Second ccNSO Organizational Review

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The Second ccNSO Organizational Review (ccNSO2) was initiated in spring 2018.[1] The review is in the implementation phase as of June 2021.[1]


Article 4.4 of the ICANN Bylaws requires periodic review of all supporting organizations and advisory committees, as well as the Nominating Committee.[2] The bylaws state three objectives for the review:

  1. to determine whether that organization, council or committee has a continuing purpose in the ICANN structure;
  2. if so, whether any change in structure or operations is desirable to improve its effectiveness; and
  3. whether that organization, council or committee is accountable to its constituencies, stakeholder groups, organizations and other stakeholders.[2]

Organizational reviews are conducted by independent examiners, selected through a competitive bidding process.[2] The independent examiner works in consultation with a working group assembled by the board, who will act as implementation shepherds once the final report of the independent examiner is submitted.[3] The review parameters are set by the ICANN Board, and those parameters as well as other avenues of inquiry are typically included in the request for proposals (RFP) for independent examiners.[2][3] Reviews can take anywhere from three to five years to complete. The full review process includes seven phases, including the implementation of recommendations from the review.[3] Reviews must be conducted at least every five years, measuring from the date that the final report of the previous review was accepted by the ICANN Board.[3] The Country Code Names Supporting Organization is one of the organizations subject to the review requirements of Article 4.4.[3]


Aware of the level and intensity of activity within the ICANN community in 2017, the chair of the Organizational Effectiveness Committee sent letters to the ccNSO, RSSAC, and SSAC in March of that year, offering to defer the initiation of their organizational reviews by a year, and and proposing a timeline for preparatory activities during the deferral period.[4] The ccNSO responded that they would like to defer the review.[5] A public comment process was initiated to provide information on the ICANN community's opinions to the board as they deliberated the proposed deferral.[4] Four public comments were submitted, with three of the four in favor of, or not opposed to, a deferral.[4] In September 2017, the board approved the deferral of the ccNSO2 review to April 2018.[6]

The ccNSO had already called for volunteers for the ccNSO2 review working party (RWP) in January 2017.[7] During the deferral period, the ccNSO and the working party dedicated time to "reviewing and updating our internal documents to ensure that they capture our current practice, recommendations from the previous review and requirements set in the new Bylaws."[5] In February 2018, the ccNSO sent out a second call for volunteers to participate in the ccNSO2 review working party.[8] In March 2018, the board initiated the ccNSO2 review at its regular board meeting, noting that the independent examiner would selected and would begin work by August 2018.[9]

The RFP for an independent examiner followed in April 2018.[10] In August 2018, Meridian Institute was selected to conduct the independent review.[11]

Independent Review Findings and Recommendations

Pursuant to ICANN's revised review process, the independent review was divided into two phases: an assessment report that contained the findings of the review, and a final report that incorporated public comment regarding the findings, and presented recommendations for improvement.[1] Meridian utilized multiple information-gathering methods in its assessment process:

  1. Review of foundational ccNSO documentation regarding its mission, function, and operations;
  2. Review of ccNSO processes and activities since ccNSO1;
  3. Interviews with forty-five former and current ccNSO members and participants;
  4. A survey directed at the broader ICANN community (111 respondents and 78 fully completed responses);[12] and
  5. Attendance an observation of ccNSO Member Day meetings at ICANN 63 and ICANN 64, along with attendance at the ccNSO Council meeting during ICANN 64.[13]

Meridian also engaged in regular consultation with the RWP, to validate and verify information received, and to get input on the draft assessment report. The final assessment report contained a record of these interactions, and in particular RWP comments on the report.[13]

Assessment Report Findings

In responding to the central questions of the Article 4.4 organizational review process, Meridian concluded that the ccNSO was operating effectively and with accountability:

Based upon the findings, our overall determination is that 1) the ccNSO has a continuing purpose; 2) there do not seem to be a need for major structural or operational changes; 3) the ccNSO is accountable to its constituents, including its members and the broader ICANN community. While no significant changes are anticipated, the findings indicate there are opportunities for the organization to continuously improve as it works to achieve the three objectives above. Meridian will develop recommendations for improvement based upon findings in this Assessment Report, heavily informed by the interviews and survey responses and by continued engagement with the ccNSO and ICANN communities at ICANN64.[13]

