The Brainstorm Begins: Initial Ideas for Evolving ICANN

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The ICANN Strategy Panel on Multistakeholder Innovation (MSI Panel) is underway working to curate a set of concrete proposals for ways that the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names & Numbers (ICANN) could prototype new institutional arrangements for the 21st century. The Panel is working to identify how ICANN can open itself to more global participation in its governance functions. Specifically, the MSI Panel is charged with:

  • Proposing new models for international engagement, consensus-driven policymaking and institutional structures to support such enhanced functions; and
  • Designing processes, tools and platforms that enable the global ICANN community to engage in these new forms of participatory decision-making.

To help answer this charter, the MSI Panel launched an “Idea Generation” or ideation platform, designed to brainstorm with the global public on how to evolve the way ICANN could operate given the innovations in governance happening across the world.

We’re now 3 weeks in to this Idea Generation stage – taking place online here: – and we wanted to share with you what the Panel and The GovLab has heard so far regarding what tools, technologies, platforms and techniques ICANN could learn from or adapt to help design an innovative approach to problem-solving within the Domain Name System going forward.

These initial ideas begin to paint a picture of what 21st century coordination of a shared global commons might involve. These brainstorms all point to certain core principles the Panel believes provide the groundwork for an institution to legitimately operate in the global public interest today. These principles include:

  • Openness –  Ensuring open channels as well as very low or no barriers to meaningful participation.
  • Transparency – Providing public access to information and deliberation data.
  • Accessibility – Developing simple and legible organizational communications.
  • Inclusivity and Lack of Domination – Ensuring access to global participation and that no one player, entity or interest dominates processes or outcomes.
  • Accountability – Creating mechanisms for the global public to check institutional power.
  • Effectiveness –  Improving decision-making through greater reliance on evidence and a focus on flexibility and agility.
  • Efficiency – Streamlining processes to better leverage time, resources and human capital.

With these core principles as the backdrop, the ideas we’ve heard so far roughly fall within the following categories:

Creating New and More Effective Forms of Global Participation

ICANN could . . .

  • Leverage expert networking tools (like VIVO) to proactively find experts for working groups with the needed know-how and willingness to decide what must be accomplished and how. This would expand the participation pool beyond the traditional suspects.
  • Use open brainstorm tools (like Ideascale) to enable people in and outside of existing ICANN structures to raise issues and problems by topic online and to allow for commenting, voting and ranking for importance.
  • Make all projects subject to open peer review (as used on LIBRE) as a way to get more people involved in vetting solution proposals and in identifying potential outcomes and/or unintended consequences of ICANN’s decisions on the global Internet community early on.
  • Use collaborative drafting tools (like a wiki) to develop issue reports and final recommendations for the ICANN Board to consider that are open to input from individuals/organizations across all ICANN structures and beyond.

Innovating Institutional Processes, Structures, and Legal Norms to Support New and Meaningful Participation and Collaboration

ICANN could . . . 

  • Use a topic-based, merit-based working group model to develop solutions to problems (e.g., like that used by the Internet Engineering Task Force) as opposed to the constituency-based model currently in use at ICANN.
  • Create an open data policy for ICANN to facilitate easy access, sharing and reuse of ICANN data in open, machine-readable formats. This would increase transparency, facilitate creation of new services and enable research and evaluation opportunities within and outside of ICANN.
  • Use StratML – an XML vocabulary – for easy sharing, referencing, indexing, discovery, reuse, linking, and analyzing of strategy and vision documents.
  • Write and publish all ICANN contracts using open and consistent data standards aligned with international open contracting norms.
  • In an effort to shift ICANN’s reputation from a complex, acronym-riddled organization to a simple, accessible and legible 21st century organization – publish more “plain English reports” (e.g., annual report, monthly digest, dashboards, infographics) to communicate work and accomplishments within, across and outside structures.
  • Develop a repository of online tools and what their uses/purposes are. Enable peer-evaluation on the set of tools where various groups within the community might rank tools’ utility for different purposes.
  • Leverage other multistakeholder forums to discuss ICANN issues and increase input into ICANN decision-making (e.g., the Internet Governance Forum (IGF), the Internet Society (ISOC)).
  • Create an ICANN Research arm or institute issue-framing sessions early on to serve as a mechanism to better identify and get smart on potential policy implications of ICANN decisions, and to anticipate and frame issues across all ICANN structures prior to solution development.
  • Use ranked-choice voting to elect ICANN Board members. This could give people a chance to communicate a more comprehensive opinion than is possible through a single-person, single-vote system.
  • Use a technique such as Liquid Democracy to create a more dynamic election model by providing individuals the option to vote on a given issue or delegate their vote to a trusted party.
  • As an alternative to convening volunteer working groups, sponsor a paid bug bounty program for decentralizing the process of uncovering security issues within the DNS that are within ICANN’s remit to control.

Developing Public Interest Metrics to Review Decisions

ICANN could . . .

  • Create an ICANN Research arm to serve as a cross-community resource in order to provide objective, evidence-based research regarding the technical, policy/regulatory, social, economic, and political landscape in which ICANN operates and to assist in measuring impact and success of ICANN initiatives and policy development.

Providing Education and Resources to Lower Barriers to Participation

ICANN could . . .

  • Establish an ICANN Foundation to inform the global general public about emerging issues in Internet Governance as well as its impacts and its uses.
  • Establish an open course in ICANN’s online education platform around what multistakeholderism means, how it works and its ability to remain agile as the Internet expands.

But these ideas are just the start. Which would work? How? As we start categorize and transform these from disparate ideas into a constellation of implementable proposals, the Panel needs your help. Designing what global, participatory decision-making across borders looks like requires global input.

We also aim to make sure that those with concrete ideas know how to participate in this brainstorm. While the site is designed to be easy to use – we understand ICANN’s complexity may dissuade some. It doesn’t have to! Any idea of new and innovative decision-making processes and structures or examples are welcome. The platform is designed to collect and vet all manner of ideas for governance innovation – whether constitutional, structural, legal, procedural or technological.

If there are any additional barriers to brainstorming, please let us know at [email protected]. We want to make sure we capture what works and what doesn’t as we try to get smart on smarter governance at ICANN.


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One Response to “The Brainstorm Begins: Initial Ideas for Evolving ICANN”

  1. Pindar Wong December 12, 2013 at 10:09 am #

    WOW … great work! 🙂

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