Facilitating Inter-project Coordination through Templates of Thematic Relationships

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Project date: 1999


Project proposal


This proposal concerns the development of a template of thematic relationships on which an agency, government, or any coalition of bodies, could position a set of projects covering a spectrum of concerns. The positioning would be done automatically using a list of project titles. The resulting map would indicate probable relationships between the projects that are worth bearing in mind in considering mutual impacts, synergies and counter-productive vulnerabilities. The template would be based on information already maintained on thousands of relationships between problems, or between strategies, by the Union of International Associations.


There is widespread acknowledgement of the challenges posed by coordination between projects:

  • Between sectors
  • Between departments of a single agency
  • Between agencies
  • Between countries

The challenges are especially great in articulating and maintaining programmes for developing countries or transitional economies.

There are very few tools available to assist policy-makers and project developers to acquire a sense of the context through which new initiatives can be positioned. In the development community there are many anecdotes concerning duplication and counter-productive relationships between projects.

Possible uses

Interrelating initiatives of the agencies of a government: Each government allocates ministerial mandates to cover a spectrum of issue areas. However, this is done quite differently by different governments. The spectrum of concerns of one government may be split into 15 ministries, whereas another may split it into 35 ministries. Each ministry then becomes responsible for a multitude of programs within its mandate. It faces considerable difficulty in managing their functional relationships, other than for administrative purposes. For the government of that country, the difficulty is magnified in ensuring coherence to the program initiatives of all the ministries together.

The proposal envisages that the ministry or government could supply a list of project titles (provided they are adequately keyworded) which would then be applied to the template in order to generate a map indicating probable functional relationships between the projects. These functional links would then suggest where communication links might, usefully be maintained between projects, or with respect to the relevant sectors.

The procedure might also be adapted to compare the sets of ministerial concerns and mandates of one country with that of another.

Communicating the programmatic coherence of a development agency: As with the case of a ministry, a development agency (or a coalition of such agencies) faces a challenge in obtaining and communicating insights into the interrelationship between its many project initiatives.

As in the previous case, the proposal envisages that such an agency could supply a list of project titles to generate a map indicating probable functional relationships between projects and possibilities for communication links to coordinate these initiatives.

Work required

The work proposed relies heavily on what has already been achieved by the Union of International Associations in mapping thousands of ftinctional relationships between problems and between strategies.

This information is accessible over the web where some mapping experiments have already been activated for exploration by users.

The adaptation required involves the design and testing of computer routines to format and select relationships so that then can be used as the basis for the template described above. It is possible that this could be done so as to permit users to generate the maps for themselves via the web.

Clearly there is a need to experiment with appropriate formatting of lists of projects so that they can be "applied" to such a template.

Finally there is a need to explore ways of presenting the map, whether on a screen or in hardcopy format.

Progressive improvement

Consistent with the policies governing maintenance and development of the problems and strategies databases, it is not assumed that the result of generating a particular map would be completely satisfactory or free from error.

Rather the assumption is that the map would provide more insight than is otherwise available. Indeed where the relationships it highlighted were obviously inappropriate, this itself would be a basis for improving the databases so that on a second iteration the quality of the map would be improved.