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:

  • 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 experience.
  • 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 United 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

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:

  • the procedures for checking and improving on the quality of information sources, upon which the documentary work is highly dependent.
  • 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.

Coordination

  • 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 in advertising.
  • 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 making.
  • 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 organization.

Planning (Short-term)

  • 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 to 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 one.

Planning (Long-term)

  • because the UIA does not establish long -- term plans, other than those 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 to keep 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 as competitors.
  • because of the lack of specific objectives for the formation of plans, 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.

Decision-making

  • 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 in programs.
  • as a non-profit organization which has some activities organized on 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.


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