This chapter first discusses briefly the extent to which an inter-organizational perspective is currently used in connection with the theory or practice of international organization. The distinction between 'network' and 'system' is then examined and the complementarity of the two perspectives in relation to a structure-process continuum is emphasized. An attempt is made to sketch out a network model of society and the challenge it poses for data collection. The availability of data on organizational and related networks is then discussed before reporting on one extensive data collection exercise which demonstrates the feasibility of the approach. Some directions for analysis, and the possibility for predicting various kinds of network growth, are then considered. Finally, the question of network design and various policy implications are examined.
The conventional approach to the analysis of organizations, and especially international organizations, has focussed on individual organizations. (1) These have either been studied in isolation as particular cases (embedded in an environment of pressures and processes) or considered as members of a set on which some form of quantitative analysis could be performed (members, personnel, budget, and the like). Both these approaches tend to avert attention from the pattern of linkages between existing international organizations or to the 'international organization' which emerges from any relatively stable pat tern of linkages across national boundaries.
Clearly there are exceptions to this statement. For example, Edward Miles has undertaken a number of studies of the complex of international organizations concerned with special issue areas (e.g. space, law of sea). However, he is more concerned with the particular case and less with the general problems of analyzing and describing such patterns of structural interaction. There has also been much work on the analysis of transactions or exchanges across national boundaries and on the formation of coalitions between nation states. The former tends naturally to emphasize the flows rather than the pattern constituted by the set of flows. The latter is, of course, primarily concerned with the nation state as air actor, and the power blocs constituted by such coalitions, rather than their fine structure.
William Evan, in his introduction to a reader on inter-organizational relations (2), makes the point that:
- "One basic assumption, however, has unified researchers from diverse disciplines and vantage points, viz., that a significant amount of the variance of organizational phenomena can be accounted for by concentrating on intra-organizational variables... In recent years, one can detect a rising tide of discontent with the predominantly intra-organizational focus of organizational research. One expression of this discontent is as follows: 'Too much sociological theory arid research has been based mainly on the model of a single organization, and attention has been focused on its internal processes. by and large. Surely this dominant model is not sufficient to analyze newer arid more complex organizational forms such as the interlocking networks of organization in the civil service, the multi-campus state university, regional consortia of educational institutions, multi-outlet distributive organizations in business, and multi-plant industrial concerns. Having become rooted in its social and technological environment arid more complex ways, organizations find themselves both constraining and being constrained by these environments in new ways. Yet investigators of formal organizations have barely begun to attack these new relationships."
Vaughn, in fits analysis of the EEC, also includes enterprises and the Commission itself. Where individual organizations or groups of organizations have been considered, they tend either to have been studied in terms of their use as control mechanisms for the international system (e.g. the United Nations) or as being limited in their activities by features of that system. Again the richness and diversity of the interacting organizational forms has been ignored (for example, the variety of forms discussed in Chapter 2 of this volume). Efforts to move towards a broader perspective have been made: by various people advised by Chadwick Alger, focusing on problem-area organization networks; by Elise Boulding, in connection with women's organizations and religious groups (4); and by Diana Crane, in extending her work on discipline-related networks of scientists and the invisible colleges to networks of international scientific and professional associations (5). The author, partly in collaboration with Kjell Skjelsbaek, has explored possibilities of tracking evolving networks of international organizations. (6) This resulted recently in the establishment of a data base on networks of organizations, problems. treaties, disciplines, and the like, which was used to produce the Yearbook of World Problems and Human Potential.
Before considering the contribution of research on social networks or the distinction, if any, between 'system' and 'network', it is useful to note the emergence of the use of 'network' in the practice of international organizations.
Networks in practiceIt is no exaggeration to state that the number of interlinked international organization units is such that no one has a clear overview or understanding of how the complex functions (if at all, as some would have it). This was first clearly stated in 1969 with respect to one international organization system in the Capacity Study of the United Nations Development System under Sir Robert Jackson, who commented:
- 'For many years, 1 have looked for the "brain" which guides policies and operations of the UN development system. The starch has been in vain. Here and there throughout the system there are offices and units collecting the information available, but there is no group (or "Brain Trust" which is constantly monitoring the present operation . . . '(vol. I., p. 12).
- 'In short, there are now simply too many separate, inconsistent, incomplete information systems relating to some facet of development cooperation activities, and these system are undirected or uncoordinated by an), central authority.' (vol. I., p. 223).
In such an environment, therefore, when a proposal is now made for the creation of some broad-purpose organizational instrument, there is a tendency to advocate the creation of a 'network' of some kind even at the intergovernmental level. This deliberately avoids introducing the kinds of systemic linkages which are perceived as having malfunctioned in previous exercises.
Consider the following examples:
1. United Nations International System for Information ot Science and Technology: 'UNISIST is a continuing. flexible programme based on a joint Unesco- ISCU Study whose aims are to coordinate existing trends towards cooperation and to act as a catalyst for the necessary developments in scientific and technical information. The ultimate goal is the establishment of a flexible and loosely connected network of information services based on voluntary cooperation.' (UNISIST Newsletter, 1 at January l973, page 2.)
Studies by international organizations of their environments also lead increasingly to documents which refer to the existence of 'networks' of one kind or another.
