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Chair’s Blog: Key Takeaways from the 2020 Board Self-Evaluation

As part of our commitment to continuous improvement, the ICANN Board of Directors conducts a self-evaluation every two years to assess our effectiveness and ability to work together in support of ICANN's mission. Through the evaluation, we identify areas of strength, areas where we have made progress, areas that require improvement, and areas of opportunity for us to function better as a team – up to and beyond the sum of our individual qualities. This year's evaluation also presented an opportunity to better understand how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the Board's ability to function in an entirely remote format.

The evaluation is managed by an outside consultant. It consists of a written survey, supplemented by optional phone interviews with the consultant, where Board members can elaborate on their responses and provide input on any other issues that they find relevant or important.

While some of the questions were modified or updated since the 2018 evaluation, the focus areas remain largely the same so that we can identify trends over time. The evaluation addresses four broad categories:

  1. The Board's culture and environment, including mutual respect, openness, and collaboration
  2. Operational effectiveness, including preparation, training, competencies, succession planning, and committee effectiveness
  3. Ethics and adherence to conflicts protocols
  4. The Board's relationship with the ICANN org and 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

Although intended as a tool for the Board, we believe it's important to share key takeaways from this exercise with the ICANN community, as we have done following previous self-evaluations. Overall, we believe that we did well on most aspects; however, there are always opportunities for improvement.

Board Culture and Environment

The Board's ability to fulfill its role depends on our ability to work together in a respectful, civil, and collegial manner, where all members are treated equally. Diversity of opinion better informs our world view; it's important that members feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and do so, even when they dissent from the majority.

This happens most naturally when interacting face-to-face; however, as a result of COVID-19, the Board is only able to meet in a virtual environment. In order to ensure mutual understanding and a positive culture for collaboration so that we may grow as a team, we have undertaken several initiatives. In addition to our calls to discuss ICANN business, we also engage on how to best interact together and hold weekly informal social calls to learn more about each other and relate better as people.

Board Effectiveness

The results indicate that the Board believes they are well-prepared for meetings. The Board committees also received high marks for their work. At the same time, we identified areas that need additional attention, including both the timeliness and volume of meeting materials. We also see room for improvement regarding the Board's leadership evaluation and succession planning. We are also looking into ways to streamline the Board's work to ensure that we continue to address the key topics without unnecessary overhead.

Board Ethics

With regard to Board Ethics, our focus is on adherence to the Conflicts of Interest Policy. While continued attention to this will remain high on the agenda, we believe we do well.

Board Roles

The Board believes we are well-versed in the Bylaws and have a keen focus on ICANN's mission, core values, and commitments when making decisions. We see our deep involvement in the development of the Strategic Plan for Fiscal Years 2021-2025 as important and a strength. We will continue to be actively engaged in financial planning and risk management, and are committed to acting with the utmost transparency and accountability.

There are areas of opportunity as well, including a better understanding of the respective roles of the Board and the org, as well as timelier input to the community's recommendations and advice, both through Board action and the effective use of Board liaisons. These are areas of high priority, which go hand in hand with ongoing work to evolve the effectiveness of ICANN's multistakeholder model of governance.

The results of this evaluation confirm the Board's sense that we continue to strengthen as a team and are committed to continually enhancing our effectiveness in the ICANN ecosystem. The self-evaluation contributes to our understanding of where we are, and where to further improve our contributions to the fulfillment of ICANN's mission.

This is an important time for ICANN, and many important issues are being discussed and considered. Regardless of the circumstances, together we must continue to deliver on ICANN's mission. This opportunity to reflect and act on both our strengths and weaknesses enables us to continually enhance our efforts in support of this important work.

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