cooperation.' (UNISIST Newsletter, 1 at January l973, page 2.)

Studies by international organizations of their environments also lead increasingly to documents which refer to the existence of 'networks' of one kind or another.

2. Multinational Corporations in World Development. 'While the terms "corporation", "film" and "company" are generally used interchangeably, the term "enterprise" in sometimes preferred as clearly including a network of corporate and non-corporate entitles in different countries joined together by ties of ownership '

'By contrast, most developed host countries belong to a network of advanced economic, and even political, relationships which allow for more successful economic and political bargaining.' (ECOSOC report on Multinational Corporations in World Development, page 4.)

When employed in connection with multinational corporations, the term may be used with negative connotations. At the national level studies have been made to identify the networks constituted by 'interlocking directorates' which are viewed as undesirable. (7)

It should also be remembered that the term achieved widespread use with the development of espionage and, more recently, terrorist networks. It is appropriate to note that a 1975 conference of the United Nations Institute for Training and Research, in identifying the main problems of using the potential of NGOs in social and economic development, included that of developing the network of NGOs and made suggestions for a 'network approach'. (5) In a 1976 review of the action of environmental NGOs, a similar point is made at length in a report to the United Nations Environment Programme. (9). The author has recently described 34 practical problems hindering the utilization of NGO networks. (10). Alvin Toffler, in testimony before a US Senate Committee in 1975, has also stressed the importance of a network focus. (11). The Alliance for Volunteerism, a consortium of 14 U.S. volunteer groups has recently launched a research project on interagency collaboration which will focus on the question of networks.

There appears to be an emerging awareness amongst practitioners that the concept of a network, network organization and 'networking' are appropriate to the current rapidly changing conditions which constantly give rise to fresh problems and unforeseen requirements for action -- requirements which cannot be rapidly and satisfactorily distributed to organizations working in isolation within rigidly defined programmes. Networks are perceived as permitting all the decentralization necessary to satisfy the need for autonomous organizational development and individual initiative. They also permit very rapid centralization, canalization, and focussing of resources the moment any complex problem (or natural disaster) emerges which requires the talents of an unforeseen configuration or constellation of organizations.

Social networks

There has been a considerable amount of work on 'social networks' by which is meant primarily networks of individuals, usually analyzed in terms of the pattern of their relationships around one individual. Arnold Toynbee favours the conception of society as the act of such networks:

A very useful clarification is made by J. Clyde Mitchell as follows:

But despite the amount of work done on social networks, very little of it deals with inter-organizational networks. When it does, it is either at the community level or between individuals in institutional structures. There does, however, seem to be a marked sensitivity on the part of scholars in this area to the implication that much work remains to be done on interorganizational networks. Some believe the development of formal analytical procedures is far ahead of the ability to collect adequate data. Consequently there is resistance to the optimistic note sounded by scholars such as Francois Lorrain:

The formal analysis of social structure from a network viewpoint is therefore still in its early stages. In a review of the literature, Scott Boorman notes that, to a large extent: Since the study of social networks has focussed on individuals, it remains to be seen to what extent the weaknesses of the approach would also apply in the case of organizations, particularly since data on relationships between large numbers of organizations may be more easily collected and as such any analysis would tend to be more relevant to decision-making about the network and about particular organizations in it. It is not for nothing that one of the early studies in this area was funded by the US Office of Civil Defense.(16)

'System' versus 'Network'

The definition of 'system' (like that of 'structure') is the subject of continuing confusion. It is not surprising therefore that the implication that 'network' is in some way distinct from 'system' tends to give rise to vigorous debate. It is the mathematics-based pure and applied sciences which are most disturbed by the possibility of any distinction. Clearly, in purely formal mathematical terms, both system avid network consist of an interconnected set of elements. But even when account is taken of the nature of those elements, the manner of their interconnection and the properties of the resultant whole, the distinctions between definitions of system and of network are confused especially where value-related questions are raised concerning the relative equitability of different social structures. The confusion and overlap is illustrated by the following definitions taken from the Yearbook of World Problems and Human Potential (17) of which the first two are for system and the last for network:

The characteristics of the network's elements and relationships can be described by values, which may of may not be quantitative. The values can be fixed or they can vary in some way with time. Thus the relationship between two points may not exist during a particular period of lime (as in an electrical circuit), or several possible relationship paths may exist between two points (as in a telephone circuit). Different types of relationship may exist between the same two points.
The question of interest may be less the distinction between system and network, if any, and inure the connotations of the terms in contexts associated with international and organizational activity. The question may then be why is there a preference for - 'network' instead of 'system' under certain circumstances. Consider the distinctions in the case of a road system/network. a telephone system/network of a concept system/network before reflecting on the case of an interorganizational system/network Under what circumstances is there a negative connotation to either term?