2. Multinational Corporations in World Development. 'While the terms "corporation", "film" and "company" are generally used interchangeably, the term "enterprise" in sometimes preferred as clearly including a network of corporate and non-corporate entitles in different countries joined together by ties of ownership '
'By contrast, most developed host countries belong to a network of advanced economic, and even political, relationships which allow for more successful economic and political bargaining.' (ECOSOC report on Multinational Corporations in World Development, page 4.)
When employed in connection with multinational corporations, the term may be used with negative connotations. At the national level studies have been made to identify the networks constituted by 'interlocking directorates' which are viewed as undesirable. (7)
It should also be remembered that the term achieved widespread use with the development of espionage and, more recently, terrorist networks. It is appropriate to note that a 1975 conference of the United Nations Institute for Training and Research, in identifying the main problems of using the potential of NGOs in social and economic development, included that of developing the network of NGOs and made suggestions for a 'network approach'. (5) In a 1976 review of the action of environmental NGOs, a similar point is made at length in a report to the United Nations Environment Programme. (9). The author has recently described 34 practical problems hindering the utilization of NGO networks. (10). Alvin Toffler, in testimony before a US Senate Committee in 1975, has also stressed the importance of a network focus. (11). The Alliance for Volunteerism, a consortium of 14 U.S. volunteer groups has recently launched a research project on interagency collaboration which will focus on the question of networks.
There appears to be an emerging awareness amongst practitioners that the concept of a network, network organization and 'networking' are appropriate to the current rapidly changing conditions which constantly give rise to fresh problems and unforeseen requirements for action -- requirements which cannot be rapidly and satisfactorily distributed to organizations working in isolation within rigidly defined programmes. Networks are perceived as permitting all the decentralization necessary to satisfy the need for autonomous organizational development and individual initiative. They also permit very rapid centralization, canalization, and focussing of resources the moment any complex problem (or natural disaster) emerges which requires the talents of an unforeseen configuration or constellation of organizations.
There has been a considerable amount of work on 'social networks' by which is meant primarily networks of individuals, usually analyzed in terms of the pattern of their relationships around one individual. Arnold Toynbee favours the conception of society as the act of such networks:
- "Society is not a crowd or cluster or clump of human beings; it is a set of networks of relations among human beings. Every human being is linked with others it) a number of networks which are not mutually exclusive and are also not coextensive with each other." (12)
- 'When Radcliffe-Brown ... defined social structure as "a network of actually existing social relationships" . . . he was using "network" in a metaphorical and not an analytical sense. His use of the word evoked an image of the inter-connections of social relationships but he did not go on to specify the properties of these interconnect ions which could he used to interpret social actions except at the abstract level of "structure" Perhaps more often titan not the word "network" when used in sociological contexts is used in this metaphorical way But the metaphorical use of (lie word, however common it Is. should not prevent its from appreciating that it is possible to expand the metaphor into an analogy ... avid use the concept in more specific and defined ways." (13)
- 'The abstract notion of a network is undoubtedly called to play a role in the social sciences comparable to the role played in physics by the concept of euclidean space and its generalizations. But the poverty of concepts and methods stands in dramatic contrast to the immense conceptual and methodological richness available for the study of physical spaces. A whole reticular imagery remains to be developed. At this time a network is understood to contain simply nodes and links and little else." (14) (Paraphrase and translation).
- "the most fundamental problem is still the pre-formal one of whether networks matter: or, to put the question more definitely, when do networks matter and what kinds of social networks are operative in given circumstances? One of the continuing problems with the network concept is that it is deceptively vivid as a metaphor and all too elusive in practice... The still unfinished task of the theory is to give more concrete instances where a network perspective really buys something for scientific sociology in addition to a largely new vocabulary and a set of appealing metaphors." (15)
Since the study of social networks has focussed on individuals, it remains to be seen to what extent the weaknesses of the approach would also apply in the case of organizations, particularly since data on relationships between large numbers of organizations may be more easily collected and as such any analysis would tend to be more relevant to decision-making about the network and about particular organizations in it. It is not for nothing that one of the early studies in this area was funded by the US Office of Civil Defense.(16)
System' versus 'Network'The definition of 'system' (like that of 'structure') is the subject of continuing confusion. It is not surprising therefore that the implication that 'network' is in some way distinct from 'system' tends to give rise to vigorous debate. It is the mathematics-based pure and applied sciences which are most disturbed by the possibility of any distinction. Clearly, in purely formal mathematical terms, both system avid network consist of an interconnected set of elements. But even when account is taken of the nature of those elements, the manner of their interconnection and the properties of the resultant whole, the distinctions between definitions of system and of network are confused especially where value-related questions are raised concerning the relative equitability of different social structures. The confusion and overlap is illustrated by the following definitions taken from the Yearbook of World Problems and Human Potential (17) of which the first two are for system and the last for network:
- Any recognizable delimited aggregate of dynamic elements that are in some way interconnected and interdependent and that continue to operate together according to certain laws and in such a way as to produce some characteristic total effect. A system, in other words, is something that is concerned with some kind of activity and preserves a kind of integration and unity; and a particular system can be recognized as distinct from other systems to which, however, it may be dynamically related. Systems may be complex, they may be made up of interdependent each of which, though less autonomous than the entire aggregate, is nevertheless fairly distinguishable in operation.
