Analysis of Union of International Associations

E: Clarification of Objectives and Strategy

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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

In the earlier parts the environment of the UIA and its performance within that environment have been analysed.  Some possible future avenues which the UIA could explore have been outlined. In this section, certain sets of objectives which the UIA might consider are identified bearing in mind the need for more precisely stated objectives as brought out by the summary of the problems of current performance. This is necessary to maintain a coherent, consistent program of operations.

Using a precise set of objectives and bearing in mind the complexity and dymanic nature of its environment, the organization can set itself precise goals. Each decision can then be taken in the light of their probable contribution to progress towards these goals. Effective planning and control procedures can then be set up to ensure efficient progress towards these goals.

From the analysis of the activities of the organization, it is apparent that the major emphasis has been placed upon the documentary activity. This is justified by the argument that the documentary activity currently contributes towards the promotion of international cooperation. It is also essential in order that the UIA should survive since it has no other major source of support.

There are an increasing number of organizations, commercial and other, which are taking over parts of the UIA's documentary function. It is important to determine whether in fact each individual publication the UIA produces, really contributes towards the promotion of international cooperation in a significant manner, or mainly towards the survival of the UIA as an organization. The question is, whether the UIA is documenting in order to survive or in order to promote international cooperation.

It is not clear what unique function the UIA hopes to perform in the '  future that will not be paralleled by activities of other organizations. Some studies of formal organizations have produced tentative conclusions which are relevant to the UIA problems of objectives and decision-making. (quoted in Miles, E., A5):

  • when the organization goal is diffuse and difficult to achieve, survival of the organization becomes a dominant interest in decision -- making.
  • when the organization goal is diffuse, new activities will tend to be undertaken more frequently.
  • ambiguity in formal organization objectives facilitates the ability of the leadership to develop less ambitious short-range aims reflecting modest personal expectations of success.
  • the lowest goal commonly agreed upon within the organization is the only one that can effectively be sought over time.
  • organization experience indicates those goals that can be obtained. Some goals lose significance as a result of futile attempts at achievement. The leadership therefore tends to seek those goals that have been successfully implemented by the organization in the past.
  • the more organizations are multi-purpose, the higher will be the internal conflict over allocation of resources.
  • the greater the free flow of ideas in the communication process, the greater the facility in finding solutions to problems, but the more difficult coordination becomes.

These points stress the importance of adequate objectives and the necessity for a consistent set of objectives which can be used to formulate compatible concrete goals.

Possible Objectives

a)  Current Implicit Objectives

The UIA can continue to operate with the current objectives as implicitly used in decision-making. The preceding analysis has shown that many of the problems of the UIA arise from these non-explicit objectives so that this course of action would not lead to any improvement in the situation.  The UIA's problems would not be cured by a sudden influx of funds because no proper procedure exists for controllen the expenditure. The danger of the current state of affairs is that it prevents the UIA from instituting procedures to aboid being superseded by competitors.

b)  Objective : UIA to be the Unique NGO Documentation Centre If the fundamental UIA objective is stated as being "to maintain and promote its status as the principal documentation centre on international NGOs within the international system", a number of clear policies can be developed. These have been noted in Exhibit 36a. Also noted in the Exhibit are the problems which arise as a result of adopting this objective.

Adoption of this objective would mean that the promotion of international cooperation becomes incidental. The two main problems are, firstly, that no criterion then exists for deciding which activities should be given preference when resources are insufficient.  Secondly, there is no means of preventing other organizations from duplicating the work. If the competition is ignored, then the organization may find itself bypassed by a multitude of other organizations which collectively supply the information the UIA would like to supply, but in a much more efficient manner. The UIA would then be performing no useful function except as a selective museum.

c)  Objective ; Serve the Needs of NGOs

If the fundamental objective is stated as being "to determine and serve the needs of NGOs within the international system" a number of clear policies can be developed.

The main problem arising from this objective is that the UIA has not developed the expertise for maintaining contact with NGOs in order to be sensitive to their needs. Twenty years ago the organization was established with the title "Service Centre for NGOs". It has not been able to maintain the links with NGOs. Due to its history, image and concept of NGOs this might prove difficult. There is little evidence that NGOs want to be helped.

This objective also raises the difficulties of funds. Organizations with such objectives are generally established as membership organizations to ensure effective contact on the problems of NGOs. The UIA would have difficulty in generating this sort of membership, particularly if this was to be the major form of support.

The objective also loses sight of the fact that the NGOs are only one of many classes of organization and to an increasing extent it appears likely that international cooperation and integration studies will emphasize the complementarity of classes and the artificiality of rigid distinctions between them. This objective would therefore isolate the organization from the main advances in understanding of the world system.

d)  Objective : Study the World System

If the fundamental objective is stated as being "to study the features of the world system", a number of clear policies could be developed. The main problem would be that the UIA would then be entering the field of study of many international relations institutes and does not have the resources to do this effectively.

Each of the above objectives result in either the continuance of the traditional pattern of activities or an attempt to dominate or monopolize some function within the world system. The latter is a very concrete objective but is likely to be beyond the resorces of any small organization in the near, future.  It is also liable to antagonize the persons for which it was instituted.

Objective : Facilitate Bond Formation within the World System

If the fundamental objective is stated as being "to facilitate the formation of bonds between bodies within the world system", the above difficulties are avoided.  Bond formation is taken to mean any activity leading to useful contact between bodies otherwise functionally isolated by a combination of ethnocentric and discipline centred interests.

This objective permits the UIA to adopt any program which leads to the formation of links between bodies. It does not restrict the organization to activities which are threatened by commercial duplication. It does not imply any attempt to organize or dominate. In effect, this objective is an expression of the major function currently performed by the UIA for the world system, namely the use of documentation to facilitate contacts between nations and organizations.  There is therefore no question of an immediate major departure from current programs but merely an additional precision which can facilitate program emphasis and evaluation. The objective is forward-looking, challenging, invites participation, and is sufficiently precise to lead to means of measuring progress towards its accomplishment. It can be used as a basis for coordinating and redirecting existing programs.  It is not excessively ambitious and is relevant whatever the financial resources of the organization. These are all essential characteristics of an objective.

Possible Strategies

An objective is useless without an adequate strategy for achieving it. This must take into account the resources of the organization. The only short-term strategy open to the UIA is the current one since no other source of income is available. As a long -- term strategy, the UIA can either concentrate on the commercialization of its interests or attempt to broaden the range of its contacts in order to obtain greater subsidy, foundation and contract support.  If it attempts to overcommercialize, it damages its relations with the organizations with which it should be in contact.

The UIA must decide whether its own services are a more useful aid to international cooperation in a given area, in which case it must continue its operations. Alternatively, if a competing service is better, the UIA must decide on one of two courses. Either the market must be considered as important as a source of income which will increase the ability of the UIA to fulfill its objectives in other areas, in which case it must compete for resources with the other organization. Alternatively, the UIA can consider that it can better employ its resources in other markets or with different programs.  It is important to recognize that in the first case the contribution towards the UIA objectives would only be indirect and other programs may be more useful in this respect. The distinction between the role of an NGO and that of a commercial organization becomes important.  It is questionable whether one should attempt to undertake the functions of another.

A better strategy is therefore to modify the program emphasis in order to make the UIA an effective tool for future change. The current program tends to emphasis the passive documentation of activities initiated by others.  It give the UIA little more than a historical function in the world system.  This does not attract funds or support those who are attempting to change society and plan for its future.

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