- The effectiveness of a Working Group (WG) greatly depends on the success with which its Chair or Co-Chairs carry out responsibilities such as facilitating goal-oriented WG meetings, encouraging collaboration and building consensuses.
- This document summarizes advice from prior successful Chairs of GNSO WGs and procedural information particularly useful to GNSO WG Chairs from the GNSO Working Group Guidelines, a set of “best practices” for the formation, chartering and operation of GNSO WGs. It is recommended that GNSO Council members and anyone interested in chairing a GNSO WG read these guidelines in their entirety.
Resources for the Chair
- A GNSO WG Chair can seek support from many sources, including the GNSO Liaison to the WG, the GNSO Council Chair (if necessary), ICANN Staff and other WG officers.
- The selection of equal WG Co-Chairs, rather than a single Chair, is a way to divide the work and responsibilities of chairing a WG.
Neutrality of the Chair
- The Chair is expected to assume a neutral role regarding substantive matters before the WG and to ensure the fair, objective treatment of all opinions within the WG.
- In the event the Chair desires to express a substantive opinion during the WG’s deliberations, he/she should clearly communicate to the WG that he/she is asserting a personal opinion.
Basic Responsibilities of the Chair
- The basic, largely self-explanatory responsibilities of a GNSO WG Chair include calling meetings and, with Staff assistance, developing meeting agendas; determining if enough members are present at meetings to proceed; and ensuring that all participants have the opportunity to contribute during meetings.
Responsibilities of the Chair That May Warrant Some Guidance
- The Chair should keep the WG’s actions and discussions focused on its mission, scope (or limits) and ultimate “deliverables.”
- The Chair should help build a consensus supporting each formal decision by the WG.
- The Chair should guard against problems that may result from a GNSO WG’s openness, such as a member’s raising issues merely to block progress or joining the WG late without reviewing the relevant materials.
- The Chair, assisted by Staff, should continually assess the diversity within a GNSO WG, which ideally should have members participating from all or most GNSO Stakeholder Groups and Constituencies. In the case of under-representation by a group, the Chair should decide which group(s) to solicit for additional members. In the case of “capture” by a group, the Chair should inform the GNSO Council.
- The Chair should encourage – and, if necessary, enforce – adherence to the ICANN Expected Standards of Behavior).
- The Chair, assisted by Staff, should ensure that documents by the WG faithfully represent the diversity of views within the WG.
- The Chair is responsible for assigning to each formal WG decision a standardized designation (such as “full consensus” or “divergence”) indicating the level of agreement supporting the decision within the WG. (For details, see Section 3.6 of the GNSO Working Group Guidelines).
- The Chair plays a role in the appeals process available to a GNSO WG member with certain complaints (for example, the belief that his/her WG contributions are being systematically discounted). In short, the member addresses the matter first with the WG Chair and next, if necessary, with the GNSO Council Chair. (For details, see Section 3.7 of the GNSO Working Group Guidelines).
Tips for Chairing a GNSO Working Group’s First Meeting
- Tasks that should typically be completed during or shortly after a WG’s first meeting include confirmation that every member has submitted a Statement of Interest (SOI); selection of a WG Chair or Co-Chairs, as well as other officers the WG wishes to have; review of the WG’s transparency policy, Charter and other relevant documents; and the assignment of a work plan (outlining the steps and timetable needed to complete the WG’s mission).