purpose of this issue paper is to examine the Network concept
as it relates to people and ideas, and the programs that results
from dynamic interchange and ideas transfer. While the mechanisms
for this interchange and transfer are critical (technology-based
networking); and a strong infrastructure is essential to ensure
that programs are not only created but sustained (organizational
networks), the focus of this paper is to consider the conceptual
basis or construct of a network. The underlying thesis is that
a network framework, i.e., physical and organizational structure,
is not viable unless it exists to support the essential content:
the people and their ideas, articulated into tangible programs.
order for a Network to have relevance, all of the key actors*
must agree that the over- riding or "meta" mission of
the Network can only be achieved through effective collaboration
and cooperation. For those who buy into the mission of the Network,
there can not be a secondary view that the objectives of the Network
can be achieved independently. For while there may be some stakeholders
who are stronger than others, due to resources (financial and
human), historical, or political realities, the Network is successful
because it is stronger than any one member or component. In the
successful Network, no one participant can achieve the overall
goals or meet the objectives alone, no matter how strong they
might be. A Network draws upon the strengths of its members and
supports and reinforce their weak links.
are inherent paradoxes in the purpose of a Network that can only
be understood when it is clear as to why a given Network has been
formed. Is it to solve a problem, or a set of problems? Is it
to make a contribution to a global research agenda, and that the
formation of the Network is the only way to ensure that a significant
contribution is made to further that agenda? Is its creation to
develop a critical mass that can brought to bear in the formulation
of public policy? In the multi-sectoral and multi-disciplinary
field of communication, information, and related technologies,
all the above are very valid reasons for the creation of a Network.
the purpose of this issue paper, the focus will be on communication
in general, and ORBICOM, the UNESCO Chairs in Communication, specifically.
general concept "Network" must be examined within the
context of the mission of ORBICOM Network. In the statement of
ORBICOM Committees Policies and Procedures, the mission of ORBICOM
"is to develop research, training and teaching, publishing
and activity projects of a multinational, multisectoral, multidisciplinary
and multilingual nature in the field of communication".
1996, the parameters of the Network were framed around seven broad
and International Development
Information Policies and Communication Law
to (transfer of) New Technologies and their Uses
or Organizational Communication
Development and Management
Relations, Public Affairs and Advertising
Training and Ethics
existing Chairs (university based) and the Associate Members
from more than 25 countries can easily relate to one or more
of these areas. Indeed, the organizational structure of the
ORBICOM Network is based upon these seven program areas, and
the research agenda should also reflect the program priorities
agreed to in 1996.
following questions must be addressed: Does a viable Network in
the field of communication exist, as originally envisaged by the
founding members? If not why not? If it does exist, in what ways
can it be improved?
have a meaningful discussion of these questions it is necessary
to review in depth the mission of ORBICOM as stated in the June
1996 Report of the Board of Directors and Committees, and to survey
the Chair Holders and Associate Members to determine their support
of the mission, goals and objectives of the existing ORBICOM Network.
a component of this survey, it will be necessary to determine
the commitment and strengths of the Chairs and Associates; ascertain
what they can contribute toward achieving the long-term goals
of the Network; and what they will draw from the Network to ensure
that their specific individual requirements are met. It is essential
that all participants accept that in the short term collaboration
and partnership may have a cost, but in the long term there is
the unwavering belief that the benefits far out-weigh the costs.
order to have this level of "buy-in", it is essential
that benefits and cost of Network participation are clearly presented.
It is relatively easy to identify broad program areas as they
relate to individual areas of research. However, there must be
no uncertainty about the implications of collaboration in research
and applied research activities with respect to time, financial
and human resource investment, and shared ownership of research
results and outputs. For unless these implications are understood
and fully accepted by all the key actors, less than total commitment
will lead to the failure of the Network.
is important to identify the most appropriate technologies to
be applied to supporting the activities of the Network, and its
sustainability. However, it is an erroneous assumption that communication
and information technologies (the mechanism) will ensure a successful
Network. While CITs are essential in facilitating the work and
outputs of the Network, they should not be confused with the Network.
They are the means, not the end.
same is also true of the organizational structure. While it
is extremely important to have a viable infrastructure in
place to support the Network, an efficient bureaucracy is
not sufficient to make a successful Network.
above specific observations indicate that serious work is required
to make the ORBICOM Network a viable entity that is able to contribute
to the global communication agenda. There is little doubt that
the current ORBICOM membership represents a significant segment
of the CIT community, and thus it must serve as the basis upon
which the information is gathered to address the critical questions
posed above. Nevertheless, following the lead of UNESCO, in its
rethinking of the organization of part of its IIC Programme, it
may be wise to broaden the base of inquiry and consult with other
stakeholders who are actively responding to the critical issues
in the global communication agenda of our respective societie.
this draft, the terms: actors, stakeholders, participants are
by: Martha B Stone
DRAFT (1) : April, 1999