Analysis of Union of International Associations
D: Summary of Evaluation
- / -
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:
- in specializing in the field of international relations, the UIA is
in an expanding market for ideas and documentation, provided it can
keep up with the explosion of demand. This can be a field of great
potential if correctly explored.
- the general UIA objective of promoting international cooperation is
one which does not need to be explained specifically in order to gain
verbal support. The UIA does not have the problem of selling the
need for its activities in general (but of showing the relevance to
particular fields as potential suppliers of funds and active support).
- the UIA has an impressive record for documentation in the field of
non-governmental organizations and is publications are well-known by
researchers and those concerned with this specific field. It is recognized
as a valuable organization which assembles information which would otherwise
be dispersed by speciality or by nationality. The UIA can capitalize on this
- the UIA is still the only centre to specialize in the study and documentation
of all international non-governmental organizations. This generality of interest,
political and idealogical neutrality enables it to remain open to ideas in
normally unrelated fields. The UIA and its magazine provide a unique platform
for uncommitted viewpoints, either ideologically or by speciality, by government,
commercial or NGO.
- the UIA has managed to place itself in a position where it can adapt
to contacts from NGOs, IGOs or business as these interests touch upon
the NGO field.
- the UIA has one very good publication on which its reputation and income
has been built, namely the Yearbook of International Organizations. The production
of this and improvement in its quality is the most important activity of
the UIA. The publication is fairly well known in the market.
- the UIA Yearbook is produced with the endorsement of the
Nations and is the reference source used by the U.K. and Specialized
Agency staff concerned with relations with NGOs. This puts the UIA
in a position of considerable influence with regard to the NGO
sector in certain well-chosen situations, to some extent the channel
for data on NGOs.
- the UIA has been able to depend upon a dedicated core of staff, which
has permitted the organization to survive and produce valuable documentary
work during difficult financ5.al periods. It is an organic
organization which means that it can quickly deploy its internal resources
to handle crises and can continue to produce highly specialized documentation
with limited resources and lack of encouragement, the Secretary-General has
built up a very valuable network of contacts in Belgium (many of them personal),
which enable the organization to survive financial and other organizational
crises which would be fatal to any commercial organization.
- the program is very flexible and can adapt quickly to document topical
items of interest.
- the ability to survive on sale of publications is exceptional for a
non-profit documentation organization.
II: WEAKNESSES AND DISADVANTAGES
(a) Understanding and Adaptation to Market Changes
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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'
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
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
this might affect its tax status.
Control and Evaluation
The UIA has had difficulty in developing adequate procedures for controlling activities in different areas:
- the procedures for checking and improving on the quality
of information sources, upon which the documentary work is highly
- the procedures for checking and improving on the quality
of individual publications, in comparison with competitors publications.
- the procedure for checking on the sales and potential readership
requirements, of particular publications and of sales in general, as
an aid to planning future publications. Too much reliance is
placed on a few isolated comments and orders.
- the procedure for checking on the success of particular
sales campaigns as a guide to future advertising expenditure and techniques.
- the procedure for checking on the quality of information stored in
files for the use of research and survey work. This leads to
false claims with regard to the amount of information stored, e.g.
national . addresses.
- the procedures for attempting to control the UIA's internal
and external image. The current external image has lead to isolation
of the UIA as a spokesman for the NGO area and a breakdown in membership
support. The internal image has lead to low staff morale and cynicism
with regard to UIA publications and programs. This has lead to a high
staff turnover and dependence on a few key dedicated individuals.
- the procedure for analysing expenditure areas and the control of
pro. grams using financial and cost data.
- operation procedures in general are too fluid. The constant
changes (e.g. in the periodical scan procedure), lead to uncertainity
in the personnel, accentuating the morale problem and cause inefficiency.
- the lack of distinction between information prepared for internal
control purposes for decision making, and information for publicity
and obtaining funds results in an unsatisfactory compromise generally
in favour of an optimistic report. This is reflected in the
financial reports, circulation and sales reports, monthly condition
reports of activities.
