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Union of Intelligible Associations

Projects Overview (Explanations)
Global Strategies Project (Explanations)

Introduction: Approach

Global Strategies Project


1. Strategic confusion

Considerable effort is invested by the international community in the formulation and implementation of strategies. Examples include the International Development Strategy and the World Conservation Strategy. The tendency is however to perceive such strategies in isolation. Although discussion of the merits of alternative strategies may occur in a policy-making environment, it would be unusual to find two or more strategies being discussed in the operational environment in which strategy is executed. This is partly because the "strategy" of the moment is supposed to integrate all relevant approaches to the problems perceived. It is difficult for a conventional organization to articulate action in terms of two strategies simultaneously.

One consequence is that information on strategies employed by international bodies tends to be even more dispersed than that on the problems to which such strategies are designed to respond. Whilst the organizations described in the Yearbook of International Organizations may be able to identify precisely the set of problems to which they are responding, it is usually much clear less what strategy they are employing in the process. Problems tend to be more explicitly recognized than strategies. Strategies with names such as "International Development Strategy" are relatively rare. Organizations quite often have strategies which are not distinguishable within the organization from programme orientations, working style and the general objectives for which the body was originally established. Strategies, like problems, may not be distinguished as such. The organization simply does certain things, possibly loosely grouped within "programmes" or "projects". Many strategies are therefore implicit rather than explicit.

2. Limitations of current approaches to strategy formulation

The conventional approach of an organization or group to any problem situation is to elaborate a strategy, whether explicit or implicit. However, as demonstrated in Volume 1, the number, variety and interrelationships of the problems are such that it is legitimate to question whether any conventional strategy could be even partly adequate. A fundamental difficulty in strategy development is the predilection for simplistic hierarchical representation of the interrelationships between concepts, between organizations, and between problems. This is so despite constant exposure to evidence that these hierarchies do not contain the complexity with which society has to deal.

It can be argued that in this period of social crisis there is some advantage in clarifying the range of strategies currently being pursued in response to the global problematique. With the possible exception of the Bulletin of Peace Proposals, no attempt would appear to have been made to do so. Rather the tendency, at least in the academic community, is to identify specific strategies, comment on them, and then possibly advocate alternative strategies to the one's perceived as inadequate. This does not lead to any overview of the range of strategies or of the manner in which they interact, often undermining each others achievements.

This volume is therefore is an encyclopedia of strategies drawn from organizations covering the broadest range of interests. The merits and clashes of various strategic approaches would be rendered much more explicit to planners, also by allowing them to better appreciate the strategies that would be used by their "collaborators" and "opponents".

3. Developing strategic awareness

Whether something is a strategy or a tactic is very much a question of interpretation. Strategic planning tends to be conducted at a higher level of organization, with a longer time frame, broader perspective and greater uncertainty than tactical planning. However, such "military-style" distinctions are not so evident in strategic responses to the global problematique. For if this were so then only elite decision-makers in international organizations could engage in strategic planning with tactics left to those implementing the strategy locally and "in the field". Thisview would tend to be rejected by local communities. Clearly the strategic planning of a local community may be perceived as a tactic by any larger organized group of which it is a part.

The approach here is therefore to identify modes of action which could be considered as being of strategic significance, whether or not they could also be perceived as strategies. A mode of action becomes strategic when it is perceived as governing a global transformation. It is also the place given to the mode of action in a pattern of action which determines its strategic significance. The grand strategy of one group may in this way be perceived as defensive tactics by some other group.

The question then becomes how is such a "mode of action" to be defined. The approach proposed here is to identify the ways in which organizations are acting (or planning or claiming to act), especially when such action might have been conceived as the keystone to some development breakthrough - removing the key log which would unlock a developmental log-jam. In this light, any mode of action, including non-action, may acquire strategic characteristics.

By also arranging networks of strategic "modes of action" in hierarchical format, this volume would aid the visualization of the levels of strategies within strategies, seen both from the user's viewpoint, and as they might appear to an outsider.

4. Unrecognized resources

The greatest unrecognized resource at this time is the vast uncharted network of organizations of every kind, with every kind of preoccupation and with every degree of effectiveness. It is not known either what this network could achieve if its processes were facilitated, or what is the nature of its synergistic potential. Just as there is a Third World of developing countries constituting the greater proportion of the world's population, so there is a Third World of developing organizations which could (and do in part) constitute the most vital resource for the solution of world problems.

One facilitative technique is to make accurate, readily comprehensible maps widely available so that new structures and their auto-coordination can emerge wherever possible. Hopefully this publication will stimulate further thinking on the meaning of a network strategy in such a context, in place of continued faith in the planning and action of a limited number of organizations (which have proved unable to contain the problems of the recent past and are therefore unlikely to be able to contain the more complex problems which are emerging).

From Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential

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