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Chair’s Blog: ICANN Board Operational Priorities for Fiscal Year 2022

21 October 2021

The ICANN Board is committed to continuously learning and improving our support of ICANN’s mission. The Board’s Operational Priorities help us focus our work to make us effective in our roles. The Operational Priorities are a living list, divided into five key areas of responsibility, referred to as “blocks.” Each fiscal year, we review these Operational Priorities, assess our progress against set goals, and consider whether we see opportunities to update or include new Operational Priorities.

Within these blocks of responsibilities, most of the Board's activities are Community-driven. The Board also identified a number of additional Operational Priorities for the year to provide additional focus and efficiency. Each Operational Priority has associated deliverables, timelines, and measurements. Responsibility to achieve those targets are with Board “shepherds” that work closely with ICANN Organization (Org) subject matter experts. Overall coordination is managed by León Sánchez and supported by Org staff. In the spirit of transparency, I would like to share examples of key results from our work on the Operational Priorities during FY21, and present the targets set for FY22.

Block 1 – Oversight Over Policy Development and Cross-Community Initiatives

Under this block, we closely follow and contribute where appropriate to Community or Org activities such as the policy development processes related to the European Union General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and preparing for the next round of new generic top-level domains (gTLDs).

For some of this work, such as PDP or review work, the Board is asked to assign liaisons. For example, an Operational Priority that came to fruition in FY21 was the creation of a Framework for Board Liaisons to Community Groups on which I published a blog in July 2021. This framework, shepherded by Sarah Deutsch, helps us to build on good practice and improve transparency about how we approach our role in support of Community projects via our liaisons.

Another example of an Operational Priority is the Global Public Interest (GPI) Toolkit, shepherded by Avri Doria. This is now being piloted within the framework of the System for Standardized Access/Disclosure Operational Design Phase (SSAD ODP). The aim of this framework is to systematically assess how to determine the GPI when considering new actions. More information can be found here.

In FY21, the Board had several discussions regarding Domain Name System (DNS) abuse and other harmful conduct involving exploitation of the DNS. To contribute to the ongoing Community discussion on this topic, the Board agreed to set one new Operational Priority for FY22 under this Board responsibility, aimed at developing a DNS ecosystem matrix to map DNS abuse conducts and match to responsible actors, as input to the wider development of a response to DNS abuse. Shepherded by Becky Burr and the Board’s DNS Abuse Caucus, we will work with relevant ecosystem actors to develop this matrix that will help consider ICANN's role, responsibility, and remit with respect to curbing abuse activities.

Block 2 – ICANN Org Oversight Activities

ICANN Org has several important projects underway that the Board is following under this block, including the Domain Abuse Activity Reporting (DAAR) initiative and the Information Transparency Initiative (ITI). We are also integrally involved in ongoing efforts like the operating planning process, the annual budget process, and implementation of recommendations from Accountability Workstream 2.

The Board has added a new FY22 Operational Priority: optimization of ICANN Org's reporting to the ICANN Board. We will review the current structure of the reporting process to make sure we continue to receive timely and effective briefings that are appropriate to the amount of time we have to read and digest them and do not require unduly necessary additional efforts from the Org.

Block 3 – Strategy and Forward-Thinking Activities

As ICANN’s environment becomes more complex, our governance must also evolve, without compromising the bottom-up decision-making process. As you all know, one of the five objectives of ICANN’s Strategic Plan for Fiscal Years 2021-2025 is to improve the effectiveness of our multistakeholder model of governance. The multidimensional work we have done on this issue with the Org is one piece of an overall holistic approach to evolving the multistakeholder model by encompassing existing work efforts with the needs for future improvement. Now, we want to ensure that our collective efforts become part of ICANN’s DNA.

As a result of an FY21 Operational Priority to implement ongoing strategic monitoring of our activities, we created the Strategic Planning Committee (SPC). This committee will facilitate the Board’s efforts to identify strategic priorities, ensure a continuous focus on progress according to ICANN’s Strategic Plan, and help ensure that the Strategic Plan is updated, should the need arise. I look forward to seeing how this will further improve our strategic focus over the years to come.

For FY22, we will work with the Org to support the Community in developing and implementing mechanisms and tools that help progress the effectiveness of the multistakeholder model evolution – building on good practice within the ecosystem and extending it where useful. This Operational Priority shepherded by Mandla Msimang and Matthew Shears will integrate with the Board’s existing work in the Organizational Effectiveness Committee and the Strategic Planning Committee, including how future efforts such as the holistic review recommended by the third Accountability and Transparency Review (ATRT3) impact ICANN governance and the multistakeholder model.  

Block 4 – Governance and Fiduciary Responsibilities

The Board’s essential oversight and fiduciary responsibilities are the primary duties included in this block. Post-transition, it is important to build trust in the functioning of the ICANN multistakeholder model while improving Board effectiveness. Building a culture of openness and accountability is an important step. The Board wants to model the culture by being consistent, without bias, respectful of diversity, authentic, clear, direct, and open-minded about outcomes.

Our related FY22 Operational Priority is to enhance the Board’s effectiveness by developing mechanisms for improved Community evaluation and self-evaluation that take into account the recommendations from ATRT3 as well as the results of the Legitimacy Study and the Community Satisfaction Survey. Led by Avri Doria and the Board Governance Committee, we will work toward improvement in the elements related to trust and effectiveness by analyzing and, if warranted, deploying changes in Board processes.

Block 5 – Community Engagement and External Relationships

Engagement with ICANN’s global Community is at the heart of how the ICANN Board works. While the pandemic has impacted the mechanics of our engagement, it is vital the Board continue to prioritize our interaction with the ICANN Community and support Community engagement with each other.

To ensure the Board contributes effectively and consistently with the Community to improve online, hybrid, and in-person meetings, we will develop a decision tool building on the experiences from the past and the current situation. León Sánchez will shepherd this activity and will work in close collaboration with the Org team. Community input will be important in this process.

We are continuing an important Operational Priority from FY21, overseeing a review of the Community's understanding of the existing Community Anti-Harassment Policy and the procedures and policies that follow from it. Sarah Deutsch and the Anti-Harassment Working Group will continue to work with the Org to complete the one-time review of the Community’s understanding of the current Anti-Harassment Policy and provide oversight for any changes to policy implementation that come out of the review. New best practices or procedures that are introduced should emphasize and enable a culture of trust and mutual respect within the ICANN Community.

The third Operational Priority contained in this block reflects the Board’s keen interest in Internationalized Domain Names (IDNs) and Universal Acceptance (UA). Akinori Maemura and the Board IDN-UA Working Group will work with the Org to drive continued engagement with the Community on these issues and ensure the Board’s activities support the strategic goal of full UA and IDN implementation.

This is a high-level look at our Operational Priorities for FY22. We have more details, timelines, and deliverables that support each of these priorities. We will share our progress on meeting these goals as part of our commitment to transparency and accountability. If you have any questions or comments on our Operational Priorities, please attend the Public Forum on 28 October or reach out to the Board at ICANN72.


Maarten Botterman

Maarten Botterman

ICANN Board Member