Recap of day 1 of network of networks advisory group meeting

On Sunday February 7th, APC convened an advisory group of for its network of networks for a free and open internet project. project

One of the key elements that emerged was the coupling of a deep desire to collaborate with the enormous complexity of the field.

We began by looking at some of the issues that we are working on and we very quickly amassed a list of close to 30 issues ranging from including a development agenda in internet governance to civil society participation in the International Telecommunications Union to digital migration. In such a wide ranging field – where the issues can sometimes seem impenetrable and accessing the spaces where they are addressed can require significant resources – working together is no easy feat and the group was quick to acknowledge this challenge.

We then explored past case studies of collaboration, including: the fight for access to medicine, Network Neutrality in the US, the Communication Rights in the Information Society (CRIS) campaign and the governance of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). From these campaigns the following lessons were learned:

  • Important to leverage time-sensitive opportune opportunities for collaboration (such as a large event – the CRIS campaign around the World Summit on the Information Society);
  • A vehicle to coalesce around helps mobilize;
  • Similarly, there needs to be a clear understanding of the need to have a clear way to engage. (such as with network neutrality and Comcast in the US);
  • Network builders need to be open to new alliances;
  • Trust between individuals and organizations is essential;
  • Beneficial to acknowledge organizational incentives;
  • Beneficial to build a network structure that has a low cost structure for participation;
  • Conceptual clarity is important if you are organizing around a key construct.

Key questions also emerged:

  • What is the right balance between process and content?
  • What are appropriate guiding principles for Networks? How do you develop touchstones?
  • Can we partner on one thing but be opposed on something else?
  • Can we affect change without aligning ourselves with powerful interests? Do we want to?
  • Are we fighting a battle or a war?
  • What are the characteristics that will gather different interests?
  • What are the tradeoffs the Network is willing to accept?

Content with the day’s deliberations, we agreed to let the conversations ruminate overnight and called it a day. On Day 2 we are planning on identifying upcoming key opportunities for collaboration and also how we might want to work together moving forward.