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Reconsideration Request Denied

Ronald N. Andruff

Having been passed over by the "old guard" Board Governance Committee of ICANN Board of Directors, I took the occasion to speak from my heart to provide the "new guard" with the observations of a 16-year ICANN volunteer.

For those of you in the community who are wondering what happened, what follows is word for word what I shared with the Board of ICANN at my closed door proceedings. The crowning response was hearing that the BGC Chair had spoken with the other two members of the 2015 Nom Com Leadership Team and their views served to confirm the BGC decision.

Following some lovely platitudes about being a highly respected and appreciated member of the ICANN community, my reconsideration was denied. As you will see from my remarks, I held no expectation of this matter being overturned; rather my hope is that the spirit of what I stated will be taken to heart by those to which they were aimed.

I wish the 2016 Nominating Committee best of success in their work during coming year. Bring ICANN the best independent thinkers you can find so that we can expand the ranks of the 'new guard'.

* * *

REMARKS OF RON ANDRUFF TO THE ICANN BOARD OF DIRECTORS
REFERENCE: RECONSIDERATION REQUEST
21 OCTOBER 2015

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Board,

I come before you today for a hearing about my character and ability to manage the chairmanship of a committee. After paying my own way, to offer 16-years of exemplary voluntary service to ICANN, in all manner of capacities, I have done my share of 'heavy lifting'. And, while this is an important committee, it is no different than any other ICANN committee that I have Chaired — except for the fact that it is to be wholly independent of ICANN and the ICANN Board.

If you find this extraordinary, you are not alone.

I, too, am amazed that there are those within the Board who consider this Chairmanship so important that they would put all of us in this difficult situation.

I would prefer to speak extemporaneously about this matter, but as I have been informed that I have a 20-minute audience with you, after which, during your Board meeting, you will render your decision on my reconsideration request, I will read my statement to ensure that I have left time to field your questions during the final minutes.

The criteria for the Nom Com Chair:

  1. adequate time available to undertake the role;
  2. excellent communication and negotiation skills to manage a committee of 20-21 members;
  3. a clear understanding of the duties and responsibilities of each position for which the NomCom is selecting candidates;
  4. experience on or with a Board of Directors of organizations with similar scale, scope and diversity as ICANN;
  5. strong organization and leadership skills;
  6. ability to remain unbiased;
  7. no conflicts of interest, and
  8. a thorough understanding of, and satisfy, all criteria set forth in ICANN Bylaws relating to the NomCom

Having served this institution over this last decade and a half, three weeks ago, I received a call from your BGC Chair wherein I was insulted, humiliated, and then invited to withdraw my Chair application. Without one word of recognition of my participation over these last 3-years in placing seven of you on the Board to guide us all into ICANN 2.0, I was told I was not fit to be promoted from Chair-Elect to Chair.

I was informed that my 360 Review "had given the BGC pause". Having 89% positive to neutral points, versus 11% negative points, on my 360 Review — which translates to a score 43 of 55 (55 being perfect) — forces one to question the BGC's logic.

We must also clearly note that a 360 Review is meant to be a tool for personal leadership improvement within ICANN; not as a measurement tool for removing leadership.

Ladies and Gentlemen, we all went to school. While it might have been in a different part of the world, we all know that a grade of 43 of 55 is not an "A". But it is also not a "C", neither a "D", nor an "E" — and for sure not an "F" for fail.

Further — I was told by the BGC that the second strike against me is my "lack of cultural sensitivity."

This pin on my lapel represents attendance at 40 ICANN meetings. I have worn it proudly, with the expectation of one day joining an exclusive crowd of 50 ICANN meeting attendees. The luster of that vision has been taken from me. However, the good fortune of making friends with so many men and women here at ICANN, colleagues and collaborators from all countries, all religions, and all cultures, from all around the world, still holds its charm. This group runs the gamut of the human race and comes with all of the eccentricities. It is this microcosm of our world — this continuing experience of working with all of these people — that is the nectar that has kept me coming back…

However, to the amazement of many, I find myself forced to stand before you today defending the accusation of lacking cultural sensitivity.

Having requested evidence of this subjective proclamation, none has been forthcoming.

I would note here that Vint Cerf, when he was Chairman of the Board, once said about me in a public forum," Ladies and Gentlemen, if you have never seen one before, you have just witnessed a statesman..."