- no systematic procedure has been developed to establish the relationship between the time and funds to be expended on each program. It
is therefore not possible to establish with any accuracy how much
of the organizations resources are expended in any given direction,
and in what direction the organization is moving as a whole. Related
to this is the difficulty of establishing how much effort is put into
supportive activities, such as advertising, equipment renewal, etc.
- due to this lack of coordination it is not possible to determine
whether the organization is overextending itself by producing a wide
spectrum of publications with inadequate sales support. Or whether
it is the market evaluation or penetration that is inadequate.
- internal organization of the documentation and sales data is poorly
correlated. Information in sales files is not used for advertising
purposes. The documentary link between publications is not stressed
- due to the critical importance of programs leading directly to
sales, these are given more emphasis, although this may not be in
fact justified in terms of the stated objectives. This renders the
objectives useless as an aid to balancing the programs. This means
that there is little time for research.
- inability to coordinate image. As a result the UIA appears
as one thing to commercial subscribers, another to libraries, another
to international organizations, another to researchers. Because of
this dilution of image, its appeal to many of these groups is reduced
and it becomes a slave to the financial and editorial implications
of a multiplicity of uncoordinated programs.
- because of the inadequacy of procedures it is difficult
to delegate responsibility for individual programs and activities.
As a result decision-making and procedures must be centralized around
the Secretary-General who is forced to operate the organization by
intuition as the only means of balancing the complexity of programs
and ensuring the organization's survival.
- routine administration and documentary work severely restrict
the amount of creative work, whether research, promotional, or contact
- because the UIA is highly dependent on a few dedicated individuals,
it is difficult to induce these people to coordinate the programs
in which they are mainly interested with the overall programs of the
- because of the publication deadlines laid down for certain periodical
publications, the UIA does not have a special problem in this area.
For irregular publications, however, no short-term effective planning
is possible. Plans are made but are not systematically put into
written form as a basis for execution. It is often not possible
discover what was decided at a previous planning meeting. This
makes it possible for the persons responsible for the execution of
individual programs to ignore less clearly defined directives when
executing a program.
- no planning meetings as such are scheduled into a monthly program
on a regular basis
- the UIA has accepted the effects of the two year financial cycle
and has not attempted to balance the successful year against the unsuccessful
- because the UIA does not establish long -- term plans, other
required by the periodical publications, it is not possible to submit
requests for grants in support of particular programs. Some grant
making bodies require one to two years notice before allocating grant
monies. This effectively prevents the UIA from developing new programs
with the support of outside funds.
- the UIA does not have specific long -- term plans other than
on documenting. No attempt is made to relate the success of existing
programs to the probable success of the same programs in future years.
In general, there is little feedback on the results of a given program.
- Each program needs to be evaluated in terms of what the UIA seeks
to accomplish in the next 5-10 years in the light of the probable
activities of other organizations which at present can only be regarded
- because of the lack of specific objectives for the formation
the organization is not able to develop any criteria or control systems
to evaluate and compare different programs of activity, or the effectiveness
of the organization itself.
- because of the lack of planning, the organization is unable to
determine how to react to the increasing demands for particular items
of information or general research requests. As a consequence acertain
percentage are ignored or delayed on an systematic basis leading to
bad relationships with inquirers.
- due to . the lack of 6bjectives useful for decision-making,
decisions tend to be taken on the basis of precedents set by previous
operations. This does not lead to any difficulty with the periodical
publications, except insofar that little account is taken of what
the UIA wishes to achieve with these publications.
- other decisions tend to be based on intuitive experience of
operation of the UIA over the past 20 years. These decisions
tend to be based
on the assumption that NGOs are a homogenous group conscious of their
existence as a special class with much in common with one another.
- as a small organization, the influence of the personal
objectives of executives is strong. In many cases these personal objectives
are not in harmony and this leads to lack of coherence and consistency
- as a non-profit organization which has some activities
a profit-making basis, the UIA is constantly faced with the problem
of balancing profit and non-profit programs. Because the advantages
of many non-profit operations are less directly evident, the decisionmaking
tends to favour the clear cut profit oriented operations. This problem
is present in all non-profit organizations including government agencies.