- A regular interacting of an interdependent group of items forming a unified whole. A set of elements standing in interaction as expressed by a system of mathematical equations or an organization seen as a system of mutually dependent variables. A system may be characterized by: a particular relationship between elements which turns a mere collection of elements into something that may be called in assemblage; a pattern in the set of relationships which turns the assemblage into a systematically arranged assemblage; and a unified purpose which turns the systematically arranged assemblage into a system.
- A group of elements which may be partially or completely interconnected. The connections (termed branches or arcs) can represent roads, power lines, airline routes, information flows, predator-prey relationships in aft ecosystem, logical relationships, of the generalized channels through which commodities flow. The elements (termed points or nodes) cart represent Individuals, communities, power stations, airline terminals water reservoirs, libraries, organizations, namely any point where a flow or relationship of some kind originates, or terminates. In a more general case, the elements or points in the network may themselves be sub-networks composed of combinations of other kinds of elements.
The question of interest may be less the distinction between system and network, if any, and inure the connotations of the terms in contexts associated with international and organizational activity. The question may then be why is there a preference for - 'network' instead of 'system' under certain circumstances. Consider the distinctions in the case of a road system/network. a telephone system/network of a concept system/network before reflecting on the case of an interorganizational system/network Under what circumstances is there a negative connotation to either term?
The author recently presented to a meeting in Montreal the following suggestions as to how the distinction tends to be made in practice. Further points appear in the report of the debate. (18):
- 1. System tend to require more information for their description than networks, since flows must be described as well as structural relationships.
2. Systems are described primarily with quantitative information (which is both difficult and costly to obtain and has a short useful life), whereas networks may be described with non-quantitative structural information (which is more readily available at lower cost and has a longer useful life).
3. Systems tend to have a unique (or ultimate) controller regulating the state of the system as a whole, whereas networks tend to have a plurality of controllers (if any), with a relatively high degree of autonomy. (in other words, systems tend to be centralized in some sense, whereas networks tend to be decentralized or polycentric.)
4. Systems tend to be associated with imposed structures or patterns (even if limited to the choice of the system boundary), whereas networks tend to be associated with emergent structures or patterns.
5. Systems tend to have well-defined boundaries (even if they are open- systems) whereas the outer-limit (or fine detail) of a network is ill-defined and not of major significance to its description.
6. Systems tend to have well-defined, stable goals or functions, whereas networks. if (hey have any, may have ill-defined goals, a plurality of goals (possibly fairly incompatible), or may change goals relatively frequently.
7. Systems tend to have a more limited tolerance of changes to then whereas networks tent] it) maintain a fate degree of invariance and coherence even in tile event of highly turbulent
to) their environment
8. Societal system descriptions tend to be meaningful only at macro- level to detached observers, whereas network descriptions retain their utility even when limited to the immediate environment of an involved participant at a particular node of the network.
9. Systems, and particularly their dynamics, tend to be difficult to represent, whereas complex networks can be represented with relative case.
Complementarity of system and network perspectivesRather than attempt to resolve the distinction between system an network, it may be useful to conceive of the two terms as being different but complementary conceptual approaches to a structure-process continuum. (19). When a system perspective is used, in practice the emphasis is on the properties and the characteristics of the whole conceived as a set of interlinked processes (over which a measure centralized control is described). In the extreme case the set of processes can be viewed as energy field effects. The structure supporting the processes, if considered at all, is perceived and represented in terms of its gross features. When a network perspective is used, in practice the emphasis is on the properties and character of the continuous pattern of linkages constituting the structure. The processes which may occur in the network, if considered at all, are perceived and represented in terms of the pathways through the network (the mapping of which constitutes the initial challenge). The concern with processes builds up, the perspective shifts toward the system focus, whereas concern with detailed representation of structure shifts the perspective towards the network focus.
The system perspective therefore tends to be used when the structure is assumed to be relatively simple and conceptually well- defined but where the complexity of the processes poses a challenge to conceptualization and representation. The network perspective, conversely is used when the processes are assumed to be relatively simple and well-defined but where the structural complexity poses a challenge to conceptualization and representation.
Expressed in these terms, the complementarity of the two perspectives highlights the problem of description, analysis and policy formulation in relation to global society. A focus on the system process dynamics, as typified by the current approaches to world modelling, is obliged to eliminate structural (and especially fine structural) features to reach a level of aggregation which tenders the analysis viable. A focus on the network of fine structure would presumably only be practicable if the complexity of process characteristics was highly simplified. Either filter can be employed, but both cannot yet be removed together and result in any practicable comprehensible investigation. On the question of the importance of fine structure Donald Schon comments that:
- "The map of organizations or agencies that make up the society is as it were, a sort of clear overlay against a page underneath it which represents the reality of the society ... There's basically no social problem such that one can identify and control within a single system all the elements required in order to attack that problem. The result is that one is thrown back on the knitting together of element in networks which are not controlled and where the network fun and the network roles become critical." (20)
- 'To what extent is the complexity of the problem system with which humanity is faced greater than that which its organizational and intellectual resources are capable of handling? Worse, is there a widespread unacknowledged preference for simplifying the representation of complex problem (and other) systems down to less than 10 elements so that they lend themselves to easy debate in public and in a policy- making environment (at might be suggested by some work of communication psychologist George Miller)? Are organizational and conceptual resources then marshalled and structured to match the problem system as simplified rather than to handle it in its more dangerous complexity, thus running the (unacknowledged) risk of leaving the problems uncontained and uncontainable by the resources available? Does this suggest a corollary to Ashby's Law of Requisite Variety which might read: 'That any attempt to control a psycho-social system with a control system of less complexity (i.e. of less variety) than that of the psycho-social system itself, can only be made to succeed by suppressing or ignoring the variety (i.e. reducing the diversity) in the psycho-social system so that it is less than the relative simplicity of the control system? Such suppression lends to breed violence, however."
