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1973

Networking Principles: an attempt at a set of guidelines

Notes on the networking concept as applied to information systems

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Prepared for a conference on the networking concept of the International Referral Service of the United Nations Environment Programme (Heidelberg, December 1973)

Adapted from: Anthony Judge. The World Network of Organizations (International Associations, 24, 1, 1972, pp. 16-24) and The Nature of Organizations in Transnational Networks (Paper presented at the conference of the International Studies Association, Dallas, 1972) and Inter-organizational Relationships; in search of a new style (conclusion of a seminar report to reflect on the network of international associations).


The problem for transnational organizations is to develop a way of increasing the dynamism and strength of their networks without retreating to the unsuccessful formula of the coordinating umbrella body -- which is probably following the dinosaurs into social history. The following sections attempt to identify some characteristics of the new approach required. The challenge is to develop in formation systems which facilitate and catalyze (rather than organize) the development of such networks to the benefit of all participating bodies and the social system within which they function.

Principles

1. Networks of information and other flows tend to develop wherever there is a need for contact between existing social actors whether or not the action or the communication is approved. The network is a more adequate response to a complex problem environment than a minimally and formally connected set of hierarchical institutions. If necessary networks become unofficial and by- pass or undermine accepted channels to create adequate contact.

2. Networks decrease in effectiveness and in attractiveness to potential participants to the extent that any particular body or group of bodies within the network attempts to structure it to favour their own ends or their own conception of the nature of the programes which participants should undertake.

3. The budget load of operating a network for the benefit of one body or group of bodies increases with the number of organizations encoded in the data system, unless means are found to-involve such organizations as full participants so that it is in their own interest to ensure the dynamism of the network's operations to contribute data and possibly funds.

Style

The network style may tentatively be characterized by:

Each of these points concerning inter-organizational relations may require some adjustment in the internal organization of the transnational organization and more specifically to. the way the organization conceives itself. Although comment has been restricted to the transnational association network, this is clearly intimately related to the network of governmental agencies to that of business enterprises and to that of the academic community.

Comment

The organizational network is an "organic" form appropriate to today's 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 programs. The network permits all the decentralization necessary to satisfy the need for autonomous organizational development and individual initiative. It also provides for very rapid centralization, canalization, and focusing of resources the moment any complex problem (or natural disaster) emerges which requires the talents of a particular configuration or constellation of transnational organizations (or other bodies). The centralization is only binding on the transnational organizations concerned with the problem in question, and for the period during which they have "common cause" and in no way affects others in the network. The network is, furthermore multidimensional in character since transnational organizations may centralize themselves to different extents in many different partial networks and at the same time decentralize (or disassociate) themselves on other issues

The network is not "coordinated" by any body: the participating bodies coordinate themselves so that one may speak of "autocoordination" rather then coordination. Similarly, the network as a whole is not "directed" or "controlled" by any body rather it is "self-directing" and self-adapting.

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