For ICANN, 2016 had been a remarkable year so far. IANA Transition completed, new CEO, major changes which happened in such a coordinate and tranquil way that the community could only thrive as maximum as possible. This was also the year where I had my first fellowship coach experience. This report is an attempt to give a snapshot of this amazing moment and also indicate some pathways for those who aim to learn, work and interact with the DNS marketplace, the internet governance area and, broadening even more perspective, the digital economy in itself.
Being a coach is a privilege but also a huge responsibility. ICANN opens its doors to varied community of professionals from different stakeholder groups. These professionals will have a chance to get to know, collaborate and even critique spaces such as SOs (Supporting Organizations), ACs (Advisory Councils). Among the parts of these spaces they’ll navigate in, CCWGs (Cross Community Working Groups), thematic workspaces which provide a deep dive into themes related to a more broader spectrum of IG such as privacy, corporate accountability, human rights and much more.
The fellowship coach is assigned a team of fellows, professionals who are invited by ICANN to get the know the community. Both coach and fellows are given travel support but the amount of time and the depth of investment in work put out to impart knowledge is the major trade-off here. Going to an ICANN meeting is about getting knowledge in bulk which compares to a PhD research or to a decade of work in a tech company. The overwhelming amount of info available is catalyzed by coach, with an incredible support system from the fellowship framework of colleagues, coordinators, community leaders contribution, staff and so on. There are many unsung heroes behind fellowship and coaching and getting all their voices is the way I’m going to try and remember my own journey. So I’m going to do this as a reminder of a few actions and hints which I though were invaluable.
1) Design of the fellowship program – Sessions
It is great that the program has the fellowship sessions, an introductory overview, as greatly designed by Janice Douma Lange. Many 1st time fellows are lured to other spaces but both coach and fellows have to be strong and recommend attendance in those, as they are immensely valuable.
2) Coaching experience – a collective support
The coaching program is aimed at facilitating the exchange of experiences between fellows who already have done the program with new fellows, the mentees. After the team of mentees is assigned, coaches also exchange experiences among themselves on how to best mentor them. Siranush Vardanyan, fellowship coordinator, orchestrated perfectly the group of coaches to share experiences and build collectively guiding documents, which were extremely helpful.
3) Before, during and after meeting – All jotted down in the calendar
There is a calendar of expected deliverables and actions to be done during the fellowship program. This can be adapted by team and coaches but having had it all jotted down in the calendar helped our team get moving. We established a few previous online meetings to ICANN57 and had staff support to try and schedule others during meeting attendance. This helped greatly to anticipate what mentees would need and how could they build their way on ICANN57.
4) The J in team JPL – James Bidal, fellow from South Sudan
As a mentee from a newly formed country, James Bidal had a huge task ahead of him: to bring in to his region views of internet governance which could engage the population. He did it so calmly and bravely, learning about spaces where civil society could interact within ICANN, such as At-Large, NCSG and NCUC. He participated in outreach sessions and got a panorama of the topics. In ccTLD debates, he put forward the need for a .SS domain for this new nation, referencing ICANNWiki entry on that (https://icannwiki.com/.SS). I believe James Bidal can only have more conquests from continuing to engage in ICANN and I hope he continues in he regional meetings such as ICANN60 in Johannesburg.
5) The P in team JPL – Monica Gastelú Pilar Céspedes, fellow from Bolivia
Monica Pilar came to the fellowship program with many experiences from her home country in the intersection of civil society and governments. She build herself a varied agenda in ICANN57 with attendance to civil society spaces and observed a little the work of the GAC. A multilingual and multicultural internet is one of her fights and she made that clear bringing the LAC perspective in ICANN debates. Pilar also was careful to observe the intersection of the domain names industry with the growth of internet in Global South and felt motivated to continue engaging in internet governance themes and to enhance Bolivia presence in these debates.
6) The L in team JPL – Lucas Moura, from Brazil
To differentiate between wisdom and experience can be tough to a new fellow, especially when they already have done other projects in internet governance. It wasn’t so for Lucas Moura. After successfully completing the NextGen program, Lucas became a fellow and had the wisdom to differentiate himself among other newcomers in ICANN building long-lasting, sustainable paths for engagement. He did face to face side meetings with community leaders in civil society and security areas, showed openness and interest in their advice and planned further works on it. A long term work in the domain names industry depends on learning from experience and Lucas really put himself out there for this, which was very interesting to see happening.
Conclusion: Seek and succeed to do it all over again, continuouly
So to sum up my first coaching experience in ICANN, I can only think of one phrase: seek and succeed to do it all over again, continuosly. ICANN presents a world of knowledge and the domain names industry is increasingly in need of inventiveness and boldness. So I plan to apply again to be a coach and I’m certainly I’ll learn much more and find the paths which can keep me and other fellows engaged, doing policy work and helping build this great community. I’m thankful and humbled to be able to always learn.