The author recently presented to a meeting in Montreal the following suggestions as to how the distinction tends to be made in practice. Further points appear in the report of the debate. (18):

Complementarity of system and network perspectives

Rather than attempt to resolve the distinction between system an network, it may be useful to conceive of the two terms as being different but complementary conceptual approaches to a structure-process continuum. (19). When a system perspective is used, in practice the emphasis is on the properties and the characteristics of the whole conceived as a set of interlinked processes (over which a measure centralized control is described). In the extreme case the set of processes can be viewed as energy field effects. The structure supporting the processes, if considered at all, is perceived and represented in terms of its gross features. When a network perspective is used, in practice the emphasis is on the properties and character of the continuous pattern of linkages constituting the structure. The processes which may occur in the network, if considered at all, are perceived and represented in terms of the pathways through the network (the mapping of which constitutes the initial challenge). The concern with processes builds up, the perspective shifts toward the system focus, whereas concern with detailed representation of structure shifts the perspective towards the network focus.

The system perspective therefore tends to be used when the structure is assumed to be relatively simple and conceptually well- defined but where the complexity of the processes poses a challenge to conceptualization and representation. The network perspective, conversely is used when the processes are assumed to be relatively simple and well-defined but where the structural complexity poses a challenge to conceptualization and representation.

Expressed in these terms, the complementarity of the two perspectives highlights the problem of description, analysis and policy formulation in relation to global society. A focus on the system process dynamics, as typified by the current approaches to world modelling, is obliged to eliminate structural (and especially fine structural) features to reach a level of aggregation which tenders the analysis viable. A focus on the network of fine structure would presumably only be practicable if the complexity of process characteristics was highly simplified. Either filter can be employed, but both cannot yet be removed together and result in any practicable comprehensible investigation. On the question of the importance of fine structure Donald Schon comments that:

In the introduction to the Yearbook of World Problems and Human Potential 1976 (see note 17) the editors raise a related question:

Some of these matters were recently explored during a panel on complexity as a constraint on social innovation during a meeting of the International Foundation for Social Innovation (21). Such views suggest that it is of value to explore the possibility of representing aspects of global society as a network, especially the networks associated with international organization.

Network model

There does not seem to be available any well-articulated conceptual model of the network structure of society. Such a model would be based upon the stable networks of interpersonal relationships whose existence is established by the many social network studies. It would include:

Within such a model it should be clear how changes in the network of interpersonal relationships are catalyzed by changes in It should be clear how changes in relationship patterns are catalyzed by events such as isolated (or periodic) meetings which provide focal points through which new links are momentarily made and then possibly given permanence through the establishment of working relationships or even formal organizations. Such changes are provoked by changes in the perceived nature of the network of problems with which any particular zone of the interpersonal or inter-organizational network is confronted. Indeed there is considerable interaction between the various kinds of network noted above, leading to sympathetic structural changes, whether resulting in fragmentation or greater integration. (None of this is effectively registered by currently proposed social indicators.)

Clearly new concepts, values or problems give rise to new meetings, new organizations, new information system and new regulations. These in turn catalyze the emergence of further concepts, values or perceived problems. There are many shifts and waves in the changing patterns of relationships. Many patterns are extremely short-lived and cannot constitute a basis for institutions of any permanence. Others survive for. and are exhausted by, a single meeting. Others give rise to information systems. possibly of rapidly diminishing significance. And of course some give rise to organizations through which particular networks of inter-personal relationships are activated and supported for long periods. The emergence of organizations in this way leads to the establishment of formal or informal networks of relationships between such bodies at the same level, with others at a 'lower' level (e.g. member organizations), or with others at a 'higher' level (e.g. bodies of which it is a member). Such networks themselves provide a framework through which new concepts, values or problems give rise to new meetings, new organizations, new Information systems and new regulations. And the forms of the networks are themselves modified, to a greater or lesser extent, by such activity and by ongoing structural developments in the 'parallel' network of concepts, values or problems.

