From Networking to Tensegrity Organization
- / -
Collection of papers arising from work in connection with the Goals, Processes
and Indicators of Development (GPID) project of the United Nations University
(UNU). Published under that title by the Union of International Associations (Brussels,
[searchable PDF version
Aspects of the points discussed in this volume are treated in the other four volumes of papers in the series: Policy Alternation for Development
(1984), Patterns of Conceptual Integration
(1984), Forms of Presentation and the Future of Comprehension
(1984), and Transformative Conferencing
These themes are also explored in the Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential
(Munich, K G Saur, 1985, ca 1500 pages).
I. Recognition of the problem [searchable PDF version]
II. Networking as an alternative [searchable PDF version]
III. Networks as a complement to systems [searchable PDF version]
IV. Enhancing network action [searchable PDF version]
V. Networking weaknesses and project failure [searchable PDF version]
VI. Tensing networks [searchable PDF version]
VII. Beyond networking to tensegrity organization [searchable PDF version]
Annexes [searchable PDF version]
- Inter-organization networking (by David Horton Smith)
- On facilitating networks for social change (by Peter and Trudy Johnson-Lenz)
- Groups and networks (by Yona Friedman)
- Human organisations
These papers arise from an ongoing concern with the problems hindering effective
organizational action, especially within the international community of organizations.
The papers cover the period from the early 1970s in which "networking"
emerged as a favoured alternative to conventional approaches to organization.
It is not surprising therefore that in 1976 the United Nations University designed
its own structure on the basis of a world-wide network of research institutes.
Its first major project (1978-1982) on Goals, Processes and Indicators of Development
(GPID) was also designed as a network and had a sub-project on networks. The
later papers in this collection were a specific response to the GPID concern
with networks and the apparent need to look for means to overcome the weaknesses
of networking as currently conceived.
The first group of papers on Recognition of
the Problem constitute a variety of approaches to the identification
of the difficulties in inter-organizational action. The last two are experiments
in formulating sets of principles to clarify the issues.
The second group of papers on Networking as
an Alternative reflect a number of attempts at envisioning the potential
social significance of networks in all their variety. Some of these papers attempt
to distinguish those features of networks which have so successfully caught
peoples imagination. One paper draws attention to the need for a suitable vocabulary
of network-related concepts to facilitate network activity.
The third group of papers is on Networks as
a Complement to Systems. The first paper reports on a debate on the
distinction (if any) between "networks" and "systems". The
second discusses the complementarity between systems and networks as modes of
organization. The last paper reviews the implications of networks for the operation
of international organizations.
In the fourth group of papers on Enhancing
Network Action there is a general concern with how to facilitate networking
processes, whether amongst organizations in general, within a possible network
of "research and service communities", or within a "transnational
university" (like UNU). In the case of the latter, the use of "computer
conferencing" has also been explored in a separate volume on Transformative
Conferencing. A particular concern is with the nature of a "network
Despite considerable enthusiasm for networks throughout the
1970s, it became progressively clearer that this mode had its own weaknesses.
In rejecting the rigidity of hierarchical organization, networks tended to fail
to counter their own susceptibility to "flabbiness". The fifth group
of papers on Networking Weaknesses and Project Failure
endeavours to clarify this condition in different ways. As a first response
to these weaknesses, the possibility of "tensing networks is explored in
the sixth group of papers on Tensing Networks.
The seventh group of papers is entitled Beyond
Networking to Tensegrity Alternation. It takes the argument a stage
further by investigating the relevance of models of tensional integrity ("tensegrity")
as a means of designing viable organizations to transcend the somewhat sterile
duality between vertical, hierarchical "systems" and horizontally
structured "networks". Such tensegrity structures are viewed as a
form of "marriage" between systems and networks in which the advantages
of each are enhanced appropriately, whilst counter-acting their respective weaknesses.
The second paper presents this as an alternative to current visions of "alternative
organization". The third explores the relevance of this to the organization
of a complex network like GPID itself. The final paper responds to criticism
of the perceived rigidity and closedness of tensegrity structures by introducing
the possibility of alternation between several structures. This theme is explored
in a separate volume on Policy
Alternation for Development.
Just as "network" is not limited to social organization
but is also useful in the organization of concepts, so is "tensegrity"
. The relevance to the representation and communication of human needs is shown
in papers in a separate volume on: Forms
of Presentation and the Future of Comprehension. The relevance to the
organization of concepts in general is presented in a volume entitled: Patterns
of Conceptual Integration.
As annexes are reproduced papers by other people (or in collaboration
with them). The first three were produced by people who were involved in a meeting
of The GPID sub-project on networks (Brussels, 1979).
The above concerns with networks are fundamental to the organization
of the Yearbook of World Problems
and Human Potential (of which a revised edition will appear in 1985). This
attempts to interrelate networks of over 3,000 world problems with the networks
of international bodies focusing on them and with the networks of other relevant
psycho-social resources (human values, intellectual disciplines, concepts of
human development, etc). This information is also presented by subject in Global
Action Networks (vol. 3 of the Yearbook
of International Organizations).