The global Internet requires a global, collaborative approach to Internet Governance

Now more then ever, the Internet Society believes in the need to preserve the values of openness, inclusiveness and transparency that have always been at the heart of the Internet. A coherent global governance model for the global Internet that includes everyone is key to achieving this vision. But how can we get more governments to embrace the kind of collaborative governance that has shaped the Internet we know and use today? How can we improve and expand the model so that it becomes more widely adopted around the world? How can YOU help that to happen?

Today we are pleased to announce the launch of our Collaborative Governance Project. This brand new initiative aims to help stakeholders of all communities to understand the ways in which they can turn collaborative thinking into tangible and implementable policies and practices.

Under the leadership of Larry Strickling, the project will initially concentrate on building support for collaborative governance approaches globally. We will actively engage stakeholders in the development and evolution of the project.

As a first step in that process, we are holding two open calls for the community on March 1, 2018, to tell you about the project, get your input on the way forward, and, most importantly, to get you involved. Those calls are:

The calls are open to anyone to attend. If you cannot attend live, the calls will be recorded.

Background

The 2018 Internet Society Action Plan identifies the importance of “promoting collaborative governance as a tool to address a range of important issues.” Collaborative or multistakeholder approaches to governance have grown in understanding and acceptance over the past several years. We think this year is an opportune time for the Internet Society to explore whether we can significantly expand the use of collaborative processes globally.

Last year the Internet Society undertook a feasibility study on how to expand the use of the multistakeholder model to tackle some of the most pressing issues facing the future of the Internet. We sought input from the community about how to do this and, over the past six months, many of you weighed in with ideas and suggestions for how to carry this project forward.

We want to thank you to all of you who contributed your ideas and expertise through interviews, discussions and written submissions.

We heard broad support for a project that would expand the global knowledge and use of collaborative governance processes to solve problems and develop norms. We also heard that many in the community want to be involved and hope that the project will enable broad participation from stakeholders around the world. Finally, we understand the importance of existing multistakeholder processes and projects and the need to find synergies and avoid overlap.

All of that community input brought us to the project launch today.

Three Project Components

We see three overarching components to this project but we hope the community will contribute to fleshing out these components and will join in expanding the use of collaborative processes globally.

1.Training: The project will focus on developing and supporting training in how to organize and participate in collaborative, multistakeholder convenings. The training will be very practical and will be designed to giving participants the skills to define outcomes for convenings, set agendas for discussion, develop rules of engagement and definitions of consensus and learn and practice strategies for dealing with impasse and dissent. We will explore a variety of delivery mechanisms for the training, ranging from in-person, group “classroom” courses to online training modules for individual learning.

2. Academic Research: The multistakeholder approach, while it has received substantial press attention in recent years within the global Internet community, is not well-known beyond that community. Moreover, even within the community, the approach is not well-understood among all stakeholders. At the same time, there is a tremendous amount of study and thought being dedicated to collaborative governance approaches in a wide variety of institutions throughout the world. Accordingly, the Project will work to develop a network of academic experts in the field of collaborative governance and to create an agenda of academic research that could be funded in subsequent years.

3. Convening: The project will convene collaborative, multistakeholder discussions. Our goal is that these convenings will develop concrete and actionable outcomes that will be implemented by the parties involved. To enable the discussions to be successful, the Project will offer logistical support; help define/refine the issues to be discussed; and recruit a broad, global range of stakeholders to be engaged in the process.

The Internet Society is deeply committed to a collaborative, multistakeholder approach to Internet decision making. We have witnessed and participated in many successful multistakeholder processes and have lent our voice to the countless policy debates over the merits of these approaches. Kathy Brown, our CEO, recently noted that the Internet is at a crossroads and that we all have some critical choices before us to shape the future of this great technology.

It is our hope that this project will help us move from discussion to action by expanding the base of knowledge and support for collaborative decision making approaches to these challenging issues. We hope that you will join us to offer your ideas and to participate in this new Collaborative Governance project.