Some of these matters were recently explored during a panel on complexity as a constraint on social innovation during a meeting of the International Foundation for Social Innovation (21). Such views suggest that it is of value to explore the possibility of representing aspects of global society as a network, especially the networks associated with international organization.
There does not seem to be available any well-articulated conceptual model of the network structure of society. Such a model would be based upon the stable networks of interpersonal relationships whose existence is established by the many social network studies. It would include:
- (a) the growth of such networks in terms of their present pattern as 'structural formula',
(b) the multiplication of parallel networks distinguishing themselves by different priorities regarding the same field of concern,
(c) the periodic changes in structure of the network in response to occasional changes in the state of the environment (e.g. activation of political networks at election time), and
(d) the evolution of such networks, namely the emergence of new forms as a result of marked changes in the pattern of 'structural formula' (possibly determined by 'saturation' or 'maturation' thresholds).
- (a) the network of concepts making up the body of knowledge,
(b) the network of values in terms of which activities are undertaken,
(c) the communication and information networks which facilitate contact and exchange and
(d) the networks of treaties, laws and regulations which regulate or inhibit such contact and exchange.
Clearly new concepts, values or problems give rise to new meetings, new organizations, new information system and new regulations. These in turn catalyze the emergence of further concepts, values or perceived problems. There are many shifts and waves in the changing patterns of relationships. Many patterns are extremely short-lived and cannot constitute a basis for institutions of any permanence. Others survive for. and are exhausted by, a single meeting. Others give rise to information systems. possibly of rapidly diminishing significance. And of course some give rise to organizations through which particular networks of inter-personal relationships are activated and supported for long periods. The emergence of organizations in this way leads to the establishment of formal or informal networks of relationships between such bodies at the same level, with others at a 'lower' level (e.g. member organizations), or with others at a 'higher' level (e.g. bodies of which it is a member). Such networks themselves provide a framework through which new concepts, values or problems give rise to new meetings, new organizations, new Information systems and new regulations. And the forms of the networks are themselves modified, to a greater or lesser extent, by such activity and by ongoing structural developments in the 'parallel' network of concepts, values or problems.
The structure of any of these networks is not only a matter for detached observation. Much energy is devoted by individuals and organizations associated with these networks to reordering them. Domains of influence are established around focal points: specific problems, values, and concepts are given territorial characteristics and stimulate appropriate behaviour. Portions of the network are ordered, bi-directional relationships are made uni-directional and focussed on particular modes. Efforts are made to rationalize these changes by establishing hierarchical structures with well-defined boundaries. whether from exciting networks of as a development within existing networks.
Just as hierarchies are created and embedded in networks, so there are networks which emerge and evolve within and between hierarchical structures. Very large hierarchical structures (e.g. the United Nations) are associated with very complex networks. Other hierarchical structures may be nested within such networks. A set of otherwise unrelated hierarchies may be tightly linked by networks (e.g. interlocking corporation directorates, invisible colleges) which may extend between different kinds of hierarchies (e.g. old boy networks).
The model should also make clear how the variety of organizational forms and preoccupations is generated and interrelated within such networks (which would appear to be information analogues of the complex food webs which interrelate very diverse species in nature). In particular it would be valuable to clarify the functions of organizational variety of form and preoccupation and the advantages and disadvantages of reducing or increasing such variety. This would also help to determine the current significance of antiquated institutions and of the bodies created for fun or out of whimsy (e.g. the Association for the Promotion of Humour in International Affairs). Do such bodies perform any useful function or would society function better it such organizational clutter was rapidly eliminated?
Assuming that a model such as that sketched out above constituted a useful representation of one aspect of societal activity, the question is whether the relationships represented could be adequately captured in in information system. There is a considerable gap between the richness and diversity implied in the above model and in those depicting the international system as made up of some 150 states linked through an equal number of intergovernmental bodies and alliances into a handful of power blocs. An equivalent perspective is common at the national level within each nation state.
Clearly whilst it would be desirable to examine global society in terms of social networks of individuals, this does not seem to be practicable, although the implications of such networks should be borne in mind --- particularly when considering the significance of census data on individuals abstracted from such networks. And although census data is available on individuals and on the commercial enterprises by which they are employed or from which they purchase products, none is readily available on (he groups and associations in which (hey are active and through which their views are expressed and frequently molded. The importance of such information to government is illustrated by the fact that when it is collected such data tends to be maintained in central registries for official purposes often linked to national security avid personnel vetting. Such data is also actively sought both by commercial groups eager to expose association members to particular products and services and by opinion forming bodies (e.g. the UN Office of Public Information) eager to orient association members to new values, issues and fund-donating opportunities. it is appropriate to note that data on national and local government units and their relationships is frequently also difficult to obtain in any systematic manner.
