Union of Intelligible Associations (Complementary initiatives and historical context)
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Union of Intelligible Associations

Projects Overview (Explanations)
Global Strategies Project (Explanations)

Method: Identification procedure

Global Strategies Project


Consistent with the general approach to other sections of the Encyclopedia, a variety of methods was used for collecting information on strategy-related initiatives. The intention has been to use different, but complementary, sources in order to build up strategy profiles containing information from different perspectives.

1. From international organizations

Internal files: A prime source of information was the Union of International Association's (UIA) reference files for organizations described in its companion volume Yearbook of International Organizations. These documents and materials were examined in an attempt to locate information identifying or defining the strategies employed by the organizations, whether explicitly or implicitly.

The method was first used, experimentally and under much more limited circumstances, for the 1986 (2nd edition) of the Encyclopedia. At that time, the expectation was that this procedure might give rise to possibly 100 strategies. In fact some 300 strategy files were created. The information acquired tended, however, to be very diffuse, seldom providing a succinct description of the strategy. One reason for this was that in the search for strategies it was unclear where to draw the boundary between the strategy elaborated and pursued by one organization and a broad strategic concept such as Liberalism, Communism or Catholic action.

On this occasion, the method of using general materials gathered as part of the UIA's clearing-house functions operations was more rewarding. There are several reasons for this, including:

  • a noticeable trend amongst NGO's towards more "professional" documentation;
  • a more prominent and "business-like" approach to organization planning, reflected in documents in terms such as "strategic objectives", "programme areas" and "project descriptions"; and
  • closer awareness and stronger attunement of the entire UIA personnel with the strategies exercise, so that materials with potential strategy content were very often recognised and passed on prior to final filing or disposal.
Mailed general requests: As part of the UIA's annual mailings to around 20,000 international organizations, representing all fields of human activity, a general request was made for any documents containing information from which strategy profiles could be developed. A variety of types of documents were returned, ranging from strategic plans, action plans and business plans, to activity programmes and agendas, to annual reports and progress reports, to newsletters and fact sheets, to proceedings of conferences.

Existing agency compilations of strategies: Major organizations, notably some of the United Nations Specialized Agencies, produce documents which effectively constitute compilations of agency-specific strategies or programme initiatives. These are very useful for establishing strategy profiles. The latest of such documents were specifically requested from a select group of just over 100 organizations, of which around 50 percent responded with substantial materials.

It should be noted with respect to organizational material in general that strategy information, as with problem information, is in many cases quite diffuse and difficult to extract from international organization documents. It may easily be confused with administrative rather than substantive issues. It may be very specific to the individual organization and therefore difficult to profile as a strategy that might be employed by some other body.

2. From field research

No systematic approach was taken to field research for the collection of material for this volume. However, since contact withorganizations and their activities is a natural aspect of work of the UIA, a host of opportunities for directly accessing strategies arose during the course of the nine month period of active research and editing. This was mainly through the attendance of UIA personnel at international meetings and conferences, unrelated field and consultancy work, the supply and collection of materials by colleagues supporting the project, and from visitors interested in the work of the UIA.

3. From periodicals

Much useful information on strategies was derived by scanning international periodicals and newspapers. This process helped to identify the variety of ways in which individual strategies were named in the terminology of experts, specialist journalists, the popular press, etc. It also broadened the range of strategies included. "Independent" reporting also served as a major source of strategies which many might regard as "negative" (self-serving, abhorrent, destructive, etc). Such strategies are rarely reported in detail by the organizations or individuals undertaking them, and otherwise only in a strongly biased fashion by those who oppose their use.

4. From conventional library searches

Previous experience with conventional library and database searches for information for the Encyclopedia has led to the conclusion that this approach is not cost-effective. Conventional searches may be very satisfactory for information on a specific subject, with known keywords; however, this is not the case where the objective is to identify checklists of strategies. In this case, searches on such words as "strategy" give rise to bibliographic information of a very specific kind which tends to be very poor in information on the kinds of strategies employed by organizations, whether internationally or otherwise.

Database searches were also constrained by the cost of such on-line access.

5. From existing UIA databases

As is described in detail in Note 3.8, advantage was taken of the information already contained in the UIA databases on international organizations, human values and world problems.

6. From the Institute of Cultural Affairs

One result of the literature and file search for the 1986 edition of the Encyclopedia was the discovery of the large collection of unpublished documents of the Institute of Cultural Affairs (ICA). This group had, especially during the 1970s, engaged in two extremely ambitious exercises from which information on strategies could be obtained. This work is described in the later note called Collective strategy making: designing a strategic array.

In 1986, the editorial work on strategies was subcontracted to the ICA (Brussels). Two complementary approaches were then used. The available information in international organization documentation and reference books was used to produce a series of entries (Section SS) effectively presenting a "top-down" perspective. The second approach was based on the extraction of names of strategies from a series of 40 reports of community development dialogues undertaken by the ICA, mainly in rural communities in developing countries (Section SQ). To a large extent this presented a "bottom-up" perspective. One of the principal merits of this ICA material is that it reflects a wide range of strategies, extending far beyond the limited set that is the concern of political economists.

The results were subsequently reviewed and revised by the editors of the Union of International Associations. This material formed the 680 strategy entries in Section SS and the 7,148 indexed-only entries of Section SQ of the 1986 (2nd edition), which have now been incorporated without with minor editing into the present volume.

From Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential

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