ICANN civil society strategy approach

July 2015 ICANN launched a new engagement initiative recognizing the need to strengthen and broaden the participation and role of global civil society in ICANN.

The strategy has been developed in consultation with many civil society organizations and individuals, focuses on raising awareness of ICANN and the Domain Name System (DNS) among global civil society at large. It also encourages and supports contributions and participation in ICANN policy processes by civil society volunteers.

Key documents:

Draft strategy document, version 1. Created 20 July 2105, last edited 21 October 2015 (Google Doc)

(this document was created in response to a request from the community at ICANN53 Buenos Aires, Argentina (session webpage) and was discussed during ICANN54, Dublin, Ireland (session webpage))

Draft strategy document, version 2, created after the Dublin ICANN54 meeting, created on 13 November 2015 (Google Doc)

Document editing closed 14 December 2015 for a community call on December 16. The final version of the strategy was agreed on this call:


The final document was shared made available on 16 December 2016, the strategy continues to be developed: 

DRAFT Approach – ICANN Civil Society, Non-Commercial, Academic and End-User Engagement in FY16 (PDF) and below:



DRAFT Approach – ICANN Civil Society, Non-Commercial, Academic and End-User Engagement in FY16, 16 December 2015

Considering its Mission of serving the public interest and the global community, including users, with respect to the coordination of the Internet’s domain name and numbering systems, ICANN will strive to include a stronger diversity of global Internet users in its work and its composition, by fostering participation from all regions and all groups, and in particular civil society.

The proposed engagement initiative focuses on raising awareness of ICANN and the Domain Name System (DNS) among global civil society at large, and encourages participation in ICANN policy processes by civil society volunteers. The strategy should also make clear to civil society the benefits of working with ICANN, and in particular its policy-related work.

For the purposes of this plan, ‘civil society’ includes not-for-profit and non-governmental organizations, non-commercial individual Internet end-users, and academia, in particular those with interests in Internet-related policy and research. Within ICANN, this will include the GNSO Non Commercial Stakeholder Group (NCSG), with both of its components the Non-Commercial Users Constituency (NCUC), and the Not-for-Profit Operational Concerns Constituency (NPOC), as well as the At-Large community represented by regional At-Large Structures (ALS) that self-identify as civil society. Not for profit organizations such as industry associations that serve for profit/commercial interests would not be within scope.  (Relations with academia will be handled in coordination with the Development Public Responsibility Department (DPRD) academic relations activities).

The long-term goals in engaging with civil society are:

  • To increase awareness and knowledge of ICANN, the DNS and Internet governance ecosystem among civil society groups around the world, and to raise awareness of how these are relevant and important to civil society missions
  • To help enhance the effectiveness of civil society participation in ICANN’s work

Activities to attain these goals will include:

  • In order to foster increased participation in ICANN’s policy work, raising awareness of the relevance of the DNS to civil society missions and day-to-day operations, then publicising and championing the involvement of civil society in ICANN and the Internet Governance ecosystem. Informing civil society communities around the world about ICANN, its work and the role of civil society, towards raising their awareness of ICANN, and of the relevance and value of participation in ICANN
  • Supporting and advising the existing ICANN civil society community in its outreach efforts, and contributing to enhancing its effectiveness in outreach through capacity building

In FY16 (starting July 2015), we will strive to deliver on the following objectives:

1. A structured approach: To finalise a specific approach to civil society outreach, following the ICANN54 meeting. This will include a dedicated communications plan, including online tools and space on www.icann.org and / or the ICANN Wiki.  This would include support for NCSG and relevant ALSs as they develop and sustain their own communications strategies. 

2. Tailored content and communications: To catalogue existing content produced by NCSG (NCUC/NPOC) and relevant At-Large Structures, refine or update it when necessary, and where gaps are identified, develop initial new content by end of 2015 in liaison with ICANN’s civil society constituencies. Such a catalogue could also include content produced externally to ICANN. All content will be tailored for use by a civil society audience, for rollout and communication both online and face-to-face, or through the media and other publications as appropriate. This engagement approach recognizes the importance of community-developed content.  The starting point for this activity should be to focus on awareness of the relevance of the DNS, and awareness of and engagement in ICANN and ICANN's mission. Where possible, online content should be available for download, ICANN will develop metrics to show how content is being used. Important materials should be translated and were possible and appropriate transcribed.

