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Strengthening Collaboration: A Framework for Board Liaisons to Community Groups

6 July 2021

The ICANN Board divides its operational priorities into blocks of responsibilities to help make us more effective. The first block, oversight over policy development and cross-community initiatives, includes an effort to focus on how the Board can best support the Community in its policy development work. Together with my colleagues on the Board, we have been thinking more strategically about our role as liaisons to various Community working groups and initiatives. 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.

The Board therefore decided to adopt as a Board Operational Priority an effort to develop a framework of guidelines and best practices for how Board members can effectively contribute to Community initiatives as liaisons. Sarah Deutsch stepped forward to shepherd this effort, which led to a set of good practice guidelines that we recently discussed and adopted. Many Board members contributed to the discussion, including León Sánchez, Becky Burr, Avri Doria, Lito Ibarra, Tripti Sinha, Manal Ismail, and Matthew Shears. I would like to highlight some of the recent outcomes, which provide an important window into the Board's operational and consultative role.

While Board members serving the Community in liaison roles are not always mandated by the ICANN Bylaws, it is a function that has evolved organically. As the Community working groups tackled increasingly complex issues, they recognized value in early engagement with the Board. Sometimes the Community requested our early input, and other times the Board thought it prudent to offer to be involved early on.

It is important to clarify that the liaison role is intended to be a two-way information channel between the Board and the working group. Liaisons can also serve as a resource and as intermediaries on issues that are likely to come before the Board in the future. Now that working groups request having liaisons more frequently, we wanted to create guidelines around the model.

The framework we developed, with valuable collaboration from Supporting Organization and Advisory Committee leaders, addresses issues such as:

  • When a Board member should be appointed as a liaison
  • Expectations of the liaison
  • Guidelines for how to participate as a liaison

For example, the new guidelines require a liaison to clearly state, during policy discussions, whether they are expressing a personal opinion or conveying an official Board position. You can read the full framework here.

Throughout this process, Sarah reached out and spoke with several Community members, and found that there is value for the Board's engagement as liaisons. It is an excellent example of how we can come together and contribute a variety of skills and experiences to make ICANN and the multistakeholder model even stronger. On behalf of my colleagues, we extend our thanks to everyone from the Community, Organization, and Board who contributed to this effort.

You can find more information about the Board Operational Priorities here as well as additional background information and the latest public updates. All of us on the Board welcome your feedback and look forward to continuing the conversation.


Maarten Botterman

Maarten Botterman

ICANN Board Member