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Inter-organizational Linkages


The Nature of Organization in Transnational Networks (Part #7)


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Aside from a number of case studies of systems of 3-5 organizations, there appears to have been little effort to examine transnational inter-organizational systems. Little data has been collected. It becomes convenient to assume that most organizations function as isolated units with bilateral relationships with partners which are however not in their turn linked to other partners of the organization. A system of dyads is a convenient simplification.

1. Groupings of organizations. A first step is to attempt to locate the coordinative bodies linking other tranonational actors. There is little systemic information on such bodies. Thus the Jackson Report admits to having given up on counting the coordinating bodies within the UN system [6]. (Ed Miles notes that the one term systematically avoided in the UN Administrative Committee on Coordination is "coordination" ).

In the case of nongovernmental bodies, an attempt has been made to list those actors which have other transnational actors, as members. There are about 70 such bodies of different types [7].

2. IGO-Multinational business enterprise linkages. Some aspects of a study by Jean Meynaud cover the relationship between multinationals and the EEC [8]. An earlier study [9] (survey) by Fritz Fischer shows how EEC trade associations assist in this relationship. Some work could be done on the relationship between FAO and the multinationals through the Com I mittee of its FAO/Industry Cooperation Program. The same could be said for OECD with its business/trade/industry advisory committee. Finally data should be available on the IBRD system's relationships with multinationals.(UNCTAD and UNIDO appear to be acting very cautiously in this respect because of the political implications.) The relationship between inter-state enterprises and COMECON would also be of interest.

3. INGO-IGO systems. As a preliminary attempt to determine whether the situation was in fact more complicated, data available on consultative relationships between INGOs and different IGOs (mainly the UN Specialized Agencies) was obtained.[10]. This potentially very significant system of 500 organizations is generally assumed by the organizational units involved (and particularly by the IGO agencies) to be fragmented into systems of INGOs relating individually to their counterpart IGOs. The INGOs acquire status through this relationship and the only form of international legal recognition open to them. The IGOs acquire a pool of competence on which to draw. [11]

The following factors govern the extent of inter-INGO interaction in such-systems.

  • individual IGO and INGO desire for autonomy and distinctiveness
  • IGO desire to retain some control over the system by strengthening dyadic relationships as opposed to encouraging inter-INGO relationships.
  • IGO desire to encourage inter-INGO relationships to compensate for the proliferation of interests and reduction of INGO effectiveness through fragmentation
  • IGO desire to avoid relating to any INGO not formally recognised
  • INGO desire to form dyadic relationships for specific projects
  • INGO desire to form a common front to clarify common problems in their relationship to the IGO agency

For some IGO-INGO systems this has resulted in the creation of periodic conferences of INGOs consulting with the agency together with a permanent secretariat. In the case of ECOSOC, for example, such conferences have a potential membership of 350 organizations. In the case of Unesco the potential membership is175 organizations. These conferences offer INGOs and their representatives opportunities for further asserting their distinctiveness through a system of committees and offices [12]

The interesting point about these INGO conferences is that (a) they do not have any formal relationships or correspondence with one another nor is there any move in this direction. This appears to threaten the elites in each group. The argument used is that the concerns of each such conference are irrelevant to the others, despite the fact that each has subcommittees on such issues as "developmen', "youth", etc. (b) The IGOs in question, at least in the case of ECOSOC and Unesco, do not recognize the existence or views of the conferences in any formal sense (despite offering them many facilities which ensure a very dependent intimate administrative relationship -to the point where some NGOs assume that it is the agency's conference).Some recognition is accorded the committees of the conferences.

As a first effort to study an international network, data on the consultative relationships of 'international nongovernmental organizations' with intergovernmental organizations was analyzed. These data are presented in Table III. [6]

The problem was to use the data available to demonstrate overlap in membership between the different agency-INGO systems as a means of countering the suggestion that each system was irrelevant to the others. This is particularly important at a time when the UN agencies are being forced to operate more closely together on such cross-jurisdictional issues as "development" "peace", "youth", "environment" , etc. Table 5 shows the degree of overlap in INGO membership of consultative status systems. Thus in the case of the 175 NGOs with consultative stat A or B with Unesco: 61 (35%) also have ECOSOC I or II status; 111 (64%) with ECOSOC Roster status; 47 (27%) with ILO, 36 (21%) with FAO; 20 (11%) with WHO, 4 (2%) with ICAO, 7 (4%) with WMO, 5 (3%) with IMLO, 8 (5%) with IAEA, 48 (27%) with UNICEF, 9 (5%) with the Council of Europe, and 9 (5%) with OAS [14]

Table III: Analysis of IGO-INGO System (from data in the Yearbook of Internationa) Organizations, 1970-71 edition).