Image credit:  Veni Markovski CC BY NC

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Internet Society

Sustainable Procurement Requires Perseverance

Your CEO just made a major announcement: From now on, your company will purchase only goods and services from sustainable suppliers. The announcement was not a surprise. The CEO recently signed the company’s first sustainable procurement policy, modeled in part on the guidance from the new ISO 20400 standard. Support for the policy is high throughout the company. But, as the chief sustainability officer, you know there’s a problem: None of your suppliers are sustainable.

Some of your suppliers are deeply committed to protecting the environment. Others provide an excellent working environment for their employees. Still others offer low prices. However, none of them meet all of the minimum economic, environmental, and social performance requirements your organization has carefully developed. Of course, your business needs to purchase from someone; your CEO isn’t about to shut it down.

Overall, your CEO has the right idea: Sustainability requires thinking and action that go beyond your own company. But building a base of sustainable suppliers will take time: Sustainability requires a long-term strategy with strong, sustained senior-level commitment. This was made clear in the recent report “Corporate Sustainability at a Crossroads.” Good intentions are commendable, but they’re not enough.

There are, however, ways you can prepare to engage more sustainable suppliers and assess your current ones.

Accept the need for trade-offs. Real-world sustainable procurement initiatives must begin by acknowledging your company’s current situation. Sustainability is often framed in “win-win” terms. For example, your company believes it can lower costs while reducing its environmental impact and improving its working environment. That’s certainly the goal and it is possible. But, in practice, there are often conflicts between economic, environmental, and social objectives. You may need to compromise in one area to obtain benefits in another. This is particularly true in the short term.

Like all established companies, you will have supplier relationships you cannot simply discard. In some cases, alternatives may not even exist. There may be no sustainable options. Clearly, your company wants to get to the point where trade-offs between economic, environmental, and social objectives are less pronounced and, ultimately, eliminated. Unfortunately, this is not easy.

Develop a trade-off hierarchy. If you accept that trade-offs can occur, you must decide how to systematically identify and assess them. This will force you to articulate what you value most. You might, for example, decide to employ an ecologically dominant logic, where “environmental and social criteria supersede economic interests.” That could be a tough sell within the company, but it will help drive sustainability over the long term. Trade-offs are about difficult choices.

Articulate a transition pathway. Clearly, the focus of your sustainable procurement initiative will be to source from suppliers that are sustainable. This, however, is likely to require a long-term focus. You will need guideposts to let you know how you are doing along the way. Interim trajectory targets will let you know if you are getting better or worse, but they are a means, not an end. Sustainable procurement is not about supplier effort; it must be performance oriented.

Build supplier capacity. Sustainable procurement is also not about telling suppliers where they fall short. Where practical, your company should help its key suppliers strengthen their sustainability performance. You may even consider collaborating with your competitors. Collaboration is particularly attractive for issues that are not competitive differentiators or that your company cannot address alone. For example, many companies have banded together to improve working conditions in their supply chains. The Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition is just one example.

Lastly, don’t get too comfortable. You may be sourcing from recognized industry leaders. But, remember: That doesn’t mean they are sustainable. They may be the best of a bad lot. Don’t be satisfied with acceptable performance in some, but not all, areas. Excellent performance on some criteria does not substitute for poor performance in others. Sustainable procurement is difficult to achieve, but it is possible over the long term. Stick with the goals you’ve set and keep looking for better ways to meet them.

Sustainability ultimately requires that your company, and its supply chain, “operate within the thresholds imposed by nature and society.” That is the basis on which your procurement criteria must be built. Win-win alternatives must be developed within those constraints. Set priorities, focus on what is truly urgent, and remember that you don’t need to address everything at once. Make improvements in procurement wherever you can. Don’t forget, though, that getting better doesn’t mean you’ve reached sustainability.

By implementing a sustainable procurement policy, your company has taken an important step. You’ve recognized that you can’t build a sustainable company if none of your suppliers are sustainable. But make sure everyone understands that it’s going to be a long road. There’s no perfect way to start. The important thing is that you get going, make improvements when you can, and keep at it.


MIT Sloan Management Review