[discuss] What is MSism?

Andrew Sullivan ajs at anvilwalrusden.com
Thu Apr 17 16:26:52 UTC 2014

On Thu, Apr 17, 2014 at 05:58:38PM +0800, Jeremy Malcolm wrote:
> The concept of multi-stakeholder processes predated WSIS, and it
> always involved stakeholder groups 
> On the other hand where power imbalances are less relevant (as,
> usually, in the IETF), then of course a multi-stakeholder process
> may not be required, but merely an open process. So this is not to
> pick fault with the IETF, notwithstanding that it doesn't have a
> multi-stakeholder process.

The problem with this way of casting things (with which I don't
exactly disagree, by the way) is twofold. First, I think in much of
the discussion so far we've been using "multistakeholder" and cognates
partly as shorthand for, "not centralised, top-down, and closed." We
can, I suppose, try to introduce nuance into that, but I can't say I'm
optimistic. Second, I think part of what people have been valuing (at
least I have) in the loose meaning of "multistakeholder" is that it
values inclusion of individual contributors. The "stakeholder group"
approach has built into it both the problem of membership and the
problem of capture of a particular group. The abilities of individuals
to act from manifold motivations and to reject the positions of some
group if people is part of the dynamic I think we are trying to
encourage. I'd hate to lose that.

This, by the way, is at least for some of us why formal or corporate
membership in the IETF is a bad idea.  None of us is no naïve as to
believe that, if a person is working for some company, they are never
going to adopt positions that are in any way co-ordinated with (or by)
their employer.  Other technical groups (the W3C, for instance) have
formalised that sort of relationship; but I think it's been good for
the IETF not to have done, mostly because it allows for ambiguity in
motivation and alliance that _forces_ us to pay attention to the
substance of an argument in each case.  That benefit is one that could
also be beneficial to non-technical areas of work too.  I do not wish
to overlook your point about power imbalances.  But such imbalances
are possible within a "stakeholder community" too.

Best regards,


Andrew Sullivan
ajs at anvilwalrusden.com

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