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1970

The Organizational Network: an Unknown Resource

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Introduction

There are many individuals and a wide variety of committees and organizations throughout the world concerned with particular dangers to the world.  Apart from dangers in their more obvious form, such as hunger, pollution, depletion of natural resources, lack of space, etc., there are a number of important 'secondary' dangers.  These make it very difficult for the active individuals and committees to progress rapidly and effectively towards a solution to the first kind.

The secondary dangers are: lack of information, lack of coordination, excessive exclusiveness, lack of spokesmen, lack of evaluation of the world system as a whole.  Responsibility for the present dangerous situation is generally laid at the door of business interests and government. There is however a very strong case for laying a good portion of the blame on private associations and similar bodies.  In a democratic society, one of the major functions of private associations is to act as the conscience of the governmental and commercial organizations.  The following paragraphs indicate questions on which this conscience has not been active.

Lack of Information.

In no country is there a comprehensive list of all the bodies attempting to produce solutions to particular world problems or opposed to certain proposed solutions.  This means that it is very difficult to

  1. organize support rapidly amongst interested bodies in order to oppose some proposed activity
  2. determine rapidly to which bodies protest should be directed to indicate public opposition
  3. determine through which bodies funds should be channelled to tackle a particular problem
  4. determine on which problems no, or little, action is being effectively taken.

This lack of information leads to delay in organizing protest or relief programmes, ignorance of when protest should be organized, and finally apathy in the face of the established institutional procedures.  The most appropriate analogy to describe the current situation throughout the world as regards organizations tackling world problems, is a large city with many neighbourhood street maps and about 500 telephone directories, all published at widely different dates, distributed to select groups, with an unknown amount of duplication and omission, and without any central index.  How would "interested parties" be contacted under such circumstances ?

Although carefully collected figures are available each year on the estimated population of the world and of each country, no such information is available on the number of organizations and bodies to which active individuals belong.  It is these organizations which are tackling world problems and represent the main hope for success.  People can only tackle world problems through organizations.  The more difficult it is to contact such bodies, whether local, national or international, the more difficult it is to obtain support for any campaign or to control any dangerous situation.

There is for example no information available on; the number and addresses of local organizations in any country (in France an estimated 66,000 are thought to be operating in the Paris area) , the number and addresses of national organizations in most countries (the only exception is the U.S.A. where 13,000 are currently known), the number of working groups and ad hoc bodies concerned with current problems.  Few people know that there are 2,400 international organizations.  The very fact of their ignorance means that some of the work of these bodies is wasted - particularly if, in ignorance, work is repeated and proposed new organizations duplicate currently active bodies.

Lack of Coordination

Programmes, projects, campaigns, working parties, study groups, etc. are constantly being created or proposed by governmental bodies, by commercial enterprises, and by associations.  The lack of information is however so great that a sub-committee of a large governmental body may even propose a study group on a topic being tackled under another sub-committee of the same body.  This sort of duplication means that a great deal of thought, funds and personal energy is wasted because organizations do not know of each other's existence and activities. The duplication in the work of an unknown number of bodies of all types in the 140 countries of the world cannot be imagined.

The worst feature of this mass of activity is that there is no means of finding out whether a critical subject area is not being taken care of, or only inadequately covered.  In addition, duplication of effort means dilution of effort.  The best solutions are not produced if all the people working on a problem cannot interact.

No information is available on the degree of coordination of programmes to deal with world problems.  In a few cases, one can make out a network of local organizations working through regional and national organizations, which coordinate their efforts through a standing conference of national organizations.  In a few cases, one can make out a network of national organizations working through international organizations, coordinated by an international council of international associations.  In most cases, no such information is available and the individuals concerned may not even be aware, or want to be aware, of the coordinative activities of an international body in their field.

Excessive Exclusiveness

Just as in inter-state diplomacy, associations and other bodies may or may not '.recognize1 one another's existence,  A person or group, which has worked for many years towards the solution to one problem, does not want and will not solicit the opinions of outsiders whose views may be relevant.

This is natural and would be harmless except where the group is not accomplishing the task it set itself.  The friction between old experienced groups and dynamic new groups does not always contribute to the solution of the problems with which they are both supposed to be concerned.

The quarrels and obstructionism between government ministries, between central and local government, between government and business, between associations and government, etc., are legendary.' Unfortunately, we have never tried to develop any means of measuring the difference between genuine opposition to a project and opposition based on matters of prestige and precedent.  It would take a very misty eyed optimist to believe that all such democratic conflict was creative.

The only way to reduce such feuds is to make their existence as delaying factors widely known, so that other Interested parties can recognize where the hold up lies to the solution of any particular world problem.  Such hold ups can then be by-passed. The important point is that world problems should be tackled effectively.  It is not important whether they are tackled by a government agency, a business organization, or a private association or movement.

Lack of Effective Spokesmen

The direct result of lack of information about associations and lack of coordination in their programmes, is that they are unable to represent their Interests effectively to the responsible government or business circles concerned with a critical project.  No government committee, or any committee for that matter, can be expected to pay much attention to a multitude of tiny associations and ad hoc committees, if they can avoid doing so.

Many associations advocate international co-operation and deplore the current state of the world and the 'irresponsible' actions of government and business.  They are however quite unable to get together with other local, national, or international associations to produce an effective joint programme.  

