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The Proposal

C35. Describe in detail the mechanisms you propose for ensuring that the policies and practices followed in your operation of the .org registry are responsive to and supportive of the noncommercial Internet user community, and reflect as much of its diversity as possible. Your description should include any affiliation you propose with representative noncommercial organizations and details (including proposed bylaws or other chartering documents) regarding any governing or advisory groups that you propose.

Under Unity Registry’s proposal the .org registry will aspire to be more than just a place where organizations register domain names. Our goal is to become the focal point for the online activity of many of the world’s noncommercial enterprises, ranging in size from non-governmental organizations with a global presence to small local charities or citizen groups.

Whatever the goals of ICANN and the Registry Operator in promoting the use of the
.org gTLD for noncommercial Internet use it is, and will remain, a non-sponsored and unrestricted domain. It will therefore continue to have a proportion of commercial and for-profit users who believe that a .org registration is necessary for commercial reasons.

We believe that commercial registrants in .org have three primary motivations. Many are those who are merely avoiding "confusion" and whose main concern is only the sound operation of the domain, something which Unity Registry has as its first priority. Others may be using or wish to use the .org registration as a way to reflect the socially responsible face of the relevant for profit company. Finally, many will have registered solely to protect their intellectual property rights.

All commercial registrants will be looking for professional management and procedures, together with operator stability.

Nonetheless, Unity Registry is fully aware that a balance must be achieved between meeting the needs of all .org registrants in terms of the stability, efficiency and cost of running the Registry Function and the need to differentiate the .org TLD from wholly commercial TLDs.

The .org TLD will not be restricted. A number of our proposed policy and value added services (detailed in C25 and C38) will address the special needs of commercial users, who must be treated as full members of the broader .org community.

However, as required by ICANN, the registry’s policies and practice will largely be shaped by the needs of its noncommercial users. Commercial registrants will be expected to work within a framework that reflects the wide variety of organizational size, type, objective and operational practice which is found in the noncommercial sector.

There are two reasons for this. First, it is ICANN’s policy, as expressed in the proposal documents. Second, over time the noncommercial sector is expected to provide the majority of registrants (see Section C17 for projections).

The Unity Registry marketing programme (described in detail in Section C38) will serve both to differentiate the TLD from other, commercial, TLDs and to make these policies and services clear to potential registrants.

We do not wish to create a structure which could seek to develop policies in areas which are properly the preserve of ICANN or other competent authorities or to duplicate their efforts, although, of course, these groups will offer input to the ICANN process, nor to create a structure which might attempt to alter the terms and conditions of registration in ways which would be outside the proper range of operation of the Registry.

However, the proposed Registry agreement and ICANN policy rightly do not fully determine the operation of the Registry Function, and there remain many detailed strategic decisions that will rightly require community input about the development of additional or value-added services, and the different ways to deploy necessarily limited resources to serve the needs of the registrant community and other areas. In these areas Unity Registry will innovate and differentiate .org by developing a meaningful channel for registrant input, without threatening the stability or commercial viability of the Registry Function.

Those commercial registrants who are solely concerned with holding a .org domain as protection of their trademark or as an alternative route to their corporate Website and email will find the Registry to be stable, efficient, cost effective and reliable. Those commercial registrants who want to will be able to benefit from our innovative and inclusive structure. Finally, we believe that the noncommercial Internet community will discover in the new .org registry a focal point for online activity, discovery and community building.


For nearly 20 years Poptel, one of the key partners in Unity Registry has provided on-line services to not-profit sectors on an international basis. In its experience Poptel understands the organisational and technology needs of non-profits and what makes them distinct from commercial businesses. In very many cases, over an extended period of time, Poptel has helped to shape and implement strategies helping non-profits meet their communications goals using the Internet.

Poptel itself is recognised as one of the UK’s most innovative cooperative enterprises and is probably the world’s foremost Internet cooperative. Equitable stakeholder participation is the bedrock of the cooperative movement. Unity Registry has the understanding, the commitment and the relationships to enable the successful creation of a novel participatory structure for .org.

The challenge of being responsive to the .org community lies in developing coherent policy and transforming that into operational practice. Unity Registry will accomplish these aims through a community-oriented structure having two parts, one a policy development group, and one an operational support group. The effectiveness of both will be subject to compliance with the AA1000 international standards for social responsibility, detailed below.

Poptel is a business whose focus has always been the provision of technology services to NGOs, non-profits, social enterprises, and, in general, community-based organizations. In its experience, these organizations directly reflect the diversity of each society around the world and our times. Ultimately, .org serves the aims of the individuals in each community who are the members and organizers of .org’s registrants. It is the role of these organizations to reflect their communities and the changing priorities they face. It must therefore be the role of .org to bring registrants effectively into the policy and planning process and to have a structure which allows their views to be presented in the context of Internet services and standards. Unity Registry is first and foremost a business charged with the effective and continuing operation of the Registry Function. This remains the main focus of the staff, directors, shareholders and other stakeholders since without a stable and reliable .org Registry nothing else is possible. The Technical Plan (section C17) describes in detail how we will address this core requirement.