In the present circumstances it is perhaps fortunate that such national and subnational data is not more readily available, given the misuse to which it would tend to be subject. In fact, for purposes of initial research and general education, it would be much simpler, less costly avid possibly more enlightening to simulate the growth and change of a variety of complex networks (and levels of networks) in a computer environment with suitable visual display facilities. A variety of conceptual and organizational entities and relationships could be 'grown' and analyzed under different conditions and subjected to different constraints. It would be relatively simple to work over extended time periods with a population of 104 or even 106 entities and an equivalent number of relationships which would otherwise constitute a formidable coding investment. It would be instructive to determine to what extent modules from the conventional system-oriented world models could be blended into such a framework. In relation to the formal analogue noted earlier. Such a simulation might explore the following questions noted elsewhere by the author (see note 17):
- "6. Can the relationships between problems (or between organizations) be usefully conceived as analogous to the food webs and trophic levels within which animals are embedded? Does this help to suggest why different kinds of problems emerge as being of major importance at different times? How might the evolution of problems and problem systems be conceived in this light?
- the growth of networks. namely the extension of an existing network of a given pattern or 'structural formula'
- the multiplication of networks,. namely the emergence of parallel networks with a different slant or mode of activity in relation to a common subject domain
- the evolution of networks, namely the emergence of new forms with the occurrence of marked changes in the pattern or 'structural formula'
- impact-effects within and between networks.
- study of / research on
- in support of
- media information about
- specialized documentation on
- funds for
- providers/producers of
- users/consumers of
- affected by
- professionals of
- workers in
- facilitative (as opposed to obstructive) legislation
- subsidized postal and telephone communications
- creation of facilitative environments where organizations and people can meet and interact informally to catalyze, wherever possible, the emergence of action programmes or formal collaboration
- creation of information systems and devices to facilitate the development of new contacts in response to new issues (e.g. social action 'yellow pages', network maps, on-line intellectual communities, community interaction software packages)
- examination of the significance of the number and reticulation of organizations in a society as a social indicator, both in terms of development and quality of life.
- a vast and largely uncomprehended network of perceived problems and problem systems, on which no single body has (or possibly could have) adequate information.
- a vast and fragmented network of conceptual tools and knowledge resources which is not (and possibly could not be) comprehended by any single body.
- a vast and largely uncomprehended network of agencies, organization groups and active individuals spanning every conceivable human interest on which no body has (or possibly could or should have) adequate information.
7. From what is the stability of a 'problem ecosystem' (as it might emerge from the previous point) derived? Is it useful to distinguish between degrees of (negative) maturity of problem ecosystems and to attempt to determine the amount of energy required to maintain them? Is anything suggested for better understanding of problem systems by the fact that a highly diversified ecosystem has the capacity for carrying a high amount of organization and information and requires relatively little energy to maintain it, whereas, conversely, the lower the maturity of the system, the less the energy required to disrupt it. Thus anything that keeps an ecosystem oscillating (or 'spastic'), retains it in a state of low maturity, whence the possible danger of simplistic reorganization of organizational, conceptual, or value systems. Is the problem of understanding and organizing the maturation of natural ecosystems of a similar form to that of understanding and organizing the disruption of problem ecosystem?"
Partly in an attempt to explore the possible characteristics of a model such as that sketched above, a special programme was initiated in 1972 by the Union of International Associations (publishers of the Yearbook of International Organizations) jointly with Mankind 2000 (which initiated the series of International Futures Research Conferences). This programme resulted in 1976 in the publication of an experimental 13 section Yearbook of World Problems and Human Potential. Each of the sections is devoted to a particular kind of entity (whether international organizations, world problems, values, multilateral treaties, and bite like.) Each section is structured on computer files as a series of entities linked together in networks. Entities in different sections are also linked in networks. A summary of the numbers of entities and relationships is given as Table 1 (see p. 403).
The kinds of relationships that could be registered in this way clearly depend on the nature of the entity-pair so linked. Formal relationships (e.g. membership, consultative status) were registered between organizations, but most relationships could only be established as related subjects (e.g. a treaty on 'child labour' and a world problem of 'child labour').
Some data collected for the 1977 edition of the Yearbook of International Organizations (a companion volume to the above publication) is useful as an indication of intra-organizational networks (relating to international organizations). This has been presented as Table 3 of Chapter 2 and summarizes the national member links to International bodies. Clearly it does not cover intra-secretariat links.
This project illustrates the possibility of tracking complex networks involving international organizations although it remains to be seen how best the data can be analyzed and whether they can be effectively updated as is intended.
Directions for analysisOrganization is best depicted as a network. The mathematical theory of networks derives largely from certain branches of topology and abstract algebra. The theory of graphs is often presented as a kind of general theory of networks; however. other than in the area of operations research it has riot proved itself to he very useful in sociology. The theory rarely handles networks with several distinct types of relationship, each with its own configuration of links. It is precisely such networks which are of most interest in sociology. It also tends to exclude networks in which some of the points have links back to the selves, and it is often just such networks which are important in representing social structures.
A final disadvantage of the theory of graphs is that it only offers a fairly limited range of means of global analysis of networks. In such a situation it is not possible to provide more precise descriptions of networks as structures with particular characteristics, or as made up of sub-structures with particular characteristics. It is therefore difficult to distinguish clearly between networks of different types; especially since an adequate description depends upon structural rather than quantitative information. It is curious that none of the sciences appear to have developed a terminology to facilitate communication about irregular, complex, multi-dimensional structures.
