A review of the history of efforts in the 1970s and 1980s to evaluate major social programmes in the USA sustains the proposition that over this period the American establishment of policy-makers, agency officials, professionals, and social scientists did not know how to design and implement social programmes that were minimally effective, let alone spectacularly so. Whilst local programmes, especially those run by locals, may succeed, two categories of federal programmes have failed conspicuously and consistently: large federal programmes intended to change behaviour (as opposed to providing commodities or cash), and any programme trying in particular to change the behaviour of a clientele that is not already socialized into norms of working-class or middle-class society. Despite the funds spent, it remains unclear how to ensure any significant behaviour change in significant proportions of the urban underclass.
The Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential is a collaboration between UIA and Mankind 2000, started in 1972. It is the result of an ambitious effort to collect and present information on the problems with which humanity is confronted, as well as the challenges such problems pose to concept formation, values and development strategies. Problems included are those identified in international periodicals but especially in the documents of some 60,000 international non-profit organizations, profiled in the Yearbook of International Organizations.
The Encyclopedia includes problems which such groups choose to perceive and act upon, whether or not their existence is denied by others claiming greater expertise. Indeed such claims and counter-claims figure in many of the problem descriptions in order to reflect the often paralyzing dynamics of international debate. In the light of the interdependence demonstrated among world problems in every sector, emphasis is placed on the need for approaches which are sufficiently complex to encompass the factions, conflicts and rival worldviews that undermine collective initiative towards a promising future.
Non-profit, apolitical, independent, and non-governmental in nature, the UIA has been a pioneer in the research, monitoring and provision of information on international organizations, international associations and their global challenges since 1907.