Knowing what groups are in an ecosystem is a key first step but information sharing and coordination between organizations and communities who are participants in an ecosystem is key to making it real.
The purpose of Identity Commons is to support, facilitate, and promote the creation of an open identity layer for the Internet, one that maximizes control, convenience, and privacy for the individual while encouraging the development of healthy, interoperable communities.
- Self-Organization. Enable any working group to self-organize at any time, on any scale, in any form, around any activity consistent with the Purpose and Principles.
- Transparency. Fully and transparently disclose the Purpose and Principles of each working group, any requirement of participation, and any license or restriction of usage of its work product.
- Inclusion. Conduct deliberations and make decisions by bodies and methods that reasonably represent all relevant and affected parties.
- Empowerment. Vest authority, perform functions, and use resources in the smallest or most local part that includes all relevant and affected parties.
- Collaboration. Resolve conflict without resort to economic, legal, or other duress.
- Openness. Conduct, publish, and archive communications in a manner that facilitates open and trusted interactions within and across all working groups and the public Internet.
- Dogfooding. When feasible and appropriate, employ the work product of Identity Commons working groups to facilitate the operation and interaction of Identity Commons itself.
I have heard it said more than once by those seeking to develop tools and systems for this emerging identity ecosystem, that they wish there was just “one place” where it all could be found, where all the technology would be developed. Given the vast number of organizations, this is never going to be the case, but what we can facilitate is much more robust information sharing systems across technical standards development organizations and communities focused on solving key challenges for a real ecosystem. The NOI asks this question:
1.2. Are there broad, multi-sector examples of governance structures that match the scale of the steering group? If so, what makes them successful or unsuccessful? What challenges do they face?
Identity Commons was originally founded in 2001 by Owen Davis and Andrew Nelson to foster a user-centric identity layer of the web that the people “owned”. (They founded the organization partially in response to the formation of Liberty Alliance which was developing “open standards” for identity, but from a large enterprise perspective rather then a grassroots people’s perspective. They drew inspiration from Dee Hook who grew the the Visa network using innovative organization principles. They were active in the Planetwork Link Tank discussions (See Appendix 1) that lead to the writing of the ASN paper – an excerpt of this is in Appendix 2.)
In 2007 the communities gathered at the Internet Identity Workshop retained the purpose and principles of Identity Commons but transitioned to become a 501(c)6 organization linking and connecting efforts across a range of different communities and organizations. Groups working on issues touching on user-centric identity did not have to leave their respective standards body or academic institution to join. Totally independent organizations could also join and groups that had not yet formed as their own organization or subsection of another organization could also join.
Identity Commons focuses on information sharing and playing a loose coordinating role as a form of providing relevant information to groups, to support informing their governance and decision-making relative to other groups, communities and organizations. It has a purpose and 7 principles that provide guidance for its community governance.
Above all else, they share a purpose; this links them together across their diverse approaches and foci. There is a subtlety to these principles and how they help groups collaborate and share. The transparency principle is not about all information of all groups being open, but rather asking groups to be clear about how they operate and work, to be transparent about the level of transparency. Groups fill out a “charter”, meaning they answer some key questions about what they do, why they do it, what they do, and how they do it (their governance, and transparency level). Because all groups do this in the same format, it is easy to compare and understand the function of groups and the role or purpose they play.
Open information sharing like Identity Commons aspires to provide, is a public good but essential for ecosystem health. Identity Commons has always had a vision of supporting the collection and aggregation of RSS news feeds from groups and relevant efforts. It also does share some information about events focused on key issues across the groups. There is a community call once a month where the stewards of each group shares an update about their past and upcoming activity.
To date, this organization has been led by volunteers and what funding has come in has been very small contributions from the main community event, the Internet Identity Workshop. This has limited its ability to fully build out the technical infrastructure and people resources needed to curate this flow of information. To date, it has been challenging to find funding mechanisms for organization networks and forms that allow them to thrive and fully fulfill their purpose.
The NSTIC national program office should consider how information sharing network systems like this can be robust enough to support the level of information sharing and coordination needed for a thriving ecosystem. It may be that the program office can fulfill this role, particularly if also hosting the stakeholder wiki/list. Collecting and aggregating and organizing information flowing to and from these organizations is not governance, but a key public-good role that would be appropriate for government to play in facilitating the emergence of an ecosystem.
This is from pages 50-53 of Kaliya’s NSTIC Governance NOI Response – please see this page for the overview and links to the rest of the posts. Here is a link to the PDF.
This is the section before: Who are the Stakeholders?
This is the section after: Insight for Governance