Potential content and communications:

  • Civil society brochure highlighting the work of the NCSG (NCUC/NPOC) and relevant At-Large Structures.  Among other aspects, the brochure would help distinguish between the different missions of the CS entities in ICANN
  • Glossary of specific Internet and ICANN terminology
  • NCSG Newcomers Handbook (NCSG chair lead, staff and community support)
  • eBooks/pamphlets to highlight the work of NCUC and of NPOC (NCUC under development, NPOC proposal)
  • Journal: idea of launching a call for papers around "civil society and academia in ICANN and Internet governance" to stimulate conversations, research and involvement in ICANN
  • Dedicated civil society webpages on icann.org, such as a "landing page" for civil society (e.g. see ICANN for Business)
  • Regular updates on ICANN policy processes, concise plain language
  • Newsletters:
    • Civil society newsletter or digest, published before and after each ICANN meeting, for example
    • Based on civil society view of key meeting topics
    • General ICANN communications team review
    • What's next
    • Civil society section in ICANN's Global Stakeholder Engagement regional newsletters
    • Social media: Twitter, dedicated civil society email list, Facebook
  • Webinars and media:
    • Briefing before each ICANN meeting
    • Issue specific inter-sessional
  • Video and audio podcasts – suggesting interview based (CS in ICANN, success stories from NCSG/NCUC/NPOC and At-Large, ad-hoc issue specific)
  • Participation in each in-country preparatory meeting before each ICANN meeting
    • Civil Society "speakers bureau"
  • Online events calendar
    • Devising an event approach (internal) in order to help steer and prioritise external engagements, including:
    • How to present ICANN civil society
    • Consistent theme for ICANN organized sessions at civil society events
    • Consistent approach to civil society engagement at national and regional IGFs

The engagement initiative should prioritise the activities described above, with a rollout schedule reflecting that prioritisation.

3. Engagement activities: To rollout a programme of engagement, in line with respective global and regional strategies, with civil society both at global and regional levels throughout FY16, to include activities aimed at increased general awareness and understanding of ICANN among the broader civil society community. Beside supporting the ICANN communities’ own outreach efforts on an ad-hoc basis, we will develop a mix of ICANN-own events (e.g. at the IGF-Germany on May 21, 2015 in Berlin, we organised an outreach pre event for German-speaking CS groups and actors on May 20, in partnership. with the local IGF organisers), engagement in civil society events in each main region (e.g. RightsCon, re:publica, etc.), and activities in the run-up to each ICANN meeting.

Civil society participants in the ICANN Fellowship and NextGen@ICANN programs should be encouraged to join and participate in relevant ICANN constituencies and At-Large structures.  As part of this strategic approach, initiatives supporting newcomers’ participation should be further developed by the existing ICANN civil society.

Other considerations include:

  • The regional ICANN Global Stakeholder Engagement teams contribute to / participate in most national and regional IGFs. We will consider a consistent civil society involvement and message for these events (as appropriate)
  • Increasing involvement / contribution to Internet governance (summer) schools and similar
  • Organising outreach pre-events in the ICANN Meeting host city some weeks prior to the meeting
  • Consider opportunities for in-reach (for example the ICANN academy), such as, relevant ICANN-specific training (chairing skills, to policy development, how to use ICANN technology, e.g. Adobe, wikis, and those developed by ICANN Online Services (Note, also relevant to capacity building section below)

4. Capacity building: By the end of FY16, to establish and assess a catalogue of existing civil society capacity building, learning and related programmes, both by ICANN and by the constituencies themselves; and if necessary, devise a roadmap in liaison with ICANN’s civil society constituencies to either enhance or put in place such programmes aimed at increasing civil society capacity and skills (for example through tutorials, mentoring, and other training and development tools), including toward enhancing the ICANN communities’ ability to run their own outreach activities. Examples include programs such as the CROPP program, Language Localization Pilot by the APAC team, NextGen@ ICANN program, and ICANN Fellowship program and ICANN Learn platform - which all contribute to this effort. 

Internal organisation

In order to best support engagement with civil society, ICANN staff have formed a dedicated project team to provide local focal points for civil society as well as to develop and implement this approach in partnership of the community:

  • Yaovi Atohoun (Africa)
  • Fahd Batayneh (Middle-East)
  • Joe Catapano (North America)
  • Rodrigo de la Parra (Latin America and Caribbean)
  • Adam Peake (Global coordinator)
  • Jean-Jacques Sahel (Global lead / Europe)
  • Heidi Ullrich (At-Large)
  • Kelvin Wong (Asia-Pacific)

Interested community members will have regular interactions with the ICANN staff team to take forward and coordinate this engagement effort, in the form of regular calls. Volunteers to join this contact group welcome. 

Annex: Roadmap of external activities for partnership in FY16

The Annex will be presented as a separate stand-alone living document maintained as an online calendar.

Suggestions/comments have been to:

  • Arrange conferences by "type" e.g. academic, IGF (all), etc.
  • Arrange conferences by region
  • That National and regional IGFs feature in ICANN’s Global Stakeholder Engagement team’s outreach, NCUC has often organized sessions at the annual IGFs. A more consistent approach to IGFs has been suggested
  • Coordinate between the At-Large community and ICANN Global Stakeholder Engagement when meetings are organised regionally
  • Noting the NARALO event list
  • Ensure that the Community provides information about their own conferences and events, about other relevant civil society events, noting events where ICANN can consider holding sessions or making some other contribution such as providing speakers or content


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