I would note that I asked Vint for evidence of that too.

~ ~ ~

For the benefit of those who are new, or relatively new, to Board, I joined ICANN, when more or less 5-10 people sat in the various rooms that we now call constituencies and advisory committees. That was ICANN 10 Montevideo. The GAC had their first "Open Meeting" in Uruguay and I was in the room.

At ICANN 12 Accra, at the Public Forum, I called on the ICANN Board to shift its focus away from contracted parties to users, which led to the first sound funding mechanisms, combined with greater recognition of the users who provide it, enabling ICANN to move to financial stability and hire critically needed staff to keep up with the ever-growing workload.

When the next step in establishing new gTLDs came along, I participated in the last test — "community-based" TLDs. I co-founded and operated .TRAVEL, the travel industry's exclusive Internet domain, which was supported by more than 140 travel trade associations from 9 industry sectors across more than 70 countries with > 30,000 domain names registered under my leadership. That hands-on experience provides me with valuable insight into the issues and opportunities that new gTLD applicants and operators face today.

I have worked with 5 of the 6 different ICANN President/CEO's, countless numbers of staff, 92 Board members and scores of GAC members; missing only 3 meetings since joining ICANN 16 years ago. My full participation and collaboration in what has been called one of the greatest and most important experiments of our time has given me an inordinate amount of knowledge, understanding and experience about all things ICANN.

I built my business career over 20 years as a consultant to large global brands such as McDonald's Europe, Mercedes Benz, Philips, and Hewlett Packard before moving on to building my own businesses.

Entrepreneurially, I have had six start-ups; three pre- and three post-Internet. Of the latter three, I took one public on the London AIM; another was sold to a public company in the U.S.; and I am now building the third.

With regard to conflicts of interest, I note that contrary to the individual that the BGC recommended, and the Board confirmed, for 2016 Nom Com Chair, none of my activities conflict me in any way. I have no ties to the ICANN community in this regard.

~ ~ ~

But the reality of this discussion today is that it is not about me.

This discussion today is about ICANN. Make no mistake about that. I am here to shed light on a symptomatic problem of the Board that has grown over time.

Whether I am given another Chairmanship, or not, is trivial when compared to the suspicion, confusion and cynicism that BGC's decision, to pass me over, has generated within the community during these last three weeks.

I admit that I bought my airplane ticket and came to Dublin, angry, embarrassed and somewhat cowed. I considered not coming because of concern about what people were thinking, what rumors were rumbling around about me.

But, from the moment I walked through the doors of this convention center, the outpouring of support has been overwhelming. Members of the community have asked: "Can you decode this for me?"

And I wish I could.

So I face my accusers here — today — and ask you to produce evidence that meets a standard that justifies my removal.

I find myself the unwanted focal point of "all things wrong with the Board". My being passed over as Chair is yet another glaring indicator underscoring the trust deficit between the Board and community. As a result of this regrettable — and absolutely avoidable — situation, that chasm has strained yet wider.

When I was informed that I would not be promoted from Chair-Elect to Chair, I reminded the Chair of the BGC that even the perception, let alone the act, of overreaching into the independent Nominating Committee — at this critical juncture in ICANN's history — without a shred of solid evidence of any egregious actions on my part, would become an ill-fated blunder. I pointed out that such actions would be viewed poorly and be a major distraction for the community. Nevertheless, the BGC chose to go full steam ahead, and you were informed that I was a poor fit for the job.

The irony should not be lost on any of us that during these last days of discussions here in Dublin about accountability, the very arguments we are hearing from the Board regarding fair and due process should the community choose to turn a Board member out, are lightyears away from what was afforded me. This is why the community forced the accountability track in the transition in the first place!

I stand before you today to testify that the actions of the few Board members who drive much of the community dialogue — apparently unrestrained and unquestioned by the rest of the Board — is the very reason that we are all in this room now. The community observes that these perennial Board members who do not come through the Nom Com who cling to their ICANN Board seat. Given the same Nom Com scrutiny, I dare say that might not be the case. I submit to you that if these individuals were truly interested in nurturing ICANN to become all that it can be, they would demonstrate their wisdom by stepping aside to encourage fresh ideas, fresh leadership, fresh initiative to generate ICANN growth and development — and this type of growth generates TRUST. Stepping aside is another important way to demonstrate leadership at ICANN.