The structure of any of these networks is not only a matter for detached observation. Much energy is devoted by individuals and organizations associated with these networks to reordering them. Domains of influence are established around focal points: specific problems, values, and concepts are given territorial characteristics and stimulate appropriate behaviour. Portions of the network are ordered, bi-directional relationships are made uni-directional and focussed on particular modes. Efforts are made to rationalize these changes by establishing hierarchical structures with well-defined boundaries. whether from exciting networks of as a development within existing networks.
Just as hierarchies are created and embedded in networks, so there are networks which emerge and evolve within and between hierarchical structures. Very large hierarchical structures (e.g. the United Nations) are associated with very complex networks. Other hierarchical structures may be nested within such networks. A set of otherwise unrelated hierarchies may be tightly linked by networks (e.g. interlocking corporation directorates, invisible colleges) which may extend between different kinds of hierarchies (e.g. old boy networks).

The model should also make clear how the variety of organizational forms and preoccupations is generated and interrelated within such networks (which would appear to be information analogues of the complex food webs which interrelate very diverse species in nature). In particular it would be valuable to clarify the functions of organizational variety of form and preoccupation and the advantages and disadvantages of reducing or increasing such variety. This would also help to determine the current significance of antiquated institutions and of the bodies created for fun or out of whimsy (e.g. the Association for the Promotion of Humour in International Affairs). Do such bodies perform any useful function or would society function better it such organizational clutter was rapidly eliminated?

Data availability

Assuming that a model such as that sketched out above constituted a useful representation of one aspect of societal activity, the question is whether the relationships represented could be adequately captured in in information system. There is a considerable gap between the richness and diversity implied in the above model and in those depicting the international system as made up of some 150 states linked through an equal number of intergovernmental bodies and alliances into a handful of power blocs. An equivalent perspective is common at the national level within each nation state.

Clearly whilst it would be desirable to examine global society in terms of social networks of individuals, this does not seem to be practicable, although the implications of such networks should be borne in mind --- particularly when considering the significance of census data on individuals abstracted from such networks. And although census data is available on individuals and on the commercial enterprises by which they are employed or from which they purchase products, none is readily available on (he groups and associations in which (hey are active and through which their views are expressed and frequently molded. The importance of such information to government is illustrated by the fact that when it is collected such data tends to be maintained in central registries for official purposes often linked to national security avid personnel vetting. Such data is also actively sought both by commercial groups eager to expose association members to particular products and services and by opinion forming bodies (e.g. the UN Office of Public Information) eager to orient association members to new values, issues and fund-donating opportunities. it is appropriate to note that data on national and local government units and their relationships is frequently also difficult to obtain in any systematic manner.

In the present circumstances it is perhaps fortunate that such national and subnational data is not more readily available, given the misuse to which it would tend to be subject. In fact, for purposes of initial research and general education, it would be much simpler, less costly avid possibly more enlightening to simulate the growth and change of a variety of complex networks (and levels of networks) in a computer environment with suitable visual display facilities. A variety of conceptual and organizational entities and relationships could be 'grown' and analyzed under different conditions and subjected to different constraints. It would be relatively simple to work over extended time periods with a population of 104 or even 106 entities and an equivalent number of relationships which would otherwise constitute a formidable coding investment. It would be instructive to determine to what extent modules from the conventional system-oriented world models could be blended into such a framework. In relation to the formal analogue noted earlier. Such a simulation might explore the following questions noted elsewhere by the author (see note 17):

Data collected

Partly in an attempt to explore the possible characteristics of a model such as that sketched above, a special programme was initiated in 1972 by the Union of International Associations (publishers of the Yearbook of International Organizations) jointly with Mankind 2000 (which initiated the series of International Futures Research Conferences). This programme resulted in 1976 in the publication of an experimental 13 section Yearbook of World Problems and Human Potential. Each of the sections is devoted to a particular kind of entity (whether international organizations, world problems, values, multilateral treaties, and bite like.) Each section is structured on computer files as a series of entities linked together in networks. Entities in different sections are also linked in networks. A summary of the numbers of entities and relationships is given as Table 1 (see p. 403).

