Encyclopedia of World Problems - Archived Information

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4.1 Classification and section attribution

1. Collapsing or maintaining strategic distinctions

This project is designed to explore the complete range of strategies and action proposals. It can easily be argued that there are an infinite number of strategies, or at least as many strategies as there are organizations, still a daunting number. The challenge is therefore to develop some criteria through which very similar strategies can be clustered together -- even when they have very different names.

Strategies involving the words "Protecting..." and "Conserving..." are a case in point. Is "Protecting wildlife" the same as "Conserving wildlife"? A "protected plant" or "protected area" may be so for reasons unrelated to its "conservation status" its natural beauty or the emotional reaction it evokes, for example. Again, if "Conserving" is applied only in the case of endangered species or habitats, does it contradict the notion of "Protecting" when, for reasons of conservation, endangered animals are taken from the wild for captive breeding programmes, or vulnerable grassland or forest are deliberately set on fire for conservation purposes? Once "Protecting" and "Conserving" are understood in this context, how then does the concept of "Preserving wildlife/species/habitat/..." relate?

Do such insights and distinctions assist when the subject category changes from the natural environment to social environment say in the cases of "Conserving/Protecting/Preserving...traditions/moral order/built heritage/..."? Is "Conserving anything" a class of strategy in itself? Can all such strategies be grouped together? How dependent are such decisions upon the use of English language expressions?

Similar explorations of strategy distinction, similarity and nuanced meaning, could be made with gerund pairs such as "Advocating" and "Defending"; or "Advocating" and "Promoting", "Defending" and "Protecting", and so on.

As an exploratory database project, it is important for the Encyclopedia to avoid premature closure, especially when information on some strategies or strategic distinctions has not been obtained, for whatever reason. It is as important not to lose variety as to be lost in variety. There are therefore several challenges in any approach to rationalizing and ordering the strategies named in the database.

2. Complexity of strategy classification

The approach to strategy classification is treated quite separately from the administrative question of providing a filing point for information (whether physically or electronically). As with problems, strategies are quite deliberately not classified by subject in any way -- other than under the arbitrary filing number (Note 3.4). The principal reason for this approach is that it is considered desirable to separate the logistical issues of managing the information from the highly controversial issues of how strategies should be grouped. As has been argued elsewhere, classification is a highly political act -especially, when dealing with "world issues". (These points are discussed further in the Introduction to Volume 1.)

Strategies may be classified by the object on which action is being taken (strategies responding to problems of plants or animals or using resources), by the age of the object (strategies concerning youth or heritage conservation), by part of the object (strategies concerning the eye or departments of a company), by type of symptom (inflammation of tissue or dry rot), by location of occurrence (strategies in transit or in storage, rural or urban strategies), by geopolitical region (strategies of industrialized or developing countries), by ecological region (strategies for tropical or coastal areas), by causal agent (deficiency strategies or strategies of invasion or pests), by size of the "individual" strategic actor (personal or collective strategies). Other bases for classification might readily be envisaged.

3. Subject classification of strategies

With the development of the Yearbook of International Organizations into a 3-volume publication in 1983 (UIA, 1994), the third volume entitled Global Action Networks was produced as a directory classified by subject and region. This classification system has beenused up to 1993 to group together by subject both international organizations described in the first volume of the Yearbook and the world problems from this Encyclopedia.

An information processing context was created in which the manner by which the problems were grouped could be continually reviewed. This research-oriented approach has been taken with successive annual editions of Global Action Networks. For each edition, efforts have been made to fine-tune the thesaurus structure currently numbering some 2,000 categories (exclusive of geographic regions). New categories are added and the attribution of organizations and problems to categories and category combinations is modified. This system has now also been applied to the strategies featured in this volume and much the larger number contained in the database.

The system of classification, referred to above, was developed after examining the possibility of using other international systems. It was partly inspired by the system developed by Ingetraut Dahlberg and partly by structural features of the periodic table of chemical elements. It was deliberately designed to highlight integrative or interdisciplinary relations between categories. The thesaurus is continually redesigned as a system of categories to reflect the systemic relation between the preoccupations of international organizations.

A computer programme is used to reallocate strategies to categories whenever a significant number of thesaurus modifications have been made. This is usually done annually. Interim changes are however relatively easily made. During the editorial process, any change made to indexed names results in the strategy being re-indexed and allocated to any relevant categories associated with the new keywords indexed. At any time, therefore, strategies can be accessed via word, via specific subject category, via subject group, or via various Boolean combinations of these elements. The same keywords will access "problems" entries, "organizations" or any other of the UIA databases on the same basis.

4. Section (or type) attribution of strategies

The policy of resistance to subject classification (see point 2 above) has also been applied to the international organizations in the Yearbook of International Organizations. In the latter volume, however, the organizations are grouped into sections (A through U) which are based partially on degree of internationality. Although having little theoretical justification, the system has proved to be useful in practice in dealing with many exceptional forms of international body. Within sections, strategies are filed by their arbitrary number. Part of the editorial process, from edition to edition, involves decisions on the appropriateness of any reassignment between the sections. Experience with this section classification system led to the development of an equivalent one for world problems, now extended to strategies. For the previous and current editions of this Encyclopedia, the section classification system has been refined and used to order the actual descriptions of problems in Sections PB through PG (Volume 1) and strategies in Sections SB through SF in this volume.

