[governance] Muti-stakeholder Group structure (some ideas)

Jeremy Malcolm Jeremy at Malcolm.id.au
Fri Jun 1 20:46:12 EDT 2007

Karl Auerbach wrote:
> I have much the same concern as you do about "consensus" - I do not see 
> it as a stable or viable approach.  It is a mechanism that is both too 
> subjective, open to manipulation by the one who measures consensus, and 
> can result with the losers feeling unfairly treated and resentful.

This however misses the point that we don't have a choice.  Because the 
IGF is a consensual governance network without any authority to make 
binding decisions on its own, it is inherent the form of the 
organisation that it *can* only act by consensus.

True it is that consensus will often not be achieved.  But that is not 
to be regarded as a failure of the process.  Making decisions is only 
part of what consensus is about, and in some contexts a small part.  It 
is also about shaping opinions.  It can thus narrow areas of difference 
to be resolved through other mechanisms of governance (such as rules, 
norms, markets, or architecture).

In my thesis I quote Johnson and Crawford who write:

   Failure to reach a global consensus may be a success rather than a
   failure, however, because it leaves undisturbed the power of many
   diverse and decentralized actors to make their own decisions. These
   actors may find even better ways to proceed than might have emerged
   from a compromising committee.

Having said that, it is acknowledged that making consensus *more* 
effective in a heterogeneous environment such as the IGF is an issue 
that must be addressed.  Although challenging, it is far from a lost 
cause.   There are numerous available techniques from the literature and 
practice of deliberative democracy, such as the "speed dialogues" that 
have been scheduled for Rio (and for which admittedly I haven't given 
enough credit to the Secretariat, due to being cranky over other issues).

Jeremy Malcolm LLB (Hons) B Com
Internet and Open Source lawyer, IT consultant, actor
host -t NAPTR|awk -F! '{print $3}'
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