Outside the technical management of the Registry and the management of Unity Registry as a partnership, policy will be deliberated by two groups: the .org Policy Group and the .org Operations Advisory Group.

The following is a diagram showing the relationships among the Unity Registry, its Board and management, .org registrants (forming a .org member co-op) and the .org Policy Group and the .org Operations Advisory Group.

flow chart illustrating the relationships among the Unity Registry

Note: Solid lines indicate power of nomination and appointment
Dashed lines indicate advisory direction


Unity Registry will create a .org Policy Group (OPG) as the forum in which .org policy and planning in relevant areas will take place. The OPG will be made up of members nominated and elected by all .org registrants.

In order to provide a stable and certain platform for such participation, a cooperative open to all registrants in .org will be formed. This cooperative will provide a legal framework ensuring open membership, equal voting and member control. The cooperative will be called the .org Member Co-op.

The .org Member Co-op will be formed as a corporation under the laws of the US State of Delaware and will establish bylaws defining the corporation as a cooperative permitting an international membership. It will later register under the new European Cooperative Statute once that is enacted by European Union member states.

The cooperative legal form has been used for more than 160 years for communitybased organizations internationally. Poptel is formed as a cooperative and has lengthy experience with this form of member ownership.

The OPG will adopt the principles of the International Cooperative Alliance which for more than 100 years have identified business practices supporting open, democratic management and membership. Key principles, as they apply to .org, are: membership open to all registrants; each member has only one vote and all members have a vote; a focus on benefit to the community1.

The .org Member Co-op will be legally bound to include all .org registrants who choose to become members. As an open, democratic organization controlled by its members it will be able to control its own procedures in forming the .org Policy Group that will serve as the policy advisory body linked to board of directors of the Unity Registry.

The OPG will be made up of elected representatives of the .org Member Co-op. In order to ensure effective participation and development of experience and expertise, the OPG will be a working group elected by all co-op members, but made up of not more than 100 representatives. It will be desirable that nominees from the primary registrant segments be placed before the membership for election (e.g. noncommercial, internationally accredited NGOs, independent NGOs etc.). However, this is ultimately a matter for the .org Member Co-op to determine.

Unity Registry will ensure the rapid development of the OPG by inviting initial participation from representatives from the sustainable development community, the international trade union movement, community networking groups, inter-governmental and UN agencies, human rights organisations, faith groups, consumers organisations, cooperative organisations, Internet policy, civil society interests and educational interests. We have strong relationships with key representative organisations and associations in each of these areas.

If Unity Registry is successful in its bid to run the .org Registry Function then a transitional OPG will work with Unity Registry in the period after the announcement and before transition of the technical function commences.

Members of the transitional OPG will apply their experience in global outreach to launch the formal OPG and recruit its initial membership. The above organizations have long experience in organizational formation, secretariats, membership recruitment and policy development. Their experience will guide Unity Registry and ensure that the process of creating the OPG happens quickly and effectively. Consultation with our legal advisors and key supporters indicates that the OPG can be formed by January 2003. The transitional OPG will remain in place only until an elected OPG can be formed by the .org Members Coop.

The OPG will work with the board of directors of Unity Registry, assessing and making recommendations on policy and business strategy, but with a social and community emphasis. It will have no powers to mandate the Board to act in a particular way or to adopt a particular course of action, but the OPG will be granted rights of nomination to the board of directors of Unity Registry. Since operation of the Registry will take place under the terms of the Registry Agreement signed between ICANN and Unity Registry the areas of policy within which the OPG can operate will be those which are properly outside the scope of the Agreement.

We propose to include within the OPG mandate oversight over the policy governing the application of net profits over and above those required for business operations, capital and other expenditures, and return on investment. Unity Registry will commit 10% of net profit before tax to support new services and activities of benefit to the .org community under the guidance of the .org Members Co-op. (see Financial Forecasts in Appendix G).

In addition, the OPG will advise on broad policies to support technical and other development projects to benefit the .org community whilst remaining consistent with the Registry's aim to be responsive to consumer issues like pricing. One example is the directory project detailed in Section C38. Another could be support for the creation of new special purpose TLDs.

Policy advisory groups do not operate in a vacuum or with unbounded mandates. On the one hand the legal scope of the Registry Function is defined by the agreements that put it into place. On the other hand are the social performance objectives that all stakeholders have for the registry. It is the job of the OPG to define social performance objectives as precisely as possible. It is the role of the board to receive these performance objectives and cast them in the framework of the legal capabilities of the registry and its current resources. The efficacy of both is monitored and ensured by the measures put in place for independent monitoring, reporting and participation.