Analysis of IGO-INGO System

This sort of information raises the interesting question as to just how much overlap between groups is necessary before they should:

  • (a) recognise one another
  • (b) interact,
  • (c) hold joint meetings,
  • (d) merge etc.

4. INGO-INGO systems The above data indicates overlap in INGO interests between different INGO-IGO systems controlled by the IGOs. Given the common interest, it does not bring out the extent of any consequent INGO-INGO interactions. Very little data seems to be available on these. In order to obtain an indication of the extent and nature of any such interaction, a survey was made in February 1972 of a small group of INGOs with similar interests. Fifty-six bodies were questioned (see Annex 1) selected from the Yearbook of International Organizations were those which seemed to have some transnational social science interests touching on international relations. A few IGO bodies and some bodies not (yet) included in the Yearbook were also added to the survey.

It is not possible to present the results here, nor even the preliminary analysis. It is proposed to carry out further analysis of the results obtained and present them in a later paper.

The basis of the survey was a questionnaire listing 56 organizations (see Annex 1). Each organization was asked to mark against each other organization in the list in one or more columns, when it had a particular type of interaction. The following columns were provided:

  • 1. Indirect contact via
    • 1.1 Common members
    • 1.2 Common office-holders (not ex-officio)
    • 1.3 Sub-section contact
  • 2. Direct contact via
    • 2.1. Organization is a member
    • 2.2. Joint meetings
    • 2.3. Letter/telephone/visits
    • 2.4. Funds transfer

In addition, organizations were asked "If possible mark 1,2,3,4, or 5 in the last column to indicate the approximate frequency of the most frequent direct contact." (where 1=irregular; 2=annually; 3=monthly, 4=weekly; 5=daily).

The survey was limited to 56 organizations because of the need to facilitate response as much as possible by keeping the length of the list to a minimum (two pages). Organizations were however asked in a final line to "Please add any other international bodies of particular significance to your organization's contacts in this domain" . To encourage respondents, the introduction to the questionnaire included the comment "One expectation is that few of the organizations listed are in contact with many of the others -- therefore the questionnaire should not take more than a few minutes to complete" .

Of the 56 questioned: 27 supplied satisfactory replies, 2 replied to say that they had two little interaction to merit a reply, 1 complained that the categories did not cover the complexity of its interaction and suggested that som other bodies should have been included, 1 replied to say that they did not reply to questionnaires.

From data already available at the Union of International Associations, it was possible to complete the questionnaire for two non-respondents, namely the NGO Liaison Sections of ECOSOC and UNESCO by not distinguishing (as they would be obliged not to do) between organizations other than in terms of the types of interaction envisaged under each consultative status category. Replies were also compiled for two other non-respondents, the NGO (ECOSOC) Conference, and the NGO( UNESCO) Conference, in terms of the participant lists at their last meetings and the known interaction characteristic of membership of the conferences. This gave a total of 31 useable responses.

One advantage of this form of survey is that each link is cross-checked. Depending on the nature of the analysis required, different assumptions can be made to improve or complete the information available.

    1. All non-matched cross-links can be eliminated in the most stringent case.
    2. Those links un-matched due to non-response can be considered matched.
    3. All links cited by respondents can be considered to exist whether matched or not.
    4. Links, 'received" by organizations are derived from a sufficiently large number of organizations to allow for inter-organizational generalisation, links "sent" are generated from single organizational sources and therefore do not permit such generalization [15]. In an effort to obtain extra information, a compromise technique can be used to compute probable reciprocated interactions by weighting the importance of the two contributions. One possibility is:
      = 0.25 (sum of links sent) + 0.75 (sum of links received)
      where the bracket in the second term is obtained from:
      (Usable answers + Unusable answers (0.5)) (Links received/actually cited)
      (Usable answers )

A combination of the above techniques (with the exception of 3) was used at different stages of the analysis. In this way, interaction between 55 organizations could be examined in some way. (One non-respondent organization was dropped from the sample because it was not cited by any other body.) These techniques compensating for absence of information were, however, only applied to the presence or absence of a link, not to the nature of the link.