Notable findings regarding opportunities for improvement included:

  • The ccNSO needs to clearly articulate the value of membership and/or participation in the ccNSO and ICANN;
  • The narrow scope of the ccNSO's policy development role makes its outreach, support, and engagement activities much more relevant to the experience of members of the ccNSO and the broader ICANN community;
  • Interrelated to both the above findings, there are barriers to entry and recruitment of new participants within the membership, and new members to the ccNSO;
  • The ccNSO website needs to be overhauled to improve organization of key resources, documents, activities, and outreach;
  • Some ccNSO-specific provisions of the ICANN Bylaws are both difficult to adhere to and difficult to amend;
  • ccNSO working groups are prone to lose focus, largely because of volunteer burnout and lack of volunteers to begin with;
  • Despite being only informally related to the ccNSO, regional ccTLD organizations are essential to fostering community and extending the ccNSO's reach to non-members;
  • Although accountable to its constituency, the ccNSO could continue to improve its transparency of decision-making, as well as strengthen communication with other SOs and ACs.[13]

Draft Final Report and Recommendations

The draft final report was published for public comment in June 2019.[14] Meridian also presented the report at ICANN 65 to gather feedback and public comment.[15]

The draft report contained fourteen recommendations:

  1. The ccNSO should develop communications materials (including talking points) that clearly articulate the value of the ccNSO to potential new and current ccNSO members.
  2. Working group candidates should submit short, anonymized biographies to provide the ccNSO Council with better information when making appointments to working groups.
  3. The ccNSO should clarify and standardize the process for appointing working group chairs.
  4. The ccNSO should request an amendment to the ICANN Bylaws regarding the nomination of ccTLD managers to the IANA Naming Function Review Team. (This request had already occurred at the time of the draft report.)
  5. The ccNSO should establish term limits for Council seats, but create a waiver process for situations where under-represented regions with no new applicant to the council could re-appoint a councilor for an additional term.
  6. The ccNSO Meetings Programme Committee should develop and adopt meeting formats to allow more varied interaction between participants at ICANN meetings.
  7. ICANN should provide real-time translation and transcription for ccNSO Member Day meetings.
  8. The ccNSO course on the ICANN Learn portal should be translated into all ICANN languages.
  9. Streamline the mentorship program to more efficiently connect mentors and mentees; consider group mentorship sessions or dedicated sessions for mentorship "face time" at ICANN meetings.
  10. Resources for newcomers should be prominantly featured in a central location on the ccNSO website.
  11. Launch a reorganized ccNSO website "as soon as possible" to combat perceived and actual communication, accountability, and transparency issues.
  12. Develop and provide training on a consistent, universal process for naming, filing, and uploading documents to the ccNSO website.
  13. The ccNSO Council should adhere to the ccNSO Council Practices Guideline. If the guidelines for Council agendas are too restrictive or impractical to follow, then the Guideline should be updated to reflect practices that are sustainable, keeping in mind members’ interest in continued transparency and accountability.
  14. For future ccNSO reviews, the Independent Examiner have access to archived mailing lists for the period in review and/or be able to join as an observer to the mailing lists for the period of the review.[14]

In addition to feedback received at ICANN 65 and a supplemental webinar on the draft report, two written comments were received during the comment period. The Business Constituency supported the report's recommendations. The ccNSO Council requested that Meridian prioritize and name the top three most essential recommendations to focus on immediately. The Council acknowledged the value of Recommendation 4 but noted that it was largely outside of its control beyond the original request. The Council also requested clarification on who would be responsible for deliberations and decision-making for the recommendations.[16]

Final Report

Meridian's final report was published in August 2019[17] The recommendations were largely unchanged, although some were refined or clarified based on the Council's request to specify the responsible party. In addition, Recommendation 2 was split into two subparts, for a total of fifteen top-line recommendations.[17] Meridian declined to provide a "top three" or otherwise prioritize the recommendations, noting that the RWP would have an opportunity to engage in a prioritization process in developing its Feasibility Assessment and Implementation Plan (FAIIP).[17]


