Earlier this year, the Board completed its self-evaluation, which is conducted once every two years. The assessment is managed by independent consultants and consists of a written, 25 question survey and supplemented by telephonic interviews with the independent consultants that enables Board members to expand on their responses to the written survey. The responses are then compiled and circulated to the Board. The goal of the assessment is for the Board as a group to identify what's working and what needs work and, over time, to measure changes – both positive and negative – in how we rate our effectiveness.
The self-evaluation questions in the survey fall into four broad categories:
- The Board environment, including mutual respect, openness, and collaboration;
- The operational effectiveness of the Board, including preparation, training, competencies, succession planning, and committee effectiveness;
- Ethics and adherence to conflicts protocols; and
- The Board's relationship with the ICANN org and with the community; its fidelity to ICANN's mission, commitments and core values; and the role of the Board in budgeting, strategic planning, and risk management.
This review is designed and intended to deliver critical peer insights and feedback to improve the effectiveness of the Board. The Board Governance Committee (BGC) reviewed the survey results in detail in Panama City, noting areas for improvement and areas reflecting improvement from the self-evaluation conducted in May 2016, and identifying strengths, weaknesses, and strategies for further improvement. At our September workshop in Brussels, the full Board also reviewed the evaluation results in detail along with the BGC's recommended strategies to address areas where improvement is needed. Most of the Board members seated at the Annual General Meeting in Barcelona were able to participate in the Board discussion in Brussels, giving us a solid, shared basis for work going forward.
Although this is primarily a self-assessment tool for the Board, we wanted to share some of our key take-aways from this exercise with the ICANN community.
Overall, the results reflected significant improvement across the spectrum from the May 2016 survey results. In particular:
- Scores improved across the board and in all categories from 2016.
- The survey results reflect particularly strong improvement with respect to the Board environment. There's room for further improvement, but the Board expressed strong agreement that we work as a team in a respectful, open, and inclusive manner. Board members also reported a high – and improved - degree of respect between the Board and the ICANN organization.
- Scores in the operational effectiveness category also rose significantly from 2016, demonstrating that we are on the right track, though some work remains to be done. Board members awarded high marks to Board meeting organization, agenda planning, and efficiency, reflecting changes in meeting planning introduced and shepherded by Cherine Chalaby in 2017. Likewise, evaluation and training effectiveness received solid, significantly improved scores. We've identified work streams to consolidate improvements and will focus on succession planning and committee effectiveness in particular.
- The survey reflects strong agreement that the Board adheres to the Conflicts of Interest Policy, that potential conflicts are disclosed, and that members abstain from participating in Board deliberations on topics where doing so might create a possible conflict or even the appearance of a conflict.
- The bulk of the survey questions focused on the role of the Board in the ICANN ecosystem, and ratings for this category also rose across the board. In particular, improvements were noted in connection with the Board's involvement in strategic planning and clarity regarding the respective roles of the Board and the ICANN organization. We identified a need to continue improving communication between the Board and Supporting Organizations and Advisory Committees (SO/AC) to ensure that SO/AC input is fully understood and that its consideration is documented. We will also continue to focus on articulating how our decisions further ICANN's Mission and are consistent with ICANN's Commitments and Core Values (and we want to reiterate our call for the SO/ACs to formally adopt this discipline as well).
The results of this survey confirm the Board's sense that we are coming together as a team and enhancing the Board's effectiveness in the ICANN ecosystem. At the same time, the survey has helped the Board to identify areas for focus in our continuous improvement efforts. In particular, we identified several initiatives (existing and new) to address areas where we think we can do better, including: moving to a two-year budget cycle; increased risk management and strategic planning; deliberate succession planning and capacity-building; continued improvement in meeting planning and materials preparation; and stronger communication with the ICANN community.