In no country, for example, is there a general conference of national associations.  In the few countries, where general bodies do exist, they are only concerned with special topics, even though it is recognized that the problems we face (e.g. hunger, refugees, mental illness, etc) are inter-linked, and need to be dealt with as such.  The member associations give little decision making power of funds to such general bodies (which meet rarely), even though they may deplore the equivalent action on the part of the member nations of the United Nations, which reduced the effectiveness of that body.

Associations are the only bodies with sufficient flexibility and speed of response to be able to work through such general conferences, which could coordinate their programmes, allocate funds, publish results of investigations, and, above all, ensure that views of member associations are examined by the responsible government or business circles.  Presumably, government and business bodies would be only too happy to have a distinct and effective representative body with which to deal on controversial issues.

Lack of Evaluation of the World System as a Whole

World problems mean danger to the world as a whole.  Surprisingly enough, there is no body in the world which is concerned specifically with all aspects of world problems and current attempts at their solution.  There are of course many bodies concerned with progress in particular areas. The United Nations and its Specialized Agencies cover a wide variety of problems and the progress towards their solution through the United Nations mechanism.  But the United Nations family has difficulties in coordinating its own programmes between the various agencies.  Each agency is itself highly departmentalized, which does not always make for effective inter-problem or inter-agency coordination, nor is the desire for such coordination stimulated within a status conscious international civil service.

But apart from the United Nations, there are at least 230 other intergovernmental organizations.  This does not facilitate programme coordination since they only report back to their member governments and do not necessarily communicate with the U.N, or respond to its recommendations, or vice versa.  No body attempts to keep track of this maze of programmes which may in some cases interact to produce totally unwanted results. .

The international governmental organizations do not cover all the existing problem areas, nor do they necessarily cope effectively with the areas for which they are responsible.  Their programmes are governed by resolutions passing through a multitude of channels.  This is a long and complex pipeline along which many proposals are arbitrarily squashed for political and budgetary reasons.

The gaps in the coverage of these intergovernmental programmes are to some extent made up by the programmes of the 2170 international nongovernmental associations, of which only 500 are 'recognized' by the United Nations.  But here again the coordination between organizations concerned with the same problem may be non-existent.  Nor is inter-problem coordination much in evidence.

So, in effect, no existing body is interested in world problems in general and the world as a whole.  No body is equipped to provide a progress report in terms of all problem areas, organizations working on them, and the general health of the world.  Existing bodies all have programmes restricted by field of interest, political factors, bureaucratic or budgetary limitations.

A Suggested Remedy

Despite the fact that it is a suspect word in association circles, the problems of coordination, evaluation and organization are management problems.  Management does not only mean business management, as even many of its advocates believe.  Management principles offer a means of assessing the problems of an organization, or individual, in terms of its goals.  On the basis of this assessment, better methods of organization can be devised which make adequate allowance for the necessary human quirks, traditions, creative and artistic preferences, etc. Management principles offer methods and techniquesopf showing where we are, what our problems are, our resources, critical areas, etc. The methods bring together all the relevant qualitative and quantitative factors.  Management, in other words, is concerned with the whole of the organization and the totality of the problems it faces.  It avoids interim solutions to parts of a problem where possible.

This may seem obvious and one would expect to find management teams concerned with the world as an organization and the problems of ensuring that it runs smoothly.  In fact the possibility of 'planetary management' seems to have been mentioned for the first time at a Unesco 'conference of experts on the scientific basis for rational use and conservation of the resources of the biosphere in September 1968.  The highly specialized context in which the possibility was tentatively mentioned is an indication of the distance to be covered before all relevant world problems are treated together .

Management teams have been working on the United Nations and some of the Specialized Agencies.  But these teams, since they are appointed in order to improve the U.N,, must restrict their attention to the United Nations governmental system, which is only one part of the world system. There are 230 other unrelated intergovernmental organizations, 2170 international non-governmental organizations, an unknown number of multinational business enterprises, national and local bodies which all form part of the world organization.  How do they fit in?  To what extent do they represent or coordinate the efforts and interests of their member organizations in reaching a solution to world problems?  These are management problems, not political problems.

Using the analogy of a commercial organization, we know how many employees we have (roughly), but we do not have even the vaguest idea of the number of sections, branches, departments, and divisions of our company.  No one knows what they are all doing, or not doing.

There are some interdepartmental and product coordinating committees, but no one knows how many or what they achieve, or whether anyone heeds their recommendations.

It is up to associations - as the conscience of society - to agitate for a clearer world picture of our organizational resources and the extent to which the multitude of existing programmes and projects are solving all the worlds problems.  Specifically, we need to know, month by month, and it should be obvious for all to see:

  1.  which local, national or international bodies should (a) know of each other's existence, (b) exchange information, (c) collaborate on programmes, (d) coordinate their programmes, (e) merge;
  2. the rate at which each body operates, whether on a continuous basis, or through five yearly meetings;
  3. the funds available and needed by each local, national and international body in terms of the problems it is attempting to solve;
  4. the voluntary and paid personnel available and needed;
  5. new and old problem areas not at present being adequately covered within any programme;
  6. communication gaps and blockages;  coordination gaps and blockages; 'evaluation of progress' gaps and blockages.
  7. where new organizations or movements should be encouraged.

This sort of world picture and problem chart would give everyone a better idea of what has to be achieved, what is being achieved, where the real difficulties lie, and how best to mobilize resources when a new problem arises.   Such a picture would also help people to think of the world as a dynamic society entity rather than an agglomeration of quarrelling nations.

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