At the ICANN 50 meeting the space available for meetings was very limited, partly because of the nature of the venue but also the extraordinary number of registrants. One of the results was that there was pressure on the space which was available. One of the groups which had a presentation was caught short when an earlier group ran late in their presentation. This group complained to me that when they also ran over time, the end of the meeting was somewhat disrupted by the third and following group insisting on the meeting coming to an end so that they could start. I had a discussion with the people from ICANN who were supervising groups for the sessions. They observed that it is very important to began to wind up the meetings about 10 minutes before the due time for close, to avoid this situation.As a result of talking to all of the people involved I also gained the impression that there was some cultural clash between the different groups, which could have been interpreted as rude or disrespectful. Certainly in my experience, in some cultures, interrupting in this way would be seen as disrespectful. Other cultures would also however regard running late as also disrespectful. As ICANN grows to a global organisation, we do need to keep our cultural antennae attuned to these cultural differences.
There is no action which I need to take, because the meeting is now over. But I am posting this to my blog so that at future meetings people can consider the pressure placed on others by running late, but also the appropriate way to intervene.We can all learn from each other in these incidents.
When we communicate by email or by comments in a thread, we often use informal language, and occasionally may say something which subsequently causes offence. ICANN of course has a policy about expected standards of behaviour within the ICANN community which can be found at this link. In particular, there is one section which deal specifically with communication which I quote “Treat all members of the ICANN community equally, irrespective of nationality, gender, racial or ethnic origin, religion or beliefs, disability, age, or sexual orientation; members of the ICANN community should treat each other with civility both face to face and online”.
I have recently had a complaint about the use of sexist language in communication dealing with a policy development process. When the complainant raised the issue of the use of sexist language, she advises that initially she was told to take this to me as the ombudsman, but later members of the group attempted to talk her out of making such a complaint. Those attempts were seen by her as an attempt to bully her into letting the issue die.I am in the process of obtaining comments from the members of the group so that I can get some perspective and understand what has happened.
As ICANN matures into an international organisation, we do need to remember that robust communication in that some societies may be perceived as quite offensive in others. These issues are not simple, but in my view we are best looking at them as educational challenges, rather than engaging in a process of criticism. If one party realises that their comments were inappropriate after discussion, then we can evolve to more skilful interaction, without causing offence.
Neither sexist language or bullying should be tolerated and we need to be vigilant to ensure we do not offend. I would welcome comment from the Community on this issue, and any complaints or comments can be confidential if needed. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to deal with confidential matters.