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An Update Regarding the Board’s Operational Priorities

13 May 2020

With everything going on at the current moment, the Board has not forgotten its longer-term priorities. It's important that we continue to learn from our experiences and invest in efforts to move forward in healthy ways. We are committed to continuous improvement.

One of the ways the Board acts on this is by pursuing our operational priorities, which we set anew every fiscal year based on where we are, and where we see opportunities to support ICANN's mission within our Bylaws-mandated responsibilities. Former Board Chair Cherine Chalaby provided an extensive overview of our Fiscal Year 2020 (FY20) operational priorities in a blog posted just ahead of ICANN66 in Montréal, Canada.

Recently, I wrote about how the ICANN Board is prioritizing its work and goals in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. In this blog, I'd like to take this opportunity to provide an update on the progress we've made against these priorities, which we outlined during our 7 May 2020 public session.

Block 1 – Oversight Over Policy Development and Cross Community Initiatives

Under this Board responsibility, we have set two operational priorities for FY20. The first is aimed at helping to develop a better understanding of how to consider the "public interest" during our considerations of actions going forward. With Board member Avri Doria as shepherd, a draft framework for assessing this has been developed and is now online, available for use by the Board and any stakeholder group that wishes to participate in the pilot test during the upcoming year. The test, which will include tracking, community outreach, and webinars, will provide feedback to update the framework prior to posting it for Public Comment at the end of the pilot test.

The second priority is aimed at developing a framework for the role of Board liaisons and their interaction with community activities. Effective Board-community interaction is an important aspect of a properly functioning multistakeholder model, and it will help us find the balance between the Board's duties and the community's responsibilities. Board member Sarah Deutsch has spoken with many community leaders, Board liaisons, and experienced staff members, and the team is now finalizing a framework document that will be provided to the Board for review by September 2020 and shared with the community soon after.

Block 2 – ICANN Org Oversight Activities

While we fully rely on ICANN org to carry out its work, we identified two specific operational priorities to focus on during the year ahead, as they are key to the functioning of ICANN as a whole. The Board Technical Committee works with ICANN org to finalize the ICANN Managed Root Server (also known as IMRS or L-root) strategy, as ICANN org works on the expansion of IMRS instances and the deployment of hyperlocal Domain Name System (DNS) root services. Board member Tripti Sinha reported that due to the current circumstances, there will be a slight delay on the full delivery, which was originally targeted for the first quarter of FY21. However, this is not expected to lead to any operational issues.

The second priority relates to the evolution of the DNS and improving its security. Board member Harald Alvestrand explained that this deliverable, which is to be developed in collaboration with the technical community, is on hold pending the completion of work currently being conducted by the Security and Stability Advisory Committee (SSAC).

Block 3 – Strategy and Forward-Thinking Activities

The first operational priority relates to the development of an implementation plan to be shared with the Board on root server governance (RSSAC037/038). Following the process outlined in the concept paper, including the public comments received, the Root Server System Governance Working Group (RSSGWG) was set up and has started its work. As a result, Board member Lito Ibarra concluded that the Board's operational deliverable has been completed. Lito and Tripti are acting as the Board's liaisons to this group.

The second operational priority is the development of an implementation plan for continuous updates to our Strategic Plan. The implementation plan, which will propose clear roles and responsibilities for community, org, and Board, will be ready for discussion in June 2020.

The third operational priority relates to monitoring the risk landscape. With our increased focus on risk (from the Board's perspective), the aim is to develop a coordinated way to address the early identification and monitoring of threats that may impact (a) the security, stability, and resiliency of the DNS, (b) ICANN's multistakeholder model, and (c) ICANN's funding stream. Pre-work has been done and is expected to result in a report by ICANN68. Board member Matthew Shears is shepherd for both the second and third operational priorities.

Block 4 – Governance and Fiduciary Responsibilities

The focus here is on ensuring effective ICANN reviews – a responsibility from the community as per the Bylaws. With Board member Becky Burr as shepherd, the Board is looking forward to the recommendations that come out of the third Accountability and Transparency Review Team (ATRT3) on review prioritization, and will update the community paper on effective recommendations.

Board member Chris Disspain is leading the second operational priority: to further improve onboarding and skills development for the Board by building on experiences over the years, and helping to prepare for the future.

The Board's third operational priority is to carry out the Board's 360-degree review every other year. Board member Ron da Silva is leading a review of the survey instrument we are using, and while there is a slight delay, the Board still expects to complete its 360-degree review in the second quarter of FY21.

Block 5 – Community Engagement and External Relationships

How to best measure stakeholder satisfaction is an important question on the Board's mind. Rather than creating yet another survey, we are exploring options to leverage the data provided by the ICANN Legitimacy Survey and ATRT3. The Legitimacy Survey report is ready and will be shared with the Board by June 2020, after which we will take stock. Lito is serving as the Board shepherd for this priority.

Another key factor in community engagement is ensuring a safe environment for all participants. With Sarah Deutsch as shepherd, the Anti-Harassment Working Group (AHWG) is working with ICANN org to complete its review of the community's understanding of the current anti-harassment policy. They will also provide oversight for any proposed changes to the policy implementation stemming from this review. Currently, training design efforts are being discussed with third-party vendors with content expected by August 2020. Plans are also underway to incorporate anti-harassment training scenarios into the Leadership Program once the next in-person meeting takes place. Anti-harassment language has been incorporated into the terms and conditions of meeting participation since ICANN67. Training for staff, intended to enforce positive behavior during ICANN Public Meetings, has also been completed.

As we navigate these challenging times, I want to stress that the Board remains committed to making progress toward the priorities and goals it has set. At the same time, we remain flexible so that we can address pressing issues as they arise.

Sharing this progress is important for two reasons. First, we are committed to transparency and accountability, and therefore aim to keep you up-to-date on our priorities and thinking. Second, all this cannot be done in isolation; we are in this together, and sharing our thinking further ensures that we are all progressing ICANN's mission to the best of our abilities.

I am fully aware that COVID-19 affects us all in different ways, be it our health, business and work, and, at times, emotions. Not knowing when we can meet again is not easy. Yet thanks to the Internet, the functioning of which we contribute to in critical ways, we will be able to continue to work together.

Best wishes from Rotterdam.


Maarten Botterman

Maarten Botterman

ICANN Board Member