~ ~ ~

This Board of Directors, half of which I have known for as much as a decade, some even longer; the other half of you, more or less, I have had the extreme pleasure of reviewing, vetting, proposing, and then seeing you sat on the Board during my last three years on the Nominating Committee.

So we have an 'old guard', and a 'new guard', shepherding transition.

The 'new guard' needs to consider and implement new measures that re-connect and re-align the Board with the community. The old guard does not have the confidence of the community to do this.

The current general consensus of the community is that the Board is out of touch, terrified of losing control and generally serving its own, rather than the community's, interests. What has happened to me with these baseless indictments, I dare say, is evidence of that view. It is also the reason I have invited two 2015 Nom Com colleagues to join us here today to observe this meeting.

Lack of trust.

I apologize for that bleak report, but I feel obliged to inform you — particularly the new guard — of the community state of mind, at this point in time.

I am very empathetic to your situation. You have to walk a very difficult path, one where you are rarely commended. But, the task you signed on for is not just another Board. You are the current stewards of the Internet, you represent thousands of volunteers just like me, and need to take into account every individual in the world that logs on to the Net.

Returning to the matter at hand, it begs the question:

Why do you find yourselves in this sticky situation with me, having to reconsider my confirmation from Chair-Elect to Chair of the 2016 Nominating Committee, or lack thereof, particularly when the Nom Com is a unique body, designed to be fully independent of the Board with its own processes?

This circumstance was wholly avoidable. What's happened is almost Freudian. This case, of passing over a respected member of the community in such an opaque manner, pushes the limits of accountability exactly at the moment the Board should be utilizing a respectful, collegial touch. And the implications are similar to throwing a rock in a pond. The rings that flow out in all directions from that rock hitting the water touch places one can never conceive. But, that impact is real. Damage is done.

And so rather than me standing 'in the dock', perhaps the BGC should be here explaining its actions.

If we speak honestly, it can be said that some of you dislike me. It is harsh for me to say that, but we're all old enough to know that so is life. We all have our detractors. Not one of us are exempt.

There is also another group of you to whom I am new. And I'm sure you are wondering why you are having to listen to me address you, when there are so many other far more important issues to discuss, address and manage. To you I say, please speak up and question those who have been on the Board for some time. It's healthy. One learns a lot by asking questions, rather than simply going with the flow, and forces your fellow Board members to justify their actions. You are here to be independent thinkers for the benefit of the community, to fulfill the mandate of the institution of ICANN.

Lastly, there are those of you who share an appreciation for the things I stand for at ICANN and see share common goals for this institution that we have built.

Today I'm addressing all of you holding no expectation of the outcome of these proceedings. Many of you are aware that my days at ICANN are numbered no matter the outcome. I truly have no axe to grind; rather I am taking advantage of this opportunity to speak openly with you so that the ICANN Board can evolve — grow — as a result of this unfortunate circumstance.

~ ~ ~

We are all perceived by different people through their own cultural lens. None of us, who take up the leadership gauntlet, can dare claim that we are beloved by all. So it is a slippery slope to claim that another is this or that without presenting tangible evidence. For every person one can bring to defame, another can be brought that will sing praise. The true measure of a person is what's in their heart.

My hope is that your takeaway today is that we — as a community, together with our Board — need to turn the proverbial corner.

The ICANN Board needs to reflect on the fact that it sits at the pleasure of the community in this unique model of bottom-up, volunteer, multistakeholderism.

Ladies and gentlemen, being forced to defend why I should be Chairman of the 2016 Nominating Committee is offensive to all those volunteers who believe in the model and are willing to sacrifice for it.

Board meddling — or even the perception of the Board meddling — in the independent body that is the Nom Com must never happen again. This body functions collegially with amazing results and must be left to its own devices. Review and changes must come from within the Nom Com, rather than externally by the Board.

Finally, ICANN can no longer afford Board members who are arrogant, have attitude, or demonstrate entitlement or self-importance. Those are deficiencies that destroy the fabric of our community's faith in you, and lead to distrust, loathing, and disappointment. I appeal to all of you to please follow Fadi's opening remarks advice here in Dublin:

"Leadership starts with humility."

~ ~ ~

I grew up on an island, and as a young boy I learned that when a supertanker is planning to come into port, it must start making its turn 10 miles out if the crew wants to avoid running aground or missing the objective.

