Policy Development Process: How to participate effectively?

During ICANN’s Shanghai Meetings, I had a number of discussions with the ACM’s and NCDNHC’s Kathy Kleiman. Kathy was upset about the proposed GNSO policy-development process: The short deadlines, she argued, would basically make participation in t…

During ICANN’s Shanghai Meetings, I had a number of discussions with the ACM’s and NCDNHC’s Kathy Kleiman. Kathy was upset about the proposed GNSO policy-development process: The short deadlines, she argued, would basically make participation in the process impossible for the non-commercial world; they were only appropriate for full-time lobbyists. The deadlines would make any serious outreach efforts impossible, in particular if directed at people or organizations from the non-English-speaking world. The conclusion: Extend the deadlines and slow down the process in order to make that kind of participation and outreach practically feasible.

Kathy’s observation is accurate. However, I’m not sure whether the conclusion is the right one: Do more generous timelines really help? Wouldn’t they still leave more than enough possibilities for professional lobbyists to outperform volunteer participants? (And be it by the sheer volume of documents produced or time to be spent on conference calls – remember, volunteers most of the time have a real life and job…)

(Besides all that, it may still be a good idea to slow down the process somewhat. It’ll be hard for anyone to do in-depth work within that framework.)

As far as the concerns about participation from the non-commercial world are concerned, there may be a different conclusion: Leverage some professional lobbying power for the causes normally advanced by the NCDNHC, and to be advanced by the ALAC. Get professionalized advocacy groups involved who speak the language other participants actually listen to. (And that’s not just about being fluent in English.) Make sure you understand the issues before they formally come up, and try to do outreach ahead of time. Act instead of reacting.

It’s just like in court: It’s a much better idea to hire a lawyer than to ask for a deadline extension so you can spend the next four years on law (and legalese) studies. Hiring a lawyer also greatly helps you not to loose on procedural grounds…

Now, how does one make all this happen within the ICANN context? (Or is that entire approach just the wrong thing to do?)

Note that these questions aren’t academic at all: In the next couple of weeks, both the transition terms and some of the details of the ALAC’s final structure will have to be worked out. Whatever comes out of that process will inevitably include an attempt to practically implement one possible answer. I hope it’s the right one.