Challenges to Comprehension Implied by the Logo
of Laetus in Praesens
University of Earth

1968

Analysis of Union of International Associations

D: Summary of Evaluation

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Section of Report of a Preliminary Investigation of the Possibility of Using Computer Data Processing Methods (1968): a summary of the various parts of this report, and details of its contents (with links to the various parts), are provided separately



I: STRENGTHS AND ADVANTAGES

These are summarized below:

II: WEAKNESSES AND DISADVANTAGES

(a) Understanding and Adaptation to Market Changes

Information Industry

The UIA is primarily concerned with the collection and processing of information. The techniques and equipment in this sphere are changing so rapidly, that it is not possible to predict whether the UIA, or any small organization, will be able to adapt satisfactorily to the situation as it may crystallize in 5 or 10 years time with the introduction of data-net systems and large memory banks.

It is quite possible that large organizations with considerable financial resources could take over all the documentary activity as part of a much larger documentation project, possibly integrated into an international data network for instant access.  Such a project could well be undertaken with government aid or as an intergovernmental project, e.g. arising out of the current ICSU-Unesco joint project on scientific information. This danger is particularly acute in the bibliographical sphere.

A particularly important future development may prove to be the deemphasis on the centralization of information, leading to the establishment of regional or national specialist centres hooked into an international data-network. The desire of the UIA to restrict itself the privilege of providing documentation on certain aspects of international organization may well be challenged by a number of different centres, whether governmental, library, etc. The data-net nay in fact favour the storage of information at regional centres. This development and the many different centres desiring to perform parts of the UIA's self-allocated function, mean that a continuing analysis of the UIA's role is essential to make sure that it would not be better employed on activities which are more critical to the development of international cooperation but less widely recognized as such. Essentially, this raises the question whether the UIA wants to compete on old activities or initiate new activities.

Competition

The UIA is not sufficiently aware of the inroads made by various competitors on its potential market, and as a non-profit organization, it does not know how to react to these inroads.

The Europa Yearbook and its companion volumes contains more information and is less specialized than the UIA Yearbook. The two American calendars also contain more information and are less specialized than the UIA Calendar. Many other specialized competitors render the UIA publications superfluous in certain markets.

The UIA needs to develop very precise objectives, particularly with regard to what it wants each publication to accomplish, in order to be able to react to these competitors.  Since the documentation market is an open market and an expanding one, it must be expected that other commercial interests will soon move into this field with the aid of computer techniques.

External Collaboration

One of the strengths of non-profit organizations, is the many potential avenues for collaboration which are open. The UIA has not been able to develop techniques to exploit such facilities. The organization has been more concerned with ensuring that its existing publications are sold.  It has been less concerned with evaluating -the advantages of collaborating on such activities or even allocating them to other organizations which are in a position to perform them better.

The UIA has therefore become isolated from other organizations working in its area and does not benefit from extensive support.  In many cases the UIA does not even approve of their activities, since it is apparenly a reflection on the inadequacy of the UIA in certain areas. The organization is therefore forced into a rather inflexible, self-defensive attitude.

Product Criteria

The UIA does not appear to be sufficiently conscious of the nature of the activities which it is attempting to document and their relationship to other related activities. Thus it has concentrated on documenting on the basis of very narrow criteria without realizing how activities which fall outside these criteria may either be stimulated into becoming or will naturally develop into the type of organizations in which the UIA is interested. The UIA has not specifically recognized the dynamic interrelationship between processes which it is documenting and related processes just outside its field.

For example, rigid cut-off points have had to be established for financial reasons, to exclude documentation of any regular international conferences which are almost equivalent to organizations of the "standing conference" type, included in the Yearbook. It is impossible to distinguish some meetings from organizations.  International conferences organized by national organizations are also budding international organizations whose development should be followed closely.  

International organizations, particularly some inter -- governmental organizations, which do not fulfill criteria and yet of great topical interest and not properly documented elsewhere, should be considered in the Tearbook and general documentation. They are significant elements of the international scene and not including them implies to the ignorant that the UIA does not know of their existence.

The same remark applies to organizations which have 'international' in their title and which do not fulfill Yearbook criteria. At least a reference should be included to show the reason for their exclusion. The UIA is remarkably hostile to national organizations.  Important national organizations are the keys to the formation and growth of international organizations. The separation between national and international is a political one and does not reflect the dynamic links which are a key to an understanding of the process which the UIA purports to study.  If the UIA is interested in stimulating the formation of international organizations, it is the uncommitted national organisations which could profitably be introduced via the UIA. This would increase the UIA influence and income.

The UIA is not always conscious of the areas to which it must sell its publications and the relationship between the sales of its publications and the accomplishment of its objectives.  This leads to difficulties in deciding which market areas to stimulate, which products to stimulate, and what quality of product to produce.

Status of UIA

Due to the problems of financing and organizing the activities of the UIA, it has been forced into a method of operation which has caused a drift in its status from that of a purely non-profit organization, to one increasingly concerned with the profit side of its operations. This is to some extent recognized by other NGOs.

The definition of a non-profit international organization is not very precise.  If stress were laid on the importance and influence of membership on organization policy, then the UIA might be classified as a national organization with international interests and members.  If stress were laid on the precise nature of its activities, then the UIA might be classified as a profit organization operating at a loss. The UIA has to be careful that the question of its status is not raised as this might affect its tax status.

(b) Internal

Control and Evaluation

The UIA has had difficulty in developing adequate procedures for controlling activities in different areas:

Coordination

Planning (Short-term)

Planning (Long-term)

Decision-making

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