I am here today to inspire you to take a longer look 'from 10 miles out' at what the community is trying to achieve with accountability by reminding you that a very large number of intelligent and committed community members have spent hours and hours and hours; thinking, discussing, debating, creating and proposing. Consider the depth of that brainpower; perhaps the ICANN community has stumbled upon ideas that might be superior to those of the few of you. Constant push back on cornerstone elements of the community's accountability model only harms ICANN.

It drives the wedge of distrust ever deeper.

If you can look far enough ahead, you might find a way to bridge the trust gap to assure the community that we will all arrive safely in port.

As I've said, this is not about me. I think you will agree from my comments I am not pandering to this crowd. And another Chairmanship at ICANN for Ron, is not what I'm discussing.

You, the members of the Board of ICANN, must come to the realization that no matter how important you may feel you are — particularly when you have been a Board member for so many years — this is not about what you want. None of us is individually smarter than the collective mind of ICANN. That's why we operate on consensus.

Starlings fly in a murmuration. If you have ever seen these birds fly in this manner, you know that they are a marvel to observe; they shape shift with an uncanny fluidity because the group mind is mindful of the entirety of the group. I urge you to contemplate this metaphor, and consider how we can fly in such a fluid manner.

In conclusion, please do not forget this: All of us, here and now, are simply temporary stewards of the Internet at this unique point in time - for the benefit of all humanity - and thus we need to find ways to work more collaboratively, in the public interest. Public interest should — and must — trump all other interests, within the narrow mandate of ICANN.

Doing anything else as a Board member, in my view, is nothing more than extolling one's own self-glorification or promoting one's self-interest. And that is unacceptable of your station.

~ ~ ~

Thank you for affording me the courtesy of sharing these observations from a long-time volunteer.

I apologize if any of you may feel slighted or put upon by my possibly strong, and most definitely candid comments, but, indeed, standing before you now, I feel the opposite of what I felt when I arrived here a few days ago. Now, I am grateful for having been admonished insomuch as I have been given this occasion to deliver the message that I am hearing across the breadth of our community to you, as well as leave you with some suggestions as to how we might correct our course.

Take them for what you think their worth.

Thank you again for your forbearance and consideration in allowing me to share these thoughts with you today.

I'll now answer any questions that you may have for me.

END

By Ronald N. Andruff, President & CEO, dotSport LLC
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icann corporate vs. icann community Paul Vixie  –  Oct 26, 2015 1:56 AM PDT

in the time i've been away from ICANN (that is, having resigned from the ARIN Board effective December 2013), a new meme has crept into the vernacular:

"The ICANN Corporation is distinct from the ICANN Community."

i see this all over the IANA transition discussions, and i see it here in ronald's article. ronald claims that the ICANN board is out of touch with the ICANN community, and that there is a trust gulf between these two entities. i think this must be true, but i also think it's beside the point.

ICANN is a non-profit public charity incorporated in the public interest. it can have no corporate interest which is not directly aligned with the public's interest, and the board's principal duty is to assess the public's interest and to align the corporations interests and actions with that public interest.

i argue that if ICANN Corporate and ICANN Community are now universally seen as disjoint, then this is clear and objective evidence that the ICANN board has failed at its primary duty. that, and not being out of touch or lacking trust, is the matter which must be addressed.

the idea that the board governance committee would have any input at all into the structure or leadership of the nominations committee is tragically absurd, and i call upon ICANN's general counsel to either explain himself or else resign.

I've known Ron Andruff since 2000 during Ken Hansen  –  Oct 28, 2015 8:11 AM PDT

I've known Ron Andruff since 2000 during my time at Neustar, and as a result of my involvement in the .travel and .sport applications. I have not attended as, many ICANN meetings as Ron, but I've been to so many I have lost track of the count.

Ron's reasons for attending ICANN are very different from mine. I attend for commercial reasons. While Ron's initial involvement was also commercial, his many years of volunteer involvement in ICANN related work, is well known. There are many others who give their time, passion, skills and hard work to ICANN, but Ron is among those who give most generously.

ICANN depends on people like Ron Andruff. I often hear ICANN imploring the community to "get engaged". It's very tough to find people who will make the time, give the effort, and participate actively.  I, for one, appreciate what Ron has contributed through the years, and admire all of the others who do as well. It pains me to see one of them treated so unfairly.

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