Table 6 [omitted] shows a summary of interactions in three groups:

  1. presence of a link of any type (i.e. multiple interactions treated as one link)
  2. presence of multiple links (i.e. multiple interactions totalled)
  3. reciprocated links (assuming reciprocation with pair non-respondents)

In the first two cases an attempt is made, as outlined earlier, to compute the probable number of interactions given 100% response The computed total from the single link case, 626, may be compared with the total from the reciprocal link case, 507, obtained with the non-respondent assumption.

Figure 1 [omitted] shows the number of organizations with a given number of reciprocated interactions based on the test case.

Table 7 [omitted] shows reciprocated and non-reciprocated interactions again assuming reciprocation with pair non-respondents. The organizations are ordered in terms of a ranking of the computed interactions (first case above).

Table 8 [omitted] shows the number of interaction types per pair for a group of more interactive organizations. Table 9 covers the same group of organizations but shows the frequencies of the most frequent direct contact interaction. These two tables indicate the difference in organization's perceptions of the number and frequencies of interaction. .

Using the reciprocated links from Table 8 [omitted], Figure 2 [omitted] was produced to should the complexity of the densest part of the interaction network.

For reasons of time and computer (in)accessibility, it was not possible to analyze the data any further for this paper. The results so far, however, clearly indicate a marked degree of organizational interdependence. Using one measure of density, proposed by J.A. Barnes [16], namely 200 a/n (n-1) where

a = actual number of (reciprocated) links
n = number of bodies involved

a value for the density of the network of 55 bodies of 34.2% is obtained. If 3352, K, 3387 and 2575 are removed the density is still only reduced to 31.4%.

It would also be interesting to examine the centrality of particular organizations with respect to the remainder of the network. For this purpose it would be useful to have some distinction between "horizontal" links and "vertical" links in order to locate the "top dogs", the "underdogs", and the "bottlenecks" . The concept of centrality is related to that of the reachability or compactness of a network. J. Clyde Mitchell [17] on this point makes a distinction between too dimensions of compactness:

  • (a) the proportion of bodies which can ever be contacted by each body in the network and
  • (b) the number of intermediaries that must be traversed to make the contact.

He advocates a "crude measure" using a distance matrix to compute the average number of points reached over all steps in a network.

Using Johan Galtung's insights it would be interesting to look at some forms of centrality as facilitative of structural violence. Networks would appear to break down pure centre-periphery structure by introducing many intermediate levels which neutralise hierarchic by cross-linking them or setting up many competing or counterbalancing centres -- i.e. increasing the social entropy [18].

Hopefully the data draws attention to the necessity of looking not only at an organization's first order contacts but also its second and higher order contacts through the network in which it is embedded.[19]

It is hoped to use the methods developed by Robert C. Anderson [20] to analyze the network into blocks. "A block is defined as a number of organizations, all of which are reciprocally chosen by one another." Blocks are ordered by size with the largest in the top rows and left-most columns of the matrix. This produces cluster of matrices of reciprocal choices along the matrix diagonal that he refers to as constellations. They are a particular configuration of the original blocks chosen in such a way as to display most lucidly the structure of interaction.

Anderson also introduces the notion of constellation sets, namely a group of organizations, some of which are reciprocally chosen by all members of the constellation (i.e. primary members). Organizations that interact with members of more than one constellation set are called liaisons.

Features that are not immediately apparent from the results already given are:

  • differences in the "continuity,' of the network due to different frequencies of interaction (i.e. if low frequency interactions were ignored the network would appear much patchier in Figure 2).
  • differences due to the type of interaction and the presence simultaneously (or at different frequencies) of several different interaction types between two bodies. Clearly an apparently highly interactive body in Figure 2 is shown in a different light if it involves primarily low frequency single-type interactions involving exchange of printed matter.
  • differences arising because of the directedness of interactions. In some non-reciprocated interactions this may be due to A sending B information without receiving any response. A link still exists however.

To convey this amount of information satisfactorily in a comprehensible manner requires the use of more sophisticated techniques [21] (If the organizations had not been selected as concerned with a definite field of interest, it might have been valuable to attempt to classify them by field of interest and determine the degree of contact between the interest sectors (or between "governmental" and "nongovernmental'). In fact the network of links between organizations may be usefully conceived of as interpenetrated by the links of each organization to a network of interrelated disciplines and fields of interest. Similarly it may be useful to conceive of the two networks as interpenetrated by a network of interrelated problems. There may even be some functional substitutions between these different networks.


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