Following receipt of the final report, the RWP began development of its Feasibility Assessment and Implementation Plan, largely via teleconference meetings. Records of those meetings are not apparent on the ccNSO2 workspace,[18] and the review listserv was comparatively silent during the time between the final report and the RWP's submission of its FAIIP.[19] In July 2020, the RWP submitted its Feasibility Assessment and Initial Implementation Plan to the Organizational Effectiveness Committee of the board.[1][20]

The FAIIP rejected most of the specific recommendations from Meridian's final report, noting in most cases that the underlying issue was important, but that the recommendation in question was impractical, likely to fail based on prior experiences of the organization, or had been rendered moot by other developments (such as the amendment to the bylaws, or the adoption of parallel ccNSO improvements to process).[20] The RWP agreed with some recommendations, including revamping and standardization of managemennt of the ccNSO website and its resource archives, provision of transcription & translation resources, and prominent and centralized access to onboarding reference materials.[20]

RWP Responses to Recommendations

# Recommendation Accepted by RWP Response
1 Communication materials re: value of ccNSO membership/participation Yes Recruitment of prospective representatives is worthwhile
2a Create a quota system for including newcomers in working groups No Recommendation is too limiting - agree in principle that increasing participation is worthwhile
2b Create & maintain a roster of people interested in volunteering No
Previous effort to do something similar failed
3 Standardize and clearly articulate process of appointing WG chairs No "Basic and common practice" exists
4 Amend Bylaws re: IANA Naming Function appointees
No Moot - change has occurred
5 Councilor term limits + waiver option No In the view of the RWP the factors influencing availability [of candidates] need to be indentified first and taken into account in developing a solution.
6 Meeting format changes to allow more varied participation
No MPC has taken steps to improve and increase interaction already
7 Invest in real-time scribing of meetings Yes "In the past, the ccNSO has requested several times for real time-scribing, however, to date it has been declined for changing reasons."
8 Translate ccNSO ICANN Learn course into multiple languages Yes
9 Improve and streamline mentorship program No
On-boarding a shared issue of concern, but the recommendation does not address the multiple factors involved
10 Centralize and prominently display web resources for newcomers Yes
11 Overhaul website ASAP Yes The ccNSO Council will send a letter to the Board stressing the urgency and importance of this recommendation and underlying findings
12 Standardize and offer training of uploading of resources/docs to website No Already done, also new website will make this better
13 Council should adhere to Council Practices Guidelines, or else amend those guidelines to reflect sustainable and timely practices
No "The RWP does not agree with the wording used in the Report. To date experience has shown that the agenda and decision list are published in time."
14 Independent Examiner should have access to archived mailing lists Yes For verification purposes only

OEC Request for Clarification

In August 2020, the RWP met with the Organizational Effectiveness Committee to discuss the FAIIP document.[21] In December 2020, the OEC sent a letter to the ccNSO Council chair and the ccNSO2 RWP regarding the RWP's responses within the FAIIP.[1][21] The letter requested follow-up information along three lines of inquiry:

  1. Verification that the RWP had accepted 13 of 15 underlying issues identified by Meridian, but had accepted only five of the fifteen recommendations. If this was correct: where the RWP has accepted the issue but not the recommendation, "what specific steps you are planning, or have already taken, to address the issue, and what incremental resources would be required (for ICANN org’s purposes);" where there are no plans to address an issue, the RWP's rationale for deciding not to act; and where recommendations were accepted for implementation, a status report on implementation.
  2. "[A]dditional information on how the ccNSO intends to proceed with the implementation for several recommendations that were accepted, such as high-level steps, as well as resource and timing indications. We also invite the Review Working Party to detail the reasoning behind recommendations directed at ICANN org to implement." This portion of the letter repeated the request for status updates on any in-progress implementation of recommendations.
  3. "Finally, the OEC would be appreciative if you would share and elaborate on the specifics regarding any ongoing activities that the ccNSO believes respond to the issues behind the rejected recommendations, and potential ways to address the issues reported as deferred until the next ccNSO review."[21]

The RWP responded in February 2021 with a letter to the OEC.[22] The letter outlined improvements that were responsive to the various issues identified by Meridian, as well as describing ongoing activities and rationales for inaction as requested in the OEC's letter. As of June 2021, there has been no response from the OEC, and the ccNSO2 dashboard states that the review is still in the implementation of improvements phase.[1]