The kinds of relationships that could be registered in this way clearly depend on the nature of the entity-pair so linked. Formal relationships (e.g. membership, consultative status) were registered between organizations, but most relationships could only be established as related subjects (e.g. a treaty on 'child labour' and a world problem of 'child labour').

Some data collected for the 1977 edition of the Yearbook of International Organizations (a companion volume to the above publication) is useful as an indication of intra-organizational networks (relating to international organizations). This has been presented as Table 3 of Chapter 2 and summarizes the national member links to International bodies. Clearly it does not cover intra-secretariat links.

This project illustrates the possibility of tracking complex networks involving international organizations although it remains to be seen how best the data can be analyzed and whether they can be effectively updated as is intended.

Directions for analysis

Organization is best depicted as a network. The mathematical theory of networks derives largely from certain branches of topology and abstract algebra. The theory of graphs is often presented as a kind of general theory of networks; however. other than in the area of operations research it has riot proved itself to he very useful in sociology. The theory rarely handles networks with several distinct types of relationship, each with its own configuration of links. It is precisely such networks which are of most interest in sociology. It also tends to exclude networks in which some of the points have links back to the selves, and it is often just such networks which are important in representing social structures.

A final disadvantage of the theory of graphs is that it only offers a fairly limited range of means of global analysis of networks. In such a situation it is not possible to provide more precise descriptions of networks as structures with particular characteristics, or as made up of sub-structures with particular characteristics. It is therefore difficult to distinguish clearly between networks of different types; especially since an adequate description depends upon structural rather than quantitative information. It is curious that none of the sciences appear to have developed a terminology to facilitate communication about irregular, complex, multi-dimensional structures.

Conventional analysis of networks provides information on such characteristics at number of nodes, number of links, centrality of a node and interconnectedness of a group of entities. Such characteristic give very little Information on the structural features, patterning or irregularities of a network. The term network generally implies the presence of:

Clearly networks vary a great deal in their possession of one or more of these characteristics. The first three are typical of most formal organizations (organizations as networks), although (c) is less frequent or raises problems, in organizations of a more bureaucratic style. An organizational hierarchy. having characteristics (a) and (b), may therefore be considered as an ordered network. The degree of ordering is decreased or diluted (at least in one sense) with the presence of the
other characteristics.

To the extent that the last four characteristics are embodied in networks, and particularly the last two, there is a tendency for the networks to become less formal and more difficult to document. This does not of course necessarily imply a decrease in their functional significance in society - it may even imply an increase.

The degree of centralization raises a difficulty in that some may prefer not to apply the term network in situations where centralization is high, particularly where this implies ultimate control by a single centre. Others, however, may consider that situations of (very) low or 'variable' centralization are not of immediate interest, whether or not they can he adequately studied. The problem in determining directions for analysis is that so little of the considerable body of literature on social networks has been explored in terms of its relevance to the study of inter-organizational networks and few of the scholars interested in social networks have any interest in inter-organizational networks except as networks of individuals. It is appropriate to note that Johan Galtung has recently suggested that 'structural analysis is indispensable at any level of society analysis, from inter- personal to inter-national'. He advocates the use of this approach for the development of a needed range of social indicators, particularly of relevance to development. (22)

Predictive possibilities

The data available and the manner of its organization suggest interesting possibilities for predicting:

Such prediction is not confined to networks of organizations and is in fact dependent upon examination of the interactions between networks of organizations, occupations, disciplines, problem-areas, and the like. Growth or evolution of any of these networks will tend to provoke
corresponding growth or evolution in the others with which it interacts

1. Network growth: It is possible to make use of existing ordered subject domains. applied
against semi-ordered domains or organizations problems, disciplines or occupations, to detect subjects which have a significant probability of being expressed in organizations, problems or like phenomena.

The simplest and most common example of an ordered subject domain is a hierarchically organized thesaurus (e.g. the Universal Decimal Classification system). Specialized thesauri have, for
example, been developed to order occupation (23), commodities (24), economic sectors (25) and diseases (26).

