Encyclopedia of World Problems - Archived Information

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2.2 Intended uses

Intended uses for the Encyclopedia as a whole are reviewed in the Introduction to this volume (see 1.7). This note focuses specifically on this volume.

With the acknowledgement of the increasing reality of social crises at every level of society, there is increasing interest in the range of positive responses to world problems, including those which might be viewed as controversial. Whilst strategy theory is extensively covered in the literature, there is very little organized material on practice, beyond a few compendiums of case studies and a number of popular "how to" guides to action on social problems at the local level.

1. Complement to existing information

This volume is a useful complement to the Yearbook of International Organizations and to the other volumes of the Encyclopedia. For those not currently aware of either the Yearbook or the Encyclopedia, it is a way of drawing the attention of potential users to them through the "solutions".

2. Networking and reference tool

Information on strategies will help groups and agencies contemplating particular strategies to locate "respectable" organizations already using them. It gives users bibliographic references and source materials for more intensive investigation of strategies, especially by providing keywords to assist on-line searches. For those concerned with particular problems, it enables such users to locate the kinds of strategies being applied to them (using the problem index).

3. Solution-oriented sourcebook Clearly the information is directed at people working at the "front end" of policy and programme development - the "doing" mode. It serves those who need to provide considered responses to issues of concern, of which they may have no particular or expert knowledge.

4. Communication within the government sector

Whereas a relatively small percentage of national and local bodies are currently interested in either the Yearbook or the Encyclopedia, the concern with "solutions" extends down to the local government level. For example, the immediate need of municipal officers of local administrations is to locate strategies to cope with the requests that come from their city councils: to recommend a programme to "provide more children's recreation areas", or find a way to respond to new EC regulations for "safe hazardous waste disposal" or "monitor health and safety provisions" of business offices in the area. Technical officers in national government departments face similar strategic challenges. Such operational people with wide responsibilities have few information tools to guide them in obtaining information on particular strategies. Having located a strategy, they could then contact organizations concerned with its use to find out more about the network of problems related to this strategy.

5. Increasing effectiveness of the NGO sector

Small non-governmental organisations are often caught in positions of good theory and poor means for action, other than the type of action that is possible on low budgets and with volunteer work. The larger, better funded, organizations are caught between performing credibly in the wider world and maintaining contact and credibility with their grass-root constituency.

This volume assembles strategies which have been employed, more or less successfully, by the broad range of organizations operating in this sector. Access to a "good" strategy can confer influence, make impact more effective, and do much to make the most of limited resources.

6. Supporting inter-sectoral dialogue

The increasing emphasis on inter-sectoral dialogue aims to raise the level of inter-sectoral debate. The challenge is to move beyond simplistic consensus and beyond acrimonious restatement of established positions and towards higher orders of consensus. Thisraises the issue of "strategic dilemmas", namely such seemingly irreconcilable concerns as safeguarding watercourses versus exploiting hydro-electric energy reserves. By juxtaposing strategies without favour, this volume offers an opening for unprejudiced consideration of alternative approaches to problem resolution and to advancement of the human condition. It also brings a greater richness of methods to the bargaining table where conflicts are debated.

7. Decoding sustainable development

The notion of global sustainable development is evolving as an interweaving of strategies at all levels, scales and across many sectors. It is a function of the pattern as whole rather than of its components.

Competing visions of global order are frequently based on traditional hierarchical thinking which ignore alternative modes of action, and fail to explore how other strategies are involved in the general functioning of the whole, and impinge upon preferred strategies. Narrow vision, and the inefficiency of crude blocking tactics and neutralizing strategies, perpetuates much of what is today called unsustainable development. Strategies are often used primarily to compete for a greater share of available resources or for greater influence.

This volume compiles the strategic resources which can be brought to bear to assist the development of a self-sustaining, resource-responsible, rather than self-consuming world, so that more informed choices can be made with regards to the social and environmental costs and benefits of respective strategies.

8. Ensuring involvement of all organizational resources As noted earlier, 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. Hopefully this publication will stimulate further thinking on the use of, and participation in, the full global network of organizations, instead of continued reliance on 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).