The resulting strategy sections or types are as follows:

  • Section SB: Used for broad cross-category, world-wide strategies (or strategy complexes), which tend to be prominent on the agendas of international organizations (eg "trading commodities", "protecting the environment" etc), and to group many subsidiary strategies.
  • Section SC: Used for major cross-sectoral strategies of a specific nature.
  • Section SD: Used for detailed strategies.
  • Section SE: Used for emanations (combinations or specific expressions) of other strategies, often taking the form of sets of "daughter" strategies applied in the same detailed area, or series of a detailed strategy applied in different areas.
  • Section SF: Used for "fuzzy", exceptional and unusual strategies.
In addition, the following sections exist in the database. (Note that these entries are not printed in this volume, although their principal name may be cross-referenced by any strategy located in earlier sections).
  • Section SG: Used for very specific strategies on which it is not considered appropriate to provide descriptions.
  • Section SJ: Used for editorial purposes as a temporary section for insufficiently cross-referenced, new, unconfirmed or inadequately named strategies.
  • Section SK: Used for editorial purposes as a provisional section for uncross-referenced strategies which have been generated with computer assistance from problem and organization files and currently have only organization or problem cross-references.
Three more experimental sections also exist in the database.
  • Section SP: Used for strategy polarities. As an experiment in data presentation in order to obtain a better overview of major strategies, and especially to highlight the strategic dimension, it was decided to group the entries in Sections SB, SC and SF using categories corresponding to those developed for the 225 value polarities of Section VP (Volume 2). This was suggested, and rendered possible, by the striking parallelism between the value words of Section VC (Constructive values) and the operative gerunds used for strategy names to provide the action-oriented emphasis to the strategies they identified. The result of this regrouping forms the 239 entries of Section SP.
  • Section ST: Used for strategy types. Pursuing the relationship to the values section, it was also decided to group the strategic polarities of Section VP (Value polarities, Volume 2) within 45 strategy types (as had been done for the values in Section VT). The result of this regrouping forms a classified index to Section SP.
  • Section SR: Used for strategic roles. (Printed in the second edition (1986) of this Encyclopedia only). For the 1986 edition, it was decided to explore the possibility of defining "personal strategies" (to complement the primary emphasis on collective strategies, primarily open to groups, communities and organizations). Personal strategies were defined as "non-economic occupations" or "roles" through which individuals could achieve many of their psycho-social needs. Some of the strategies-cum-roles it proved interesting to include in this experimental section were, for example, managerial team roles/styles (R. Meredith Belbin, Management Teams, London, Heinemann, 1981) and roles/strategies from selected interpersonal games identified by the techniques of transaction analysis (Eric Berne, Games People Play: the psychology of human relationships, London, André Deutsch, 1966). These suggest the possibility of interrelating complementary personal strategies. By including a handful of basic economic roles (employee, entrepreneur, etc), this series could then be conceived as "strategic roles". The editorial work on this section was subcontracted to the Institute of Cultural Affairs (Brussels) in order to benefit from its experience in community development. This section has not been further developed and is not reprinted in this volume.
5. Derivation of section / type attributions

The following overlapping guidelines were used in allocating the section code letter during the editorial process:

  • General to specific: Strategies dealing with classes of phenomena, such as living species, are allocated "B" at the highest level (eg the living kingdom of animals) down to "G" for a specific species (eg blue whale), or a specific disease or commodity.
  • Universality: For example, all classes ("B") of living beings through to particular classes or specific types ("E"), such as tropical islanders.
  • Fundamental to dependent: For example, strategies satisfying basic human needs such as minimal food or shelter ("B") throughto important needs such as work or education ("C" or "D") to subsidiary needs such as entertainment ("E").
  • Hierarchical level: Top of several hierarchies ("B") to a specific feature of a single hierarchy ("D", "E" or "G")
  • Discipline specificity: Transcending any group of disciplines ("B"), through major conjunction of disciplines ("C") to single discipline ("D") and sub-discipline ("E").
  • Geographical/cultural locus: From global ("B"), without any specified region or division, through intercontinental ("C"), such as developing, industrialized or socialist, to specific ("D"), such as mountain or tropical regions, through multiple qualifiers ("E") such as "training refugee or displaced women", to strategies of one single country which are of wider significance ("F" or "G"), such as apartheid.
  • Set membership: Where the strategy name suggests the possibility that the strategy is a member of a set of similar strategies, they are coded "C" or lower. For example "preventing blindness in children" suggests "preventing blindness in the elderly".
  • Fashionable strategies: Care has been taken not to give exaggerated prominence to highly-publicized specific strategies (eg "protesting food animal transportation" or "ethnic cleansing").
  • Exceptions: The code "F" has been used for unusual strategies, those whose existence may readily be queried, dormant strategies, non-material, extra-physical strategies and various other subtle or intangible strategies.

Attribution to a particular section is not considered definitive. It is a pragmatic convenience. Some strategies coded "F" could well have been coded otherwise. Strategies which otherwise would have been coded "G", but have nevertheless acquired a description, are coded "E" so that they can be printed in this volume.