A simple procedure (perhaps overly simple in the light of further investigation, but an advance on the current state of affairs) that can be adopted, is to check off in any such hierarchy the nodes for
which corresponding organizations, problems, or the like exist. Then, by inspection, it is possible to note unchecked nodes which are apparently 'late' in being activated in terms of any such correspondence. This may best be clarified by the following diagram:

*** Insert Diagram (tree structure)***

The solid circles indicate checked nodes for which a corresponding organization, problem, or appropriate phenomen exists, whereas the unfilled circles indicate the lack of any such correspondence (or lack of adequate data). The degree to which any particular branch is 'filled' may be considered to exert a 'probability pressure' on the change in the status of those remaining unfilled. This approach at least raises the question as to why a particular correspondence has not been found. This may he very useful, in the case of organizations for example, to identify domains in which a formal organization has not been created because an organizational substitute has been found satisfactory (e.g. a periodic meeting, a journal, a treaty). The possibilities of this approach emerged in the collection of information on world problems. Where these were related to commodities, economic sectors, diseases, or occupations, gaps in any hierarchy of problems immediately became apparent and raised useful questions.

Clearly there are possibilities for refining this technique by exploring matches between several hierarchies simultaneously. Matching the disciplines against the (ILO) catalogue of professional occupations brings out underdeveloped features of the latter which may suggest areas of emergence of organizations, problems, and treaties. This approach is not limited to matches between hierarchies. It may also, and possibly more realistically and usefully, he applied by rising computers to
degrees of correspondence between any isomorphic structure This would of course he more appropriate in the case of those networks which cannot he usefully assumed to be hierarchically ordered. In this way it could well prove possible to explore the manner and speed at which networks of organizations are likely to develop specialized branches to break down some subject domain - possibly to a point of saturation at which a paradigm shift becomes necessary.

Where parts of the network are tied to geographical regions (e.g. Scandinavia, Europe, Caribbean), the presence or absence of particular regional components could be used in a similar way to predict the emergence of others. For example, European professional regional organizations are likely to emerge before equivalent African or Asian bodies. It might be possible to estimate the degrees of lag for certain categories between different regions. (This would of course be dependent on the national and sub-national networks.)

2. Multiplication of networks: In attempting to predict the emergence of organizations, it is of course not possible to limit attention to the simple breakdown of subject fields. Even a superficial check of the range of international organizations shows that a particular subject may be the focus of an organization with slants or modes such as:

Each of these modifiers, and the list is neither complete nor systematic, may give rise to parallel networks interwoven to different degrees. Presumably at sonic stage it will be possible to clarify the possible scope for organization formation by combining a series of factors of this kind.

3. Evolution of networks In the absence of any analyses and comparisons of organizational networks which could be used to distinguish types of networks, or structural formulae for networks, it is only possible to suggest that networks may be subject to structural shifts after periods of growth. (Some indications may possibly be gleaned from the literature describing transport and communication networks within and between urban centres.)

When a network has grown, in terms of a given formula, it appears to reach a point of strain, in relation to the demands placed upon it, at which some new structural formula becomes desirable. (From a strictly formal point of view, the need for such changes and their nature is evident in the evolution and morphogenesis of biological forms.) It is through such structural transformations that new varieties of organizational network emerge. This is perhaps most clearly seen in the emergence and increasing complexity during the twentieth century of inter-corporate networks, whether in terms of financial control (e.g. holding companies, inter-locking directorates) or movement of products (between corporations producing or using goods and services). It is less clearly documented in the case of the academic environment. Other possible models of interest might be developed from efforts to define the emergence of conceptual relationships between disciplines -- particularly since it is probable that this would influence the inter relationships between the corresponding professional or scientific associations (cf. Jantsch (27), Wahlin (28), Kedrov (29).

4. Impact-effects within and between networks: The structure of the international system of bodies which have mutual effects on one another may be described as a network of organizations and associations. Some of the bodies in the network may directly effect some of the problems in the problem complex which may also be described as a network.

In considering how impact occurs and is transferred:

a series of possibilities of increasing structural complexity may be borne in mind. To illustrate this series, consider the structures illustrated in Table 1.

*** Insert Table 1 ****

A particular element transferring impact-effects may do so as follows:

The situation is complicated by the fact that most of the above structures contain branches, implying a divergence of impact. But clearly if the impacts were transferred from the branches, rather than to them, there would be convergence of impact through the structure:

*** Insert Diagram ***

The structures may be combined in branching or converging series and even with loops back to an earlier structure - thus constituting networks of varying degrees of complexity. (Note that normally a structural element can not be considered an 'absolute originator' of impact nor an 'absolute sink' for impact.)

