[ALAC] Some thoughts on ALS Criteria & Expectations Taskforce

Carlton Samuels carlton.samuels at gmail.com
Fri Aug 7 17:55:30 UTC 2015


I participated in this morning's call and wanted to level the playing field
by enunciating some principles and a framework for our discussions.

Let's start with some principles.

1) The At-Large is a volunteer-led and fueled organisation and whatever we
do MUST be informed by unassailable facts we know of voluntary
organisations plus the psychology of voluntarism.

2) Individuals make the worthwhile contributions, not organisations.

3) There is a wide range of motivations for voluntarily contributing and
these must be fed for sustaining worthwhile contributions

4) Results matter but volunteer contributions across the board shall always
be uneven

So now, the framework for discussions. There are structural issues as well
as political issues that must be embraced for any viable solution to
emerge.  The ICANN/RALO MOU is the source of the first
structurally-generated challenge.

While it recognizes individuals as the providers of policy advice, it
locates individual actions in organisations called ALS. And by so doing
suggests that value be given to the organisation.  Some RALOs, like NARALO,
have developed rules that recognize individual contributions but have
shoehorned valuation for contribution into an ALS structure.  I'm not now
sure what the answer should be but I know what we now have is not fit to
purpose and objective.

Another structural issue.  An individual coming to the ICANN policy
development ecosystem is going to become a worthwhile contributor by virtue
of mental acumen, penchant for hard work and time in place. Time in place
is the common criteria for success.  So current arrangements give extra
value to experienced volunteers.

At the same time, new blood is required to sustain the flow of worthwhile
contributors. Here's the thing. Face-to-Face (f2f) ICANN meetings are the
best platforms to learn and to become familiarized with this complex beast
called the ICANN ecosystem.

The effectiveness of a volunteer in policy development is directly related
to serial opportunity to participate in ICANN f2f meetings.  It is no
accident that the most impactful groups in ICANN are a) those that get to
f2f meetings as 'volunteers' engaged in compensated work b) Those who have
the wherewithal to self-fund attendance at ICANN f2f meetings.

The task is to develop a framework that strikes a balance which takes into
account the need for experienced volunteers with capacity to deliver
worthwhile contributions even as we build capacity in newer
less-experienced volunteers to sustain the At-Large participation agenda.

The current funding model for attendance of At-Large volunteers to ICANN
f2f meetings assist ALAC representatives, liaisons from ALAC to qualified
SOs/ACs plus named RALO leadership. This construct seemingly presumes a
direct line of inheritance from RALO leadership thru ALAC representation.
We know it is a presumption without merit, especially if worthwhile
contributions to policy discussions is the objective for the At-Large in
ICANN.

It is always wrong to think of travel funding to ICANN f2f meeting as a
benefit to a volunteer!  It is not and cannot be!

ALAC representation compels attending three (3) f2f meetings per annum.
They are coincident with the ICANN meetings.  In this context, travel
funding is purely part of the infrastructural cost to fulfill an
obligation. Otherwise it is like working for a company that has business
far removed from my place of domicile and expect performance without
provisioning the tools that enable that performance.

It rankles me personally when my contributions in both time and treasure to
the ICANN enterprise is neither accounted or valorized.  Then insult is
added to my injury when some goof equates a trip sitting in steerage for
upwards of 17+ hours [the flight time from Chicago to New Delhi] as a
benefit!

I travel by air a lot for work; the miles are now counted in millions. In
the years I sat as an ALAC member + the incumbent Secretariat for LACRALO
and as a senior staffer at The University of the West Indies, I contributed
my vacation time of 3 weeks to ICANN for attending f2f meetings. This does
not count the average 20+ hours per week I normally dedicate to ICANN
matters. Nor my personal spend of a minimum of US$500 to attend said
meetings!  These all contribute to ICANN having a real opportunity to
record it is indeed multi-stakeholder, is fulfilling its AoC obligations
and has contributions from end user representatives to its policy
development.

Back in time, I was roundly criticised by some of my At-Large colleagues
for my position in dealing with so-called ALAC 'tourists'.  This matter
came to the top in India; LACRALO representatives to ALAC were accused of
abandoning ALAC business for a tour of Indian tourist sites.  This still
haunts the At-Large in ICANN circles. My firm stand against any sanctions
or additional criteria applied for travel support funding was interpreted
as 'protecting' the members accused from sanctions for inattention to
duty.  That was never my objective and it still is not the case today. I
just cannot accept the notion that travel funding is a benefit to the
volunteer. I shall, on principle, oppose any such notion, howsoever derived
or configured.

Finally, in the chat we heard talk of a 'reviewer' being appointed. While
the roles and responsibilities of such a person/actor is not yet outlined,
let us be clear to ring fence and give specific instructions as to what we
are trying to achieve here.  We must recognize from principles that
volunteers give as much as they can to the cause.  The contributions in
time and treasure of a Olivier Crepin-Leblond or Cheryl Langdon Orr cannot
be used as a benchmark for either engagement or indeed, worthwhile
contributions.

Best,
-Carlton

==============================
Carlton A Samuels
Mobile: 876-818-1799
*Strategy, Planning, Governance, Assessment & Turnaround*
=============================
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