The May General Meeting (GM) is fast approaching, and with it an Executive Board election among other important topics for members. We’re implementing a few changes to our GM governance and processes this year. While we believe these changes will be integrated seamlessly, we’d like to highlight three of them so you know a bit more about how we’re safeguarding the forum for members to exercise their voting rights and discuss issues that matter.
As we communicated in November 2019 in an article on our approach to the cloud, we’ve been looking at where it makes sense to host some of our infrastructure outside the RIPE NCC. Moving our meeting registration software is one such area where we see a number of benefits, and we’ll be making this move next week.
A key benefit for the GM of moving the registration software to the cloud is the guarantee of availability it gives us. Currently, the software is hosted at one location in Amsterdam. Because an outage of the registration software can have big implications for the GM and even force us to reschedule the meeting at the last minute, addressing this is something that gives us much more confidence in our ability to maintain the GM processes throughout. So, for the upcoming GM as well as for RIPE 82 and our other meetings, we will move the software to three AWS locations in the EU.
A lot of preparation goes into such a move, and we’ve been diligent in ensuring that all jurisdictional, privacy, legal, technical and information security considerations have been fully taken into account. As part of our feasibility study into this move, we were especially concerned to ensure that access to our software would remain available to members globally. To check this, we were able to take advantage of our RIPE Atlas network to test access to the AWS locations. In fact, using the probe network to monitor availability is now something we can build into our checks for this and anything else that might use cloud services in the future.
We also decided with this move to make it easier for you to see exactly what we’re doing with cloud services on an ongoing basis. To that end, we now publish a list of our services that reside in the cloud so you can follow our progress in this area and ask us any questions you might have.
Investigating the cloud option for our meeting software also led us to instigate a wider process of contingency planning for the GM. The meeting will be held virtually using the Meetecho platform that we used for the first time at last October’s meeting, and we have put in place detailed backup plans should the platform have problems on the day of the meeting. The technical changes we’re implementing won’t require any change in how you participate in the GM, but we do believe they’ll greatly reduce the chances of something happening that could disrupt a very important process.
Code of Conduct for Candidates
Another big change for our General Meetings revolves around the Executive Board elections. In 2020, we had a dramatic election race with heated exchanges on the member discussion list that put the focus on how we interact and conduct ourselves during the election period. Thankfully, our processes held strong, and the election eventually went off without a hitch. Interest in the election was also clearly a factor in drawing a record 3,551 members to register to vote, and more votes are always a good thing.
However, the Executive Board realised it needed to address the issues that arose and so it asked for volunteers from the membership to form a task force to make recommendations to strengthen the election process. The members that stepped forward made eight recommendations and the Board accepted all of them. One of these was to implement a code of conduct that all candidates must adhere to from the moment they become candidates to the conclusion of the GM.
Christian Kaufmann chairing the last in-person GM in 2019
The task force advised a lightweight code of conduct based on the RIPE community’s version, and it asks candidates to treat people with tolerance and respect, and to not abuse forums of member interaction in any way. Failure to adhere to this code of conduct can result in disqualification of a candidate from the election.
A key part of all this was to decide who should evaluate whether there has been a violation of the code of conduct once one is reported. Not wanting to have the Board or RIPE NCC staff involved in these decisions, the Board asked the members of the task force who had shown themselves to be judicious and diligent on behalf of the membership to once again volunteer to assess any reported violations. We very much hope that the code of conduct team will not be called into action. But having a team of active members involved in making important deliberations is another development that gives us added confidence in our governance processes.
Engagement with Executive Board Candidates
Having covered two changes that we hope will be unnoticeable, we move to one that we hope all members will pay a lot of attention to. Another recommendation from the election task force was to give the membership more ways to get to know Executive Board candidates and interact with them in order to inform their decision on who to vote for.
To this end, there will be a “RIPE NCC Open House – Meet the Executive Board Candidates” virtual session on 12 May. All members are invited to attend this moderated event, where candidates will be asked to talk about themselves and how they would represent the interests of members should they be elected. We’ll also open a dedicated mailing list where candidates will be able to reply at length to questions posed by members.
The RIPE NCC is a membership association, and as such it depends on the active involvement of its members if the right people are to oversee the organisation and the processes around its activities are to be developed in the right way and with your interests at heart. We try to make everything as easy as possible to get involved – regular communication on what’s happening, documentation on all the topics, presentations from staff and the Executive Board, a range of remote participation options, and a voting period of nearly two days that gives you ample opportunity to have your say at the ballot box. Importantly, registration to attend and vote takes about a minute of your time. We ask you to take that minute, exercise your rights, and help us to create a RIPE NCC that meets the needs of you and your fellow members.
After all, every election is determined by those that show up…