Conventional analysis of networks provides information on such characteristics at number of nodes, number of links, centrality of a node and interconnectedness of a group of entities. Such characteristic give very little Information on the structural features, patterning or irregularities of a network. The term network generally implies the presence of:
- (a) relationships between a particular node and some more central node (i.e. 'vertical' relationships);
(b) relationships between anode and less central nodes (i.e. a network of more thin one level);
(c) relationships between nodes having a similar relationship to a more central node (i.e. 'horizontal' relationships); and possibly also:
(d) relationships between a particular node and more central node
other than the one noted in (a) (i.e. a network with several centres);
(e) relationships between a particular node and nodes more central than those noted in (a) and (d) (i.e. a network with links across levels or 'jumping' levels); and possibly also
(f) direct relationships between the most central node(s) and the least central node(s);
(g) relationships such that the node which is the least central under one set of conditions may be the most central node (in the extreme case) under another act of conditions.
To the extent that the last four characteristics are embodied in networks, and particularly the last two, there is a tendency for the networks to become less formal and more difficult to document. This does not of course necessarily imply a decrease in their functional significance in society - it may even imply an increase.
The degree of centralization raises a difficulty in that some may prefer not to apply the term network in situations where centralization is high, particularly where this implies ultimate control by a single centre. Others, however, may consider that situations of (very) low or 'variable' centralization are not of immediate interest, whether or not they can he adequately studied. The problem in determining directions for analysis is that so little of the considerable body of literature on social networks has been explored in terms of its relevance to the study of inter-organizational networks and few of the scholars interested in social networks have any interest in inter-organizational networks except as networks of individuals. It is appropriate to note that Johan Galtung has recently suggested that 'structural analysis is indispensable at any level of society analysis, from inter- personal to inter-national'. He advocates the use of this approach for the development of a needed range of social indicators, particularly of relevance to development. (22)
The data available and the manner of its organization suggest interesting possibilities for predicting:
corresponding growth or evolution in the others with which it interacts
1. Network growth: It is possible to make use of existing ordered subject domains. applied
against semi-ordered domains or organizations problems, disciplines or occupations, to detect subjects which have a significant probability of being expressed in organizations, problems or like phenomena.
The simplest and most common example of an ordered subject domain is a hierarchically organized thesaurus (e.g. the Universal Decimal Classification system). Specialized thesauri have, for
example, been developed to order occupation (23), commodities (24), economic sectors (25) and diseases (26).
A simple procedure (perhaps overly simple in the light of further investigation, but an advance on the current state of affairs) that can be adopted, is to check off in any such hierarchy the nodes for
which corresponding organizations, problems, or the like exist. Then, by inspection, it is possible to note unchecked nodes which are apparently 'late' in being activated in terms of any such correspondence. This may best be clarified by the following diagram:
*** Insert Diagram (tree structure)***
The solid circles indicate checked nodes for which a corresponding organization, problem, or appropriate phenomen exists, whereas the unfilled circles indicate the lack of any such correspondence (or lack of adequate data). The degree to which any particular branch is 'filled' may be considered to exert a 'probability pressure' on the change in the status of those remaining unfilled. This approach at least raises the question as to why a particular correspondence has not been found. This may he very useful, in the case of organizations for example, to identify domains in which a formal organization has not been created because an organizational substitute has been found satisfactory (e.g. a periodic meeting, a journal, a treaty). The possibilities of this approach emerged in the collection of information on world problems. Where these were related to commodities, economic sectors, diseases, or occupations, gaps in any hierarchy of problems immediately became apparent and raised useful questions.
Clearly there are possibilities for refining this technique by exploring matches between several hierarchies simultaneously. Matching the disciplines against the (ILO) catalogue of professional occupations brings out underdeveloped features of the latter which may suggest areas of emergence of organizations, problems, and treaties. This approach is not limited to matches between hierarchies. It may also, and possibly more realistically and usefully, he applied by rising computers to
degrees of correspondence between any isomorphic structure This would of course he more appropriate in the case of those networks which cannot he usefully assumed to be hierarchically ordered. In this way it could well prove possible to explore the manner and speed at which networks of organizations are likely to develop specialized branches to break down some subject domain - possibly to a point of saturation at which a paradigm shift becomes necessary.
Where parts of the network are tied to geographical regions (e.g. Scandinavia, Europe, Caribbean), the presence or absence of particular regional components could be used in a similar way to predict the emergence of others. For example, European professional regional organizations are likely to emerge before equivalent African or Asian bodies. It might be possible to estimate the degrees of lag for certain categories between different regions. (This would of course be dependent on the national and sub-national networks.)
2. Multiplication of networks: In attempting to predict the emergence of organizations, it is of course not possible to limit attention to the simple breakdown of subject fields. Even a superficial check of the range of international organizations shows that a particular subject may be the focus of an organization with slants or modes such as:
3. Evolution of networks In the absence of any analyses and comparisons of organizational networks which could be used to distinguish types of networks, or structural formulae for networks, it is only possible to suggest that networks may be subject to structural shifts after periods of growth. (Some indications may possibly be gleaned from the literature describing transport and communication networks within and between urban centres.)
When a network has grown, in terms of a given formula, it appears to reach a point of strain, in relation to the demands placed upon it, at which some new structural formula becomes desirable. (From a strictly formal point of view, the need for such changes and their nature is evident in the evolution and morphogenesis of biological forms.) It is through such structural transformations that new varieties of organizational network emerge. This is perhaps most clearly seen in the emergence and increasing complexity during the twentieth century of inter-corporate networks, whether in terms of financial control (e.g. holding companies, inter-locking directorates) or movement of products (between corporations producing or using goods and services). It is less clearly documented in the case of the academic environment. Other possible models of interest might be developed from efforts to define the emergence of conceptual relationships between disciplines -- particularly since it is probable that this would influence the inter relationships between the corresponding professional or scientific associations (cf. Jantsch (27), Wahlin (28), Kedrov (29).
