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Human Rights 13 July 2015

The Science and Art of Identifying Next Generation Leaders: Some Reflections before IETF 93

Toral Cowieson
By Toral CowiesonFormer Head, Strategy & Impact Measurement

For IETF 80 in 2011, the Internet Society had nearly 90 applicants for 12 available Fellows awardee slots. For IETF 93, applications increased by more than 60% to 170 applicants for 14 slots.

As awareness and corresponding demand has ballooned for future leaders in the Internet ecosystem, so clearly has the number of applicants to the Internet Society’s Fellows and other competitive leadership programmes. While demand has increased, so has the overall quality of the applicants and ultimately the selected individuals.

Three factors contribute to this increased caliber:

1. Qualified self-selection
In 2013, we initiated a self-assessment guide. Coupled with the actual selection criteria, these two documents lay out capacity and capability expectations. Before potential participants apply, they need to qualify themselves according to the criteria for these programmes. These expectations clarify required commitments before, during, and after the event. Since applying is in itself a process, we wanted to mitigate unnecessary frustration and these checklists help ensure that those who do apply have a fair shot for serious consideration.

2. A robust, diverse selection committee
The current Fellows selection committee has nine (9) standing members, many who contribute to each round and are active in IETF. The committee includes: a Chapter representative, a current ISOC Board member, active IETF participants, regional staff representatives, and former awardees. Each selection committee member brings invaluable perspective and passion. Niel Harper, the lead for ISOC’s Next Generation leaders programme, guides the process, including reviewing each application fully. A former ISOC NGLer himself, Niel is uniquely qualified in understanding what is required of Fellows to IETF and our other programmes.

3. An appreciation for the more intangible skills of leadership
While there are some straightforward criteria, such as following and contributing to IETF Working Groups and a demonstrated commitment to advancing IETF and open standards in region, we also consider some other leadership traits. Integrity, passion, and a pay-it-forward mentality all factor into the vetting process. In programmes where we have returning opportunities such as Fellowships to IETF and Ambassadors to IGF, it is particularly rewarding to see individuals awarded over time who have even more fully demonstrated the potential we initially saw. Some qualities on those who get the most out of the Fellows experience can be found here.

All that said, please join me in congratulating the latest cohort of Internet Society Fellows to IETF.

They are truly an exceptional group of technologists and we look forward to seeing their contributions to IETF and open standards this upcoming week and in the future.

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Disclaimer: Viewpoints expressed in this post are those of the author and may or may not reflect official Internet Society positions.

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