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Nonprofit Organizations and the DOT Force
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A Strategy for Consultation

draft concept note, November 30, 2001



Both in the Okinawa Charter on the Global Information Society, and in planning meetings and the first plenary meeting of the Digital Opportunity Task Force (DOT Force), considerable emphasis has been placed on the importance of a broad, participatory approach to the DOT Force's deliberations, securing the views, participation and consensus of a wide range of stakeholders on a global level. Particular attention has been given to the complicated challenge of engaging civil society in general, and nonprofit organizations in particular, in the DOT Force process, given the vast size and highly diverse composition of this stakeholder community.

In this note, the term "nonprofit organizations" is used as an umbrella term for three main groups of non-governmental stakeholders: (a) foundations; (b) academic and research institutions; and (c) field-based and other non-governmental organizations with experience and expertise on the issues facing the DOT Force. There are three levels at which these groups will have input into the DOT Force process. First, 8 NPOs, one from each G8 country, are members of the DOT Force, and they will bring their own experience and expertise, as well as their contacts and networks, to the DOT Force's deliberations. They will take a lead role in consulting other NPOs and civil society stakeholders in their own country. Second, it is envisioned that a modest number of other NPOs might be brought into the DOT Force process by direct invitation to a DOT Force meeting (on an ad hoc basis). Third, the Secretariat will coordinate a broader process of face-to-face and electronic consultations, leveraging already-planned events and already-existing organizational networks in these three major NPO communities.

This note sets out recommendations for a wide-ranging and highly participatory process for engaging nonprofit organizations, combining coherence and central coordination (through a partnership of the Secretariat and the NPO DOT Force members) with distributed implementation, to take maximum advantage of already-existing networks given the short time frame of the DOT Force process.

Basic Principles

The proposed approach to consultation with NPOs (and through them to civil society more broadly) is rooted in several basic principles:

  • within the existing time and resource constraints, the consultative process should be as broad and participatory as feasible, reaching out to a wide array of stakeholders in both developed and developing countries;
  • particular efforts should be made to secure the participation of those, particularly in developing countries, who traditionally have limited access to consultations of this sort, especially the poor;
  • to maximize the effectiveness of these consultations and assure their positive impact on the deliberations of the DOT Force, the process should be coherent and well-coordinated, based on common templates of questions and issues developed by the Secretariat in consultation with the NPO members of the DOT Force; in preparing these, the Secretariat should take into account and build upon the questions and issues addressed in similar consultations in recent months (such as the ECOSOC High-Level Panel, the Global Knowledge Partnership Action Summit, and others);
  • at the same time, to maximize the scope and reach of these consultations, they should be implemented in a distributed fashion by a range of collaborating networks and organizations, under the general guidance and coordination of the Secretariat in cooperation with the NPO members of the DOT Force; in particular, the Secretariat should collaborate actively with already-existing international networks and partnerships which have been active in analysis, consensus-building and programmatic cooperation on digital divide/ICTs-for-development issues, and should be empowered to accept, on behalf of the DOT Force, propositions to conduct specific sets or series of consultations from these networks or partnerships;
  • clarity about the objectives, scope and limitations of the consultations is paramount; it should be understood by all that these consultations are inputs into the DOT Force's deliberations, but that the conclusions and recommendations from any particular consultation will not automatically be included in the DOT Force's report;
  • the consultation process should take advantage whenever possible of already-scheduled meetings and conferences rather than devoting time and resources to organizing new meetings for this purpose;
  • this consultative process should make maximum feasible use of information and communication technologies both to increase scope and participation and to reduce the need for specially-convened face-to-face consultative meetings; lessons should be drawn from the long-standing experience of the NPO community in organizing electronic consultations on critical public issues;
  • the Secretariat should have final responsibility, in consultation with the NPO members of the DOT Force, for synthesizing the inputs from the various consultations with NPOs and feeding the results into the deliberations of the DOT Force.


The Secretariat proposes, in consultation with the NPO members of the DOT Force, to proceed immediately on five fronts in organizing these consultations;

1) The Secretariat will prepare as quickly as possible, and circulate informally for comments both within the DOT Force and to selected networks and organizations knowledgeable on these issues, a draft of a "common template" of issues and questions that should ideally be addressed in all NPO consultations coordinated by the Secretariat, so as to facilitate the aggregation of the results of these consultations for reporting back to the DOT Force; the Secretariat will seek to have an agreed-upon final draft of this template available for broad distribution by December 15; while use of this template will of course not be mandatory, those organizing NPO consultations will be encouraged to consider it as a framework for their work;

2) The Secretariat will pursue contacts with several credible and established organizations or networks that have expressed a willingness to organize sets of consultations as inputs into the DOT Force process (e.g. the Global Knowledge Partnership). At the same time, it will work to coordinate DOT Force NPO consultations with similar consultations on these same issues, such as the UN ICT Task Force and the Digital Opportunity Initiative. It will also consult with the NPO members of the DOT Force both to become informed of these members' plans for consultations with their constituencies and stakeholders and to provide assistance as appropriate.

3) In consultation with DOT Force members, the Secretariat will seek to identify a manageable number of already-planned face-to-face meetings in various regions where the Secretariat might be able to organize a parallel session for DOT Force consultations with NPOs, attended whenever feasible by one or more members of the DOT Force and/or a Secretariat representative.

4) The Secretariat will consult with the NPO members of the DOT Force to identify what critical gaps would still exist in a broad NPO consultation strategy once these existing networks and meeting opportunities were fully taken advantage of; the Secretariat will then concentrate its direct efforts on organizing face-to-face or electronic consultations to fill those gaps. It will pay particular attention to assuring that NPOs from developing countries have a voice in the process, both by recommending candidates for ad hoc participation in DOT Force meetings and by working with the in-country networks of the World Bank, UNDP and partner organizations to solicit the views and concerns of developing country NPOs. It will also use the global videoconferencing network of the World Bank and its associated Global Development Learning Network to organize, as appropriate, a series of videoconference consultations that link DOT Force members and/or the Secretariat with key stakeholders and consultative partners in developing countries.

5) Finally, the Secretariat will begin consultations immediately with interested DOT Force members (such as the European Commission, which has already indicated its interest, and the NPO members of the DOT Force) about mounting a comprehensive and coherent Internet presence for DOT Force consultation and outreach, including not only a public Web site to inform and engage the public but also comprehensive information on opportunities for civil society to participate, either face-to-face or electronically, in the range of consultations detailed above. To assure widespread dissemination of information about these efforts, the Secretariat will reach out to several well-established Internet "communities of practice" and email distribution lists on development issues, such as the "Global Knowledge for Development" list, the numerous list discussions hosted by Bellanet, the online networks of One World Online and the Association for Progressive Communications, and others.

The Secretariat will report back regularly to the DOT Force on its progress in implementing this broad consultative strategy, with a view to fine-tuning the approach as appropriate in the light of experience. Throughout the consultation process, the Secretariat will coordinate closely with the NPO members of the DOT Force, who will serve as an informal advisory group to the Secretariat on implementation of this consultative strategy.

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