4. Impact-effects within and between networks: The structure of the international system of bodies which have mutual effects on one another may be described as a network of organizations and associations. Some of the bodies in the network may directly effect some of the problems in the problem complex which may also be described as a network.
In considering how impact occurs and is transferred:
- (i) between organizations,
(ii) on to problems,
(iii) between problems, and
(iv) from problems onto organizations,
*** Insert Table 1 ****
A particular element transferring impact-effects may do so as follows:
- 1. Directly onto the target structure (i.e. no branching. 1 element)
2. Via a series of intermediary elements (i.e. no branching, more than 1 element).
3. Via two branches, both going direct to the target structure (this case could possibly be combined with the first).
4. Via two branches, one going direct to the target structure and the second via one intermediate element.
5. Via two branches, both with more than one intermediate element
6. Via two branches. each with one element connected to (fiat in the other branch.
*** Insert Diagram ***
The structures may be combined in branching or converging series and even with loops back to an earlier structure - thus constituting networks of varying degrees of complexity. (Note that normally a structural element can not be considered an 'absolute originator' of impact nor an 'absolute sink' for impact.)
Up to this point the elements making up the structures have been considered as made up entirely of organizations or entirely of problem But impact can be transferred between organization and problem structures as noted above. In other words the structures considered above can be either organizations or problems. and they can transfer impact to organizations or problems (in similar structures).
This leads to mixed impact-transferring structural sequences of that following types:
*** Insert List
Clearly these sequences can he further extended to cover more complex patterns of interaction between organization and problem networks. It should be stressed that the organization structure, for example, in any of tile above sequences (e.g. PPOP) may itself he a complex sequence of structures as discussed earlier. To the extent that it is advisable to distinguish between intergovernmental organizations and international associations (i.e. nongovernmental structures), the organization structures must be split into two types (e.g. 0 and 0').
This approach would probably demand that the problems be also split into at least two groups, those recognized by intergovernmental organizations and those recognized by international associations (e.g. P and P' ).
Combining these together would result in description of impact chains of such forms as OPO'OPOP', etc. Whether or not this split (namely O and O' and P and P') is made, the real situation is probably much more complex because of the network characteristics which would give impact networks such as
**** Insert diagram
Such situations are somewhat more complex than those addressed by conventional studies of impact such as whether organization A makes an impact on B. Clearly organization A may not make an impact directly on B, but it may do so on C and D (perhaps via many intermediate bodies or problems) which then may make an impact on B.
The social sciences are some way from being able to describe such sequences and track impacts through them. It is even uncertain that there would be any consensus that such an approach is relevant to current preoccupations which depend upon simplication of complex situations to render them communicable within the political arena.
At some stage it may be possible to track the movement of impact through such structural sequences in terms of how different structural components amplify, dampen or store and release impact under different conditions. The meaning of 'impact' well be as elusive as that of 'electricity', to whose movement through circuitry the above situations bear some resemblance. The question of the distinction between positive and negative impact would also have to be considered.
a. Inter-organizational design There is little available knowledge on interorganizational design for the obvious reason that whenever there is any organizational initiative, there is a natural tendency to design a single organization, however large and cumbersome, and little incentive to explore the possibility of interorganizational networks with a minimum, if any, of centralized control. As William Evan notes in an editorial comment introducing a chapter of readings on designing and managing interorganizational systems:
- 'Given the state of the art in research on interorganizational relations, it may seem both premature and hazardous to concern oneself with normative questions of designing and redesigning interorganizational system.' (See note 2.)
b. Matrix organization: This approach, developed and implemented by NASA for the moon project, is a major step toward network design but in itself is inadequate because it has a single-purpose structure in which the purpose is formulated by one body and is thus more like a 'system'. Within the matrix structure each participating body. whether controlled by NASA or not, is considered to he at the Intersection of influences from other parts of the structure and itself in turn influences several others. It is a system which tends to diminish the visibility of authority and to as all operative mode. Operating decisions are part of the give and take of specialized units struggling for a share of the system's total resources.
c. Potential association: The insights derived from use of a network model as a way of structuring perceptions concerning society can be used to move towards the development of an alternative style of organization. In testimony before the Committee on Foreign Relations of the United Stages Senate, Alvin Toffler outlined this possibility in the case of international NGOs, in response to a question on how to organize a wide variety of interest groups into a coherent network:
- "One of the reasons I argue (lie case for much more attention to the NGO's is that (the NGO's form the potential for any number of temporary, mission-oriented consortia that could be brought together, whether they are environmental organizations or scientific organizational or oscillations concerned with community development of food or whatever the issues ale. It is possible to put together temporary consortia to deal with specific problems. Now in order for that to work you have to have some coordination or management. But what I am describing need not be a pyramid.