Up to this point the elements making up the structures have been considered as made up entirely of organizations or entirely of problem But impact can be transferred between organization and problem structures as noted above. In other words the structures considered above can be either organizations or problems. and they can transfer impact to organizations or problems (in similar structures).

This leads to mixed impact-transferring structural sequences of that following types:

*** Insert List

Clearly these sequences can he further extended to cover more complex patterns of interaction between organization and problem networks. It should be stressed that the organization structure, for example, in any of tile above sequences (e.g. PPOP) may itself he a complex sequence of structures as discussed earlier. To the extent that it is advisable to distinguish between intergovernmental organizations and international associations (i.e. nongovernmental structures), the organization structures must be split into two types (e.g. 0 and 0').

This approach would probably demand that the problems be also split into at least two groups, those recognized by intergovernmental organizations and those recognized by international associations (e.g. P and P' ).

Combining these together would result in description of impact chains of such forms as OPO'OPOP', etc. Whether or not this split (namely O and O' and P and P') is made, the real situation is probably much more complex because of the network characteristics which would give impact networks such as

**** Insert diagram

Such situations are somewhat more complex than those addressed by conventional studies of impact such as whether organization A makes an impact on B. Clearly organization A may not make an impact directly on B, but it may do so on C and D (perhaps via many intermediate bodies or problems) which then may make an impact on B.

The social sciences are some way from being able to describe such sequences and track impacts through them. It is even uncertain that there would be any consensus that such an approach is relevant to current preoccupations which depend upon simplication of complex situations to render them communicable within the political arena.

At some stage it may be possible to track the movement of impact through such structural sequences in terms of how different structural components amplify, dampen or store and release impact under different conditions. The meaning of 'impact' well be as elusive as that of  'electricity', to whose movement through circuitry the above situations bear some resemblance. The question of the distinction between positive and negative impact would also have to be considered.

Network design

a. Inter-organizational design There is little available knowledge on interorganizational design for the obvious reason that whenever there is any organizational initiative, there is a natural tendency to design a single organization, however large and cumbersome, and little incentive to explore the possibility of interorganizational networks with a minimum, if any, of centralized control. As William Evan notes in an editorial comment introducing a chapter of readings on designing and managing interorganizational systems:

The three articles he includes as illustrations of potentially useful approaches make the point that much remains to be done. One deals with strategies for resolving inter-organizational conflict, the second focuses on the Antitrust Division of the US Department of Justice, and the third examines the role of computer-based communications systems in effecting interorganizational linkages (in a product marketing context). None gets to grips with the actual design of organization networks. There have however been a number of studies of decision-making in an interorganizational environment. (34)

b. Matrix organization: This approach, developed and implemented by NASA for the moon project, is a major step toward network design but in itself is inadequate because it has a single-purpose structure in which the purpose is formulated by one body and is thus more like a 'system'. Within the matrix structure each participating body. whether controlled by NASA or not, is considered to he at the Intersection of influences from other parts of the structure and itself in turn influences several others. It is a system which tends to diminish the visibility of authority and to as all operative mode. Operating decisions are part of the give and take of specialized units struggling for a share of the system's total resources.

c. Potential association: The insights derived from use of a network model as a way of structuring perceptions concerning society can be used to move towards the development of an alternative style of organization. In testimony before the Committee on Foreign Relations of the United Stages Senate, Alvin Toffler outlined this possibility in the case of international NGOs, in response to a question on how to organize a wide variety of interest groups into a coherent network:

Nor does Toffler limit this technique to NGOs:

Elsewhere the author has discussed the concept of a 'potential association' (30) as an innovative response to the new operational requirements necessitated by the approach suggested by Toffler. Such an association would, as such, not have 'members' in the conventional sense of a defined set of individuals or units of organization subscribing in common to a particular set of views. The emphasis would be switched to objectifying the tenuous concept of a group of bodies which could link together in different transient patterns under appropriate conditions.

