Is consensus a viable concept to justify use of online collaborative networks in multi-stakeholder governance?
The adoption of multi-stakeholder decision-making processes using online collaborative technologies for Internet governance has facilitated participation of stakeholders from many developing countries in decision making within organizations such as ISOC and ICANN. One important and underlying rationale that gives rise to such arrangements is the notion of consensus. The paper uses the work of Arrow to firstly question whether consensus is indeed a theoretically justifiable concept on which to base multi-stakeholder governance. The paper then further uses Arrow's insights to develop an analytical framework which identifies expertise and authority as two key factors in the analysis of online decision making. The paper presents a conjecture that a significant challenge in ensuring productive multi-stakeholder governance are the practices that govern the ways in which authority and expertise interact. To that end, two potential sources of leadership are defined within online collaborative networks: positional leadership and thought leadership.