Representativeness of the OPG and responsiveness of the .org registry to its work will be ensured by compliance with AA1000 international standards for stakeholder accountability. AA1000 is a standard developed by ISEA (Institute of Social and Ethical Accountability), audited and approved by its Council.

Since its inception AA1000 has been used by businesses, non-profit organizations and public bodies in framing corporate responsibility policies, stakeholder dialogue, auditing and verification of public reports, and professional training and research. Unity Registry will work with the UK organization, AccountAbility, the originators of AA10002 to establish social feed back mechanisms for .org.

AccountAbility is an international, not-for-profit, professional institute dedicated to the promotion of social, ethical and overall organizational accountability and is a democratic membership organization, governed by an international multi-stakeholder Council. Poptel works in partnership with AccountAbility developing ‘Ethical Explorer’ (www.ethicalexplorer.org), a new on-line tool to support social reporting. AccountAbility have endorsed the approach outlined here.

Of particular importance to .org, AA1000 provides guidelines for stakeholder communication, engagement and participation as well as standards for measuring effectiveness. Stakeholder engagement is often superficial, poorly executed, or intended only to offset criticism. AA1000 provides a standard which .org and its registrants will use to assess whether, and to what extent, stakeholders’ legitimate interests have been taken into account . It also provides guidelines on addressing conflicts of interest between different stakeholders, conflicts between the organization’s fundamental values, legal obligations and fiduciary responsibilities as well standards as for ensuring the credibility of stakeholder communications and participation.

Together with AccountAbility, Unity Registry will apply AA1000 methods to establish standards and best-practices for formation of the OPG, its operation, member recruitment, policy development and consensus management processes.

Since the OPG will have a mandate focusing on the community effectiveness of
.org, we believe that the combination of the OPG and application of AA1000 standards to .org will be a ground-breaking approach to registrant participation in a top level domain and will ensure policies and practices are responsive to and supportive of the noncommercial Internet community

However, even a robust social audit and policy formation mechanism is not sufficient in and of itself since many important business practices occur at the lower level of operational planning and day-by-day delivery. To deal with this issue, Unity Registry will work with the .org Members Co-op and the OPG to form an Operations Advisory Group.

1 The full set of cooperative principles can be found at http://www.ica.coop/ica/info/enprinciples.html.

2 http://www.accountability.org.uk/


The .org Operations Advisory Group (OAG) will work in co-operation with .org management to serve as a linkage between policy decisions made in the OPG and management’s implementation of these decisions. In this role, the OAG will serve as an important mechanism ensuring that the .org registry is fully responsive to its community.

The OAG will be an executive body of the OPG, elected by that larger group and made up of individuals who are knowledgeable not just about policy issues, but also their implementation. In operation the OAG will be similar to the executive committee of a traditional board of directors, but its role will be, like that of the OPG, devoted to community policy and planning. In practice, social policy plays a role in decisions in sales and marketing, product development and use of capital. The OAG will provide advice and recommendations on how OPG policy is implemented in these and other areas. The OAG will also serve as an important source of issues and problems to be referred to the OPG for consideration at the earliest time.

The OAG will also be formed with reference to AA1000 guidelines and its effectiveness will also be judged by AA1000 standards.

The OAG will be formed at the first meeting of the OPG. Its members will serve for one year. An interim OAG will be formed from the OPG Steering Committee. The interim OAG will be active during the months prior to January 1, 2003 as part of the .org transition team.


Our approach to the provision of non-technical services to a community-centred TLD demonstrates that Unity Registry has the capability to deliver a differentiated
.org to the noncommercial Internet community.

The integrated Operations Advisory Group and the Policy Group make it clear that this is not just a technical system with policy discussions tacked on but a fundamental rethink of the way the registry operator functions, reflecting the special needs of the .org Registry and of its constituency - noncommercial Internet users.

The ability to offer a non-technical design based on actual, community-based TLD operation paves the way for .org to become the first TLD with a form of service-level agreement for the non-technical aspects of its operation, clearly distinguishing it from other TLDs and - inter alias - providing a model for the operation and development of org subdomains of ccTLDs in future.

The registry will itself participate fully in ICANN’s mechanisms for registries to comment on overall policy, while the registrant's group will be encouraged and supported to participate, directly and indirectly, in those parts of the ICANN structure that are open to views of registrants and, indeed, non-profit and civil society groups.

Because one goal of the registry will be to serve and invigorate the noncommercial sector, it will be natural for this particular registry to encourage broader participation by noncommercial entities in ICANN discussions, an outcome which can only benefit the development of the Internet by broadening the representative nature of the technical and policy constituency.