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Description of a Proposed Information System to Facilitate Contact between Organizations

ANNEX II to the report entitled: Need for a World Management Information System -- to assist initiation and coordination of global development programmes

NB: The system is described in the style of a brochure which would be sent to associations in order to solicit their support and collaboration. The brochure contains some duplication to facilitate discussion and editing. The proposed system could form the basis for the world management information network described in the main report.

A. Do you have a problem making contact with other organizations and finding sources of information in your various fields of interest?
What is Inter-Contact?
Who controls Inter-Contact?
What can Inter-Contact do for you?
What do we need from you? And how can we compensate you?
How is Inter-Contact financed? Where is the catch?
Who uses Inter-Contact?
How can you avoid being sent unwanted literature? Or get more literature?
What other information does Inter-Contact provide?
What other services does Inter-Contact provide?
With whom are we competing?
What are Inter-Contact's plans for development?
What types of information is included?
Wnat you should do to ensure that other organizations can contact your through Inter-Contact?
What should you do if you wish to support Inter-Contact?
Address details form for Inter-Contact

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A. Do you have a problem making contact with other organizations and finding sources of information in your various fields of interest?

The World Information Problem

There are:

  • about 3000 international organizations
  • about 100,000 national organizations throughout the world
  • an unknown number of associated and independent working groups, committees, movements, programmes, etc.
  • a large and unknown number of seminal groups which may be local in membership but national or international in significance

Examples of information problems:

  • have you ever undertaken a programme in some field only to dis- cover - months later - that another organization had already produced many publications that would have been useful to you?
  • have you ever organized a meeting and been unable to invite representatives from certain countries because either you did not know whether your field of interest was represented there, or you did not know how to locate the address in time?
  • have you ever wanted to distribute your newsletter, journal or project conclusions to a wider circle but not been able to locate easily bodies with interests related to yours?
  • how often have your important contacts been made purely by chance - and how many are you unaware of even now?
  • have you ever undertaken a badly needed programme only to find much later that it could in fact have formed part of an interna- tional programme from which you could have obtained financial or material aid and advice?
  • how easy do you think it is for other organizations to locate you?
  • a United States National Commission for Unesco report concluded in 1964 that 'Communication is generally sporadic and uncertain bet- ween the international non-governmental organization and its natio- nal affiliates and individual members... Individual American members, for example, appear to know very little about what their interna- tional non-governmental organization is doing. In some cases, this includes even the executive secretary of the American affiliate. Much the same situation is believed to apply in other countries.'
  • report on the 1968 Freedom from Hunger Conference for National Committees in Asia and the Far East indicated a 'seeming lack of understanding how the governmental and non-governmental organizations represented could help one another. Non-governmental organi zations were reported as often not knowing what other national orgazizations in the name country were doing.
  • an 1968 FAO brochure states that 'In some cases even the member governments of the Organization are not fully aware of the variety and scope of information readily obtainable through the FAO,' It is probable that communication between many inter-governmental agencies and organizations, national government departments and national organizations is equally ineffective in many sectors.

Organizational Resources

The organizations, and the information network which they form, are the re- sources with which we are facing world problems, crises, tensions and the search for knowledge. This organizational network cannot be fully utilized by the groups which form part of it because there is no information available on organizations in general. It is very difficult to locate:

  • new organizations and new programmes soon after they are initiated
  • important contacts in a field of interest in which new sub-commissions or specialized programmes have been proposed, or in a geographical area with which there has been little previous contact.

The lack of information is such that many organizations do not know of the existence of other groups, programmes, regular meetings, information sources, etc. in the area in which they are operating Under present circumstances it is almost impossible to determine how important this problem is.

This situation can only lead to duplication of programmes and wastage of per- sonnel and financial resources. In some environmental problem areas the inter- action between uncoordinated programmes can itself create new problems.

Information and Cooperation

Little can be done directly to foster the link between two groups, for this depends on their individual wish to develop their field of activity and their judgement on how it should be developed. International cooperation is there- fore a difficult concept to promote. Cooperation is better understood at the national, regional or urban level where collaboration for mutual benefit is less suspect and has a recognized value.

What can be done, however, is to remove the current barriers to communication across:

  • geographical boundaries (e.g. between regional or national organizations)
  • subject area boundaries (e.g. between organizations with overlapping interests)
  • administrative boundaries (e.g. between organizations of different types).

Such barriers oppose the initiation, development and maintenance of any inter- organization contact.

Importance of Contact Information

making it easier for organizations and groups to know of others in their eld in neighbouring geographical areas, or in related subject areas:

  • an organization can determine with which bodies it could bene- ficially be in contact (or on a mailing list, as a member, etc.)
  • rapid contact and response between organizations is possible whenever a new programme is formulated or a new problem arises
  • an underorganized problem area can be automatically detected which is a direct incentive to create new organizations and programmes
  • the relationship between specialized programmes becomes clearer, thus facilitating coordination under general programmes
  • implementation of general programmes is speeded up e.g. Interna- tional Geophysical Year, International Cooperation Year, World Food Program
  • the exchange of programme results and meeting conclusions is facili- tated
  • a clear and up-to-date picture is provided for fund allocating organizations to enable them to pick out the areas in need of stimulus
  • duplication and wasted effort can be avoided.

The more individuals and groups can be encouraged to develop their interests through organizations at a local or national level, the greater will be the corresponding requirement (and pressure) for contact at the international level. The more such links that are created, the greater will be the stabi- lizing influence on world society. This type of stability is the necessary context for change.

The current information situation with regard to the world organizational network can best be described as resembling a city without acentral telephone exchange, in which subscribers might or might not be listed in any of 500 telephone directories of varying dates produced by a variety of publishers some of which are themselves unlocatable. The cost and limited distribution of such directories is such that only a limited number of libraries can possess a usefully high percentage of them.

uch that only a limited number of libraries can possess a usefully high percentage of them.

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