Identity Commons 2.0 and the Chief Catalyst

Yesterday the long-simmering process of birthing the second-generation Identity Commons reached a key milestone: the Stewards Council reached consensus on moving forward with formal incorporation (in Florida to save money, since Steward Dan Perry has volunteered to serve as counsel), set a budget, and began the process of soliciting donations so Identity Commons can become a formal organization.

Over seven years in the making (if you include the evolution of the first generation of Identity Commons started by Owen Davis, Andrew Nelson, and Joel Getzendanner), Identity Commons is the perhaps the most intentionally-designed un-organization in history.

Un-organization? That’s really one of the best ways to describe the goal of Identity Commons, which is to serve as what Joel calls an “upside-down umbrella” organization for a set of Working Groups that do all the real work of figuring out a user-centric identity layer for the Internet.

In other words, the real purpose of Identity Commons is to just “hold the space” for the conversations and collaboration necessary to happen to build that layer we all want. We need just enough to make a “there” there — and no more, because it’s in that “more” that all the complications arise. (This notion of serving as “just a container” was originally suggested by Bill Aal, founder of Riseup, who thought Identity Commons could do for the identity layer what IETF did for the physical layer.)

So how much is enough “there” there? So far the consensus of the stewards is that it’s just a Stewards Council, a simple non-profit corporation, a set of wikis and mailing lists, and a Chief Catalyst. (That wonderful role title courtesy of Eugene Kim, who has served as unofficial chief facilitator of the incubation of this second generation Identity Commons.)

From the moment he suggested that role a few weeks ago, the Stewards have had one person in mind: Kaliya Hamlin, the fabulous Identity Woman. Her work in conjunction with Phil Windley and Doc Searls to catalyse the evolution of user-centric Internet identity via the Internet Identity Workshops has been the single biggest factor in the remarkable amount of convergence that’s already happened (and more to come).

So here’s the way I think of the new Identity Commons: it’s a way for all of us to support the work of Kaliya — and the 15+ working groups — to accelerate achieving the goal of making this identity layer real. Because we can’t get there fast enough.

In particular, I would urge you to support Identity Commons, either as an individual or corporate sponsor, because it will mean Kaliya as Chief Catalyst will have a budget to do more travel around the world and hold more events and do everything else she does to bring more people and organizations into the community and into the work.


About Drummond Reed

Internet entrepreneur in identity, personal data, and governance frameworks
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