IDESG Governing “us”: Challenge 1 for NSTIC

I am posting to this blog the two posts I made to the NSTIC IDESG governance list on Tuesday. Here is the first one on Governing “us” (that is the word “us” not U.S.)

I only got on the [governance] list over the weekend despite raising my hand to be a part at some point in the Chicago meetings.

I am working to track all that is being discussed and I also want to breath and step back a bit. I want to share two bigger challenges and perspectives.

First Challenge how are we we connecting/structuring and governing the interested stakeholders who ARE showing up to engage.  How are we as Bob just asked creating ways, systems, processes and tools forward to create alignment and agreement?

Second Challenge  How are we meaningfully and regularly checking in with those outside the community of self selected stakeholders – to regular citizens who have to use the currently broken systems we have today and hopefully will be enthused and inspired to adopt the outcomes of this whole effort?

They are two quite different but related challenges. This e-mail will deal with challenge 1. The next one with Challenge 2.

We are looking at a system design and catalyst work to facilitate emergence.  This requires system thinking and system oriented methods and tools are needed.

Why am I using what seems like “mushy” language – not cause I live in Northern California and hang out with “hippies” there…I’m using it very specifically because WE DO NOT HAVE CONTROL in the way that the current language of management and government would lead us to believe.  This is especially true when we are dealing with a networked voluntary system (as outlined in NSTIC) rather then a closed kind of container created by a company or within a government in its own domain.

Systems Thinking 101 from Donella Meadows is a good place to start:

Berkana ( and the work of Meg Wheatly ( who’s background is a former Organizational Development consultant who left because it refused to see organizational systems of people as living, as being organic beings.

I specifically named to very very concrete methodologies in my NSTIC NOI that I thought could be applied over the course of the past year and lead into an event like we had in Chicago. None of my suggestions were headed nor was I asked how they could be done/ adapted given the government’s constraints in terms of not having “advisory committees” or something.

We were all just jammed into that Chicago meeting and many stakeholders had very little familiarity with who others were or what their perspectives might be. There was certainly no coherent agreement about any system we were working towards building.  (although it seems that corporate insiders certainly seem to think they have figured some stuff out about how they think things will/should be/work).

You can see the whole of my response linked off this page –

Let me point you specifically the two methods I suggested –

Polarity Management Mapping –

Value Network Mapping-

I co-wrote the chapters in the response with the founders of the methods themselves.

IF the NSTIC NPO had been foresighted enough to do either of these at a cost of a few hundred thousand dollars in small meetings around the country inviting highly diverse stakeholders based in those cities together to talk for a day with in a structure format of producing one of the out comes we would have several 100 maps to “see” a big picture of what those who are stakeholders think could/should/might be built and what the issues and tradeoffs are. We would be in a better place to make forward progress now…instead we are starting off trying to get to know far distant stakeholders….and we can’t make much progress until those connections/relationships and subsequent understandings can happen in their own time.

Governance emerges once there is clarity from those who are seeking to have structure about how it should be structured to achieve the shared purpose… they willingly submit to those because they want to get to the end goal together and have it work.

We have to build greater coherence and alignment  ( amongst the stakeholders (dividing us all up on to 40+ lists DOES NOT HELP (who is governing that proliferation BTW).

Without more proactive connectivity across stakeholder communities and a fairly intensive process of getting them in rooms together (this can happen in many places) we will likely find it very hard to move this whole NSTIC thing very far.  Shared Language and Understanding are critical…my NOI touched on these too – defining them and reflecting on how they have helped the user-centric corner of this community find a coherent voice.

Shared Understanding –

Shared Language –

I was very serious when I proposed in the below section that we should be using the squrim test – YES!!! to figure out if we are in alignment – if agreed to this method – then the privacy people wouldn’t need a veto – it would be obvious that things couldn’t move forward because they would be squirming until the visions aligned.

Shared understanding arises from shared language. When groups collaborate effectively together, a recognizable pattern emerges for shared understanding.  This means unifying a goal/mission/vision so that the question “what are we trying to do” doesn’t continually to come up. Within this pattern collaborators aren’t in group think but agree about their disagreements and understand what they are trying to do together.

Eugene Kim, along with some colleagues, created The Squirm Test to measure the level of shared understanding in a group:

The Squirm Test is performed on a group of people collaborating on something together. You get all of the people in a room, seated in a circle, and sitting on their hands.

The first person then stands up and spends a few minutes describing what the group is working on and why. No one is allowed to respond except to ask a clarifying question.

When the first person is done, the second person stands up and does the same thing, articulating the group’s goals and motivations in his or her own words.

Everyone in the circle speaks in turns.

You can measure the amount of shared understanding in the group by observing the amount of squirming that happens during the process.

The squirm test is qualitative as a repeatable, measurable and visible to the whole group that does it.

So, I can just hear the chorous…”what is your proposal” Kaliya???

I am not putting one forward…in part cause I am not sure anyone has even heard or “gets” what I am talking about systems wise. If you do…great then lets go from there and talk about how we can make key understandings from this come alive in these documents and that will be lived by the structure we are creating over time.


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  2. says

    No. I participated in both the NSTIC governance and privacy workshops in June and did not find there was shared understanding or language amongst stakeholders gathered. I did experience shared language and understanding with the people who I knew from the user-centric identity community (and its neighbors) but there are many new stakeholder groups that I was unfamiliar with and I found in many conversations that people were talking past each other constantly. This experience of not having shared language was one of the reasons the breakout group conversations were not productive and many experienced frustration.

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