Last week, I did something I never expected to do. At the ICANN meeting in San Francisco, I stood up in front of several hundred people and the ICANN Board of Directors and delivered a full and frank criticism of the management of ICANN’s current CEO, Rod Beckstrom.
The response to this speech was overwhelmingly strong and supportive, both in the immediate and lengthy applause and, since then, in a constant stream of handshakes, twitter and facebook shout-outs, and emails – many of which were privately sent by current members of the ICANN staff. I am re-producing my comments here so that they may be more widely available and spark further public debate.
I know the Internet community well enough to say that this is not a popularity contest, and the support I’ve received for my comments isn’t personal. There is a widely shared and profound disquiet at how this organization has been managed, horror at the near-vandalism of the damage done, and a growing sense that it must stop.
“My name is Maria Farrell. I am a member of this year’s Nominating Committee, appointed by the NCUC (Non Commercial User Constituency), and I was previously a member of theICANN staff.
I have the distinction of being the first of a mass exodus of staff from the ICANN organization, in a series of forced departures which continue to this day.
I have kept silent and not spoken about this out of loyalty to the organization and respect for the leadership, and also my desire not to make a difficult situation worse for the ICANN staff. But my profound disquiet about how the organization is operationally being managed has moved me to speak to the Board today.
There has been a vast hollowing out of expertise, of relationships, of institutional memory, and of goodwill for this organization, and I believe the impact on ICANN ’s operational effectiveness has been profound. The impact on the international reputation is also quite an issue.
There is a climate of fear stalking the ICANN staff. People are afraid to speak frankly internally, and to speak unpalatable truths behind closed doors, the sorts of things that need to be discussed to allow the organization to function efficiently.
People are afraid of losing their jobs by doing their jobs.
The collegiality that we knew as former ICANN staff seems to have evaporated as we have hemorrhaged talent over the last year or so. The culture of collegiality has made way for one of managing up and managing expectations, rather than serving the community.
Operational planning is in some disarray, as budgets are made up as we go along, priorities change, and internal communication is nonexistent.
I believe also that ICANN’s relationships that have been cultivated around the world over many years and with much assiduity have been trashed.
This hollowing out of the expertise of the ICANN organization, of goodwill, and the trashing of its international reputation has come to such an extent that I believe it requires urgent board attention.
These are very harsh words. I don’t deliver them with any sense of ease or happiness, but I do believe although the board doesn’t wish to be involved in micromanagement, that it needs to pay attention to these issues.
Thank you.” (more…)