The need to centre attention on existing organizations (with their tendency to self-perpetuation and to constituting obstacles to social change) is diminished in favour of recognition of the range of potential patterns into which the component entities in the potential pool could 'gel' in response to new conditions. A meaningful and dynamic social framework for conventional, organizations is thereby supplied. Thus whilst society may, with the use of an approach of this type, form a highly ordered (low entropy) complex at any given time -- satisfying short term, stability
requirements -- the high probability of switching later to completely different high order patterns supplies the 'randomness' (high entropy) condition essential to the facilitation of social change and development in response to new conditions. In this connection Johan Galtung's view of the importance of high entropy for world peace is noteworthy:

In other words, we have a means of ensuring high social stability at each point in time with low predictability over time, or alternatively, and paradoxically, we can think of it as a potentially (i.e. unrealizable) highly ordered situation over time which 'contains' a sequence of very disordered situations. An advantage of this is that people and power groups have somewhat greater difficulty in taking up feudalistic roles in potential structures (if in fact it is possible to do so).

d. Organizational tensegrity: There is an unexpected formal analogy between some architectural design constraints and aspects of organization and network design. Architecture is no longer restricted to simple arches and domes which derive their stability by allowing structural weight to impinge on the compressive continuity of bearing members and protecting the result by occasional tensional reinforcement - an approach which bears considerable resemblance to the conventional hierarchical organization. Instead of thinking in terms of weight and support, the space enclosed may be conceived as a system of equilibrated omnidirectional stresses.

Such a structure is not supported by the lowest level. It is pulled outward into sphericity by inherent tensional forces which its geometry also serves to restrain. Gravitation is largely irrelevant. Many parallels can be explored with the organizational development from hierarchies to networks and away from oppressive structures. The value of this is that considerable thought has already been given to the nature, construction and stabilizing forces within the resultant architectural geodesic and tensegrity structures. (32). It may well be that this will provide the necessary clues on how to design some useful organizational networks for those cases where the hierarchical form is no longer appropriate.

Policy implications

1. Facilitation of network processes: It is clear that intra- and inter-organizational networks are growing, multiplying and evolving in response to perceived social problems and possibilities for action. These changes are in large part unplanned (and unfinanced) from any central point and appear to be self-correcting in that 'excessive' development is compensated by the emergence of
counteracting networks. Little attention is given to facilitating this growth so that in some cases it may be considered dangerously 'spastic'.

Despite this the network of organizations (international,  national, and local) of every kind and with every pre-occupation, represents a major unexplored resource. The (synergistic) potential of this network, if its processes were facilitated. is unknown.

Possibilities for facilitating these processes include:

2. Network organizational strategy: The elements of the strategic problem at this time include: These networks, and others, are not static structures. They are changing rapidly in response to pressures and opportunities perceived in very different parts of the social system. As such they, and
component sub-networks, are not controlled or controllable by any single body, if only because the complexity cannot be handled by any single body or group of bodies.

The strategic problem therefore is how to ensure that the appropriate organizational resources emerge, and are adequately supported, in response to emerging pressures and opportunities. But it would seem that this must be achieved without organizing and planning such organized response - for to the extent that any part of the network is so organized, other parts will develop (and probably should develop) which will favour and implement alternative (and partially conflicting)

The challenge is therefore to develop the meaning and constraints of what may be termed a network strategy. This is an approach which facilitates or catalyses (rather than organizes) the emergence. growth, development, adaptation and galvanization of organizational networks in response to problem networks, in the light of the values perceived at cacti particular part of the social system.

3. Network vocabulary: Whether amongst academics, policy-makers, administrators, or other practitioners, the frequency with which 'network' is now used is not matched by any increasing facility in distinguishing between types of network. Because clear and simple concepts are lacking, together with the appropriate terms, discussion of such social complexity can only be accomplished, if at all, by the use of extremely cumbersome and lengthy phrases which tend to create more confusion than they eliminate. A vocabulary is required which is adapted to complexity. In the absence of such a vocabulary, debate tends to avoid discussion of issues which emerge from such complexity and concentrates on issues which can be adequately expressed via the existing vocabulary. This creates the illusion that the issues which can he discussed are the most important because of the visibility accorded them by the vocabulary a hand.

There is therefore a real challenge to the social sciences to identify concepts associated with complexity and to locate adequate terms wit which to label them. Johan Galtung, has for example, offered suggestions for "a simple vocabulary, with a minimum of terms as well as for some graphic symbols that can be used to depict various structures from family relations to international conflict formations, across levels of social organization." (22) The author has also suggested a series of terms as an illustration of the possibilities. (33)

The development of such a network vocabulary would provide a powerful means for objectifying and de-mystifying the complexity of the organizational. problem and conceptual networks by which we are surrounded and within which most of our activity is embedded.


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