Now, here is one way to verbalize the alternative-organizational structure. Think of the pyramid. Then think of a thin frame, a very thin frame which is essentially coordinative, which is a thin layer of management and direction, with a whole series of essentially temporary organizational clusters of modules that have relatively short life spans, and among which people float quite freely. They move from one module to another rather than being frozen in a single bureaucratic niche. If we pump some funds into the nongovernmental sector, we might help to create precisely this thin coordinative system at the top. We would then have a basis for a very large, very diverse, very flexible, ad-hocratic organization a that could operate in the international field." (See note 11)
- "... we need to think in terms of the creation not of a single center, or a single world government that will some day govern the nations of the world, but rather in terms of a self-regulatory network of transnational institutions, multiple institutions. a polycentric system. Such a transnational network can provide a higher degree of stability for the planet than the centralized model based on a single international governmental organization . . . we must first recognize that the U.N. is only a tiny piece of a swiftly emerging transnational mosaic or network of institutions which are part of the new super-industrial system. This network consists of thousands of organizations and millions of individuals around the world in continually shifting relationships with one another." (See note 11)
The need to centre attention on existing organizations (with their tendency to self-perpetuation and to constituting obstacles to social change) is diminished in favour of recognition of the range of potential patterns into which the component entities in the potential pool could 'gel' in response to new conditions. A meaningful and dynamic social framework for conventional, organizations is thereby supplied. Thus whilst society may, with the use of an approach of this type, form a highly ordered (low entropy) complex at any given time -- satisfying short term, stability
requirements -- the high probability of switching later to completely different high order patterns supplies the 'randomness' (high entropy) condition essential to the facilitation of social change and development in response to new conditions. In this connection Johan Galtung's view of the importance of high entropy for world peace is noteworthy:
- "Thus the general formula is: increase the world entropy. i.e. increase the disorder, the messiness, the randomness, the unpredictability - avoid the clear-cut, the simplistic blue-print, the highly predictable, the excessive order... Expressed in one formula, this seems to capture much of what today passes as peace thinking, particularly of the associative variety." (31)
d. Organizational tensegrity: There is an unexpected formal analogy between some architectural design constraints and aspects of organization and network design. Architecture is no longer restricted to simple arches and domes which derive their stability by allowing structural weight to impinge on the compressive continuity of bearing members and protecting the result by occasional tensional reinforcement - an approach which bears considerable resemblance to the conventional hierarchical organization. Instead of thinking in terms of weight and support, the space enclosed may be conceived as a system of equilibrated omnidirectional stresses.
Such a structure is not supported by the lowest level. It is pulled outward into sphericity by inherent tensional forces which its geometry also serves to restrain. Gravitation is largely irrelevant. Many parallels can be explored with the organizational development from hierarchies to networks and away from oppressive structures. The value of this is that considerable thought has already been given to the nature, construction and stabilizing forces within the resultant architectural geodesic and tensegrity structures. (32). It may well be that this will provide the necessary clues on how to design some useful organizational networks for those cases where the hierarchical form is no longer appropriate.
Policy implications1. Facilitation of network processes: It is clear that intra- and inter-organizational networks are growing, multiplying and evolving in response to perceived social problems and possibilities for action. These changes are in large part unplanned (and unfinanced) from any central point and appear to be self-correcting in that 'excessive' development is compensated by the emergence of
counteracting networks. Little attention is given to facilitating this growth so that in some cases it may be considered dangerously 'spastic'.
Despite this the network of organizations (international, national, and local) of every kind and with every pre-occupation, represents a major unexplored resource. The (synergistic) potential of this network, if its processes were facilitated. is unknown.
Possibilities for facilitating these processes include:
component sub-networks, are not controlled or controllable by any single body, if only because the complexity cannot be handled by any single body or group of bodies.
The strategic problem therefore is how to ensure that the appropriate organizational resources emerge, and are adequately supported, in response to emerging pressures and opportunities. But it would seem that this must be achieved without organizing and planning such organized response - for to the extent that any part of the network is so organized, other parts will develop (and probably should develop) which will favour and implement alternative (and partially conflicting)
The challenge is therefore to develop the meaning and constraints of what may be termed a network strategy. This is an approach which facilitates or catalyses (rather than organizes) the emergence. growth, development, adaptation and galvanization of organizational networks in response to problem networks, in the light of the values perceived at cacti particular part of the social system.
3. Network vocabulary: Whether amongst academics, policy-makers, administrators, or other practitioners, the frequency with which 'network' is now used is not matched by any increasing facility in distinguishing between types of network. Because clear and simple concepts are lacking, together with the appropriate terms, discussion of such social complexity can only be accomplished, if at all, by the use of extremely cumbersome and lengthy phrases which tend to create more confusion than they eliminate. A vocabulary is required which is adapted to complexity. In the absence of such a vocabulary, debate tends to avoid discussion of issues which emerge from such complexity and concentrates on issues which can be adequately expressed via the existing vocabulary. This creates the illusion that the issues which can he discussed are the most important because of the visibility accorded them by the vocabulary a hand.
There is therefore a real challenge to the social sciences to identify concepts associated with complexity and to locate adequate terms wit which to label them. Johan Galtung, has for example, offered suggestions for "a simple vocabulary, with a minimum of terms as well as for some graphic symbols that can be used to depict various structures from family relations to international conflict formations, across levels of social organization." (22) The author has also suggested a series of terms as an illustration of the possibilities. (33)
The development of such a network vocabulary would provide a powerful means for objectifying and de-mystifying the complexity of the organizational. problem and conceptual networks by which we are surrounded and within which most of our activity is embedded.