It’s often said that ICANN policy-making has become so complex, long-winded and thankless that it’s becoming harder and harder to attract and retain community volunteers, and now some of those community members are calling on ICANN to open its wallet to sweeten the deal.

ICANN could provide volunteers, particularly those who have participated heavily in remote meetings during pandemic travel restrictions, with monetary stipends or free business trips to future ICANN meetings, the At-Large Advisory Committee has said.

In a letter (pdf), ALAC chair Maureen Hilyard, along with members Marita Moll and Joanna Kulesza, ask that ICANN starts measuring the contribution of its volunteers and compensate them according to their work.

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“There is a need to recognize and reward the efforts of volunteers who kept the public face of the institution going through 7 virtual public meetings,” they wrote.

“The pandemic ultimately exposed the limited efficiency of the existing volunteer system within the ICANN community. It is clear that the system of incentives currently in effect needs to be adjusted to address challenges of the post-pandemic reality,” the letter says.

ICANN’s thrice-yearly public meetings have been held over Zoom since the start of 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. Many community members have not sat in the same room as their peers for over two years.

ICANN 72 last October had the lowest turnout since records began, though this bounced back a little at ICANN 73.

ALAC’s suggestions for incentivizing its members include extending the term of leadership appointments to enable some face-time at future meetings, paying for “one or two trips to future ICANN meetings” and “a retroactive honoraria for those who would have been funded travellers during the period of virtual meetings, considering the fact that they were still incurring costs re: internet connection, electricity, food, etc”

An “honorarium” is a cash payment for services rendered on a voluntary basis. Basically, ALAC seems to be asking for travel expenses that were not incurred to be reimbursed retroactively regardless.

ICANN already has a program for reimbursing community members, such as those on metered connections, who incur extra connectivity charges during ICANN meetings, but it has regardless saved millions of dollars on funded travel since the pandemic started.

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The letter goes on to say “volunteer work by definition is work without pay or compensation” but that “forms of monetary or in-kind compensation are possible”. These could include stipends, “symbolic gifts” and reimbursements.

Before you start getting outraged about the potential for high-priced IP lawyers and well-paid registry VPs putting their hands in ICANN’s pocket, ALAC is asking ICANN to distinguish between genuine volunteers and those who are paid for, or get a direct business benefit from, participating in community work.

ALAC defines volunteers as “individuals who commit time and effort to the work of ICANN with no personal connection to the domain name industry and who pay their own costs of participation, engagement and commitment to this work”.

That’s a rare thing in some segments of the community, but more common in the At-Large community.

Many of the issues raised in the letter were also discussed at the ALAC’s session with the ICANN board earlier this month.

The post ICANN “volunteers” want to get paid for sitting through pandemic Zoom calls first appeared on Domain Incite.

Original article: ICANN “volunteers” want to get paid for sitting through pandemic Zoom calls

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