ICANN59: Johannesburg community coaching experience and team

ICANN59 happened in the beautiful city of Johannesburg, South Africa. Although I arrived early morning, this was this first and most incredible picture I could take from this fantastic beautiful city, so full of contrasts.

I participated in the ICANN59 meeting as part of NCUC EC LAC role (Non Commercial Users Constituency – Executive Committee). I had also the opportunity to be a community coach volunteering for the Fellowship Program with the amazing fellows James Bilal Ruba (South Sudan), Benjamin Akinmoyeje (Nigeria) and Claire Craig (Trinidad and Tobago). These fellows had already experienced ICANN meetings and took the opportunity of the Policy Forum to learn more about Policy Development Processes to choose areas that they can engage.


Part of the NCUC EC arrived earlier to prepare the NCUC Outreach event in one of the major thinktanks of the city, associated to University of Witwatersand. Our first meeting was in their impressive coworking space, there is also an IBM Lab there and patios everywhere where creativity and conversation flow. Benjamin Akinmoyeje participated in our outreach event and could report first hand about his experience as a member of the ICANN community to local participants.

A few sessions were highlights of this meeting. The GNSO Working Session was busy as always but the Geonames briefing from New gTLD Subsequent Procedures leadership made the room so busy that initially there was no standing room, that quickly evolved to sitting on the floor for a few participants. I’ve tweeted that out and later learned that this quite impressed people. Benjamin and Claire managed to secure space here, miracle!

The newcomer and fellowship sessions were heavily attended always and I was in one with the CEO. The work related to diversity in the ICANN community was brought up and the CEO mentioned preferring “variety”. While I disagree, I find it interesting that there is, at least, a debate about how to achieve diversity and do it better.

Benjamin, Claire and James were working so hard here, distributing materials and taking care of fellows. I could only manage to get 2 of them to take a team picture, but James Bilal Ruba is here in spirit. From left to right: Claire, me, Benjamin and Siranush Vardanyan (Fellowship Coordinator). And always, many thanks Siranush for the incredible opportunity to exchange experiences with these fantastic fellows.

I’ve also managed to spend some time with At-Large community in the AFRALO booth with my Brazilian ALS President, Vanda Scartezini (on the right). The ALS Nexti encourages the participation of women and girls in STEM fields and does workshops in technical schools in Sao Paulo and has associates all over Brazil. Vanda is also a major force behind DNS Women, the ICANN women community.

I’ve moderated the NCUC Policy Session and participated in the NCSG Policy Session (Non Commercial Stakeholder Group). The Policy Forum is an opportunity to learn but also to build relationships to learn more about internet policy and decide on spaces you can go on engaging in the field.

The packed room of the 1st Geonames session proved quite a challenging coaching experience as I’ve watched the session with my mentees. The group on new gTLDs Subsequent Procedures has tracks where one can engage and the new track on Geonames has spurred a great deal of attention both from governments as well as companies.

As tradition we did the Lusophone community picture, to mark the importance of the Portuguese speaking community in ICANN and integrate its participants.

There was no Public Forum on ICANN59 but that didn’t stop fellows from doing stellar participations with questions and comments such as Claire Craig in the budget session questioning on capacity building and budgeting.

Community member Avri Doria kindly explained to a group of NCUC members and my mentees the panorama of New gTLDs Subsequent Procedures and other spaces where policy was being developed with great interaction in ICANN. We were also very grateful for many other community members and pioneers who took sometimes even an hour of their time to guide us in important issues and collaborated on the events: Edward Morris, Ayden Ferdeline, Thato Mfikwe, Anriette Esterhuysen, Ines Hfaiedh, Stephanie Perrin, David Cake, Kathy Kleinman, Rafik Dammak, Joan Kerr, Judith Hellerstein, Glenn McKnight and so many more, including those who could not be there such as Farzaneh Badii, Tatiana Tropina and others.

Sadly I missed the opportunity to participate in the NPOC Constituency Day due to being ill. This was something I was really looking forward to and I hope there will be other opportunities.

It was time to go back home and I went to the Fellowship Information Booth, a great space to meet fellows and community members and which helps so many people find their way in ICANN with the great conversations which go on there. I’ve put my pin on that map. I’m always alone when I do that. The NE Brazil is strong and getting stronger and soon I hope I won’t be the only one in that part of the map.

Johannesburg taught me more than I could ever have imagined and now I know there’s great value in creating Global South networks and will continue to move forward on that.


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