Evolution of the Multistakeholder Model

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The Evolution of the Multistakeholder Model is an ICANN Initiative focusing on resolving issues around six topics, in order of priority based on the input of the ICANN Community:

  1. Prioritization of the work & efficient use of resources;
  2. Precision in scoping the work;
  3. Consensus, representation, and inclusivity;
  4. Complexity of the Tools to Access Information and Data and Content
  5. Culture, trust and silos; and
  6. Roles and responsibilities.[1]


In 2019, in developing ICANN’s Strategic Plan for Fiscal Years 2021-2025, the ICANN Community raised concerns about the ICANN Organization's effectiveness, efficiency, and overall functioning. This feedback was the basis for strategic objectives for evolving ICANN’s MSM process. The ICANN Board asked a neutral facilitator with knowledge of ICANN and its processes to lead the data collection phase of the project, which was filled by Brian Cute, former Chair of the first and second Accountability and Transparency Review Teams. The community, board, and engaged over a nine-month period, including cross-community sessions at ICANN 64, ICANN 65, and ICANN 66) and three Public Comment proceedings.[2]

Draft Issues List & Public Comment

The Board held a session on governance at ICANN 63 as a kick-off to efforts to solicit feedback the community around the topic of improving the MSM.[3] The effort to collect community feedback and define the issues was led by Brian Cute.[4] The work continued at ICANN 64, and in April 2019, a draft issues list[5] was published for public comment.[6] The Draft Issue List included twenty-one issues, ranging from structural to cultural, that the community believed impacted the effectiveness of the MSM.[5] The Draft Issues List received nineteen comments during the public comment period.[7] ICANN staff identified broad agreement that the listed issues had impacts on the effectiveness of the MSM. Several commenters noted that the issues were interwoven, and many offered solutions to specific issues.[7]

Final Issues List

Through continued sessions at ICANN Meetings and the Public Comment process on the Draft Issues List, the Issues List was refined and condensed into a Final Issues List, published in June 2019.[8] Brian Cute noted in a blog post that the intention was to continue the community dialogue at ICANN 65.[9] The Final Issues List substantially narrowed the range of issues being addressed, noting that some issues raised by the community were symptoms, rather than causes, of inefficiency in the multistakeholder model.[8] The final list presented eleven issue clusters to focus on in the evolution of the MSM:

  1. Prioritization of the Work;
  2. Precision in Scoping Work;
  3. Costs;
  4. Representativeness and Inclusiveness;
  5. Consensus;
  6. Terms of service in leadership positions;
  7. Recruitment and Demographics;
  8. Complexity;
  9. Efficient Use of Resources;
  10. Culture, Trust, and Silos;
  11. Roles, Responsibilities, and a Holistic View of ICANN.[8]

Next Steps and Implementation

The Final Issues List stated that the issue clusters would be mapped to a work plan, and acted on by issue teams from the community, ACs, SOs, and the Board.[8] At ICANN 65, Brian Cute facilitated a conversation regarding delegation of issue areas, timing of proposals to improve operations over the course of the five-year strategic plan, and other topics.[10] Cute's presentation at the meeting emphasized that continued community input would be necessary to implement the work plan and help resolve the issues.[10] The session was used to identify the responsible parties for each issue cluster, and create a rough draft of the work plan.[11]

2019 "Next Steps" Draft

After the ICANN 65 session, Cute published a "Next Steps" document for public comment.[12] The report provided links out to existing work projects or PDPs that might solve or alleviate the issues, and requested feedback regarding the sufficiency of those possible solutions already in progress.[12]

There was no ICANN-led public comment period on Cute's 2019 Next Steps document. The next public comment period related to the work plan was in December 2019, when public comment was requested on the draft operating and financial plan for 2021-2025.[13] The draft plan acknowledged the work, feedback, and comments submitted during the conversation about evolving the MSM, and committed to structuring a work plan that advanced that work and was responsive to feedback and comments.[14]

2020 "Next Steps" Draft

In June 2020, ICANN Org published "Enhancing the Effectiveness of ICANN's MSM - Next Steps" for public comment.[15] The document consolidated the findings and work on the issues discussed within the community. It narrowed the number of issues to six, in order of priority:

  1. Prioritization of the work and efficient use of resources
  2. Precision in scoping the work
  3. Consensus, representation, and inclusivity
  4. Complexity
  5. Culture, trust, and silos
  6. Roles and responsibilities[16]

The Board suggested that the initial focus should be on the top three issues:

These three high-priority topics present opportunities to build on existing work, and, with some added effort and greater coordination, to add value to the evolution of ICANN’s multistakeholder model. The remaining three topics – the complexity of (A) tools to access information and data and (B) content; culture, trust and silos; and roles and responsibilities -- also represent important areas of community concern. However, with limited time and resources, the Board proposes that the community revisits these topics later in the Operating and Financial Plan’s five-year time frame. Further, the remaining three topics may be more representative of symptoms of the three high-priority topics, and may not immediately lend themselves to tangible or practical solutions. In comparison, the three priority work areas speak to issues which may lend themselves to clearer and more implementable solutions.[16]

The document focused on scoping the top three issues, identifying existing work that may solve or ameliorate those issues, and then identifying gaps where existing planning and policy development work are unable to resolve specific issues.[16] Public comments, particularly from SOs and ACs, were largely in agreement with the prioritization of the issues and the proposed actions on those issues.[17]

Implementation Phase

In October 2020, Maarten Botterman posted an update on the process and announced that the strategic objective to evolve the MSM was moving into the implementation phase.[4] At the same time, the Board released a final draft of the 2020 Next Steps document.[18][19]


  1. Enhancing the Effectiveness of the MSM, pg. 4, ICANN
  2. Enhancing the Effectiveness of the MSM, pg. 3, ICANN
  3. ICANN Blog - Update from the Board's Los Angeles Workshop, February 2, 2019
  4. 4.0 4.1 ICANN Blog - Enhancing the MSM moves into implementation, October 14, 2020
  5. 5.0 5.1 Draft Issues List - Evolving the MSM, April 25, 2019 (PDF)
  6. Public Comment: Evolving the Multistakeholder Model, April 25, 2019
  7. 7.0 7.1 Staff Report on Public Comment Process, June 20, 2019 (PDF)
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 Final Issues List - Evolving the MSM, June 20, 2019
  9. ICANN Blog - Evolving the MSM: Continuing the Conversation and Preparing for ICANN 65, May 29, 2019
  10. 10.0 10.1 ICANN 65 Archive - Evolving the MSM, June 25, 2019 (registration with ICANN.org required)
  11. Video Replay, ICANN 65 Evolving the MSM, June 25, 2019
  12. 12.0 12.1 Next Steps to Improve the Effectiveness of ICANN's MSM, June 4, 2020 (PDF)
  13. ICANN.org Public Comment Archive - Draft Operating Plan, December 20, 2019
  14. Draft Operating and Financial Plan, FY 2021-2025, December 20, 2019 (PDF)
  15. Public Comment Archive - Enhancing the Effectiveness of ICANN's MSM, June 4, 2020
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 Enhancing the Effectiveness of the MSM - Next Steps, June 4, 2020 (PDF)
  17. Staff Report on Public Comment Process, September 3, 2020 (PDF)
  18. Final Draft: Enhancing the Effectiveness of the MSM - Next Steps, October 14, 2020 (PDF)
  19. Redline Version - Enhancing the Effectiveness of the MSM - Next Steps, October 14, 2020 (PDF)