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An Operational Design Phase (ODP) is an ICANN organization-level assessment of a GNSO Council-approved Policy Development Process (PDP) recommendation that is initiated and scoped by the ICANN Board.[1]


This mechanism is meant to provide the Board with the necessary operational information to determine the impact of implementing a GNSO Council-approved recommendation. The assessment helps the Board decide whether the recommendations are in the best interests of the ICANN community.[2] An ODP cannot amend or change the substance or intent of the GNSO Council recommendation. It does not allow the reopening or revisiting of the policy discussions that occurred during the PDP. If ICANN staff, the Board, or the community do not understand the intent of a recommendation or feel that questions remain, they must convey their concerns to the GNSO Council.


The initial draft of the ODP Concept Paper was shared with the SO/AC leadership and posted on a blog in early October 2020. THe ODP Concept Paper was then discussed during several ICANN 69 sessions. Written community feedback was gathered throughout November and December 2020. An updated version was shared with community leaders on December 17, 2020, and their feedback was gathered until January 22, 2021. The ICANN Board will vote on the updated version, to be posted on January 29, 2021, and consider whether to launch ODPs for EPDP Phase 2 or other consensus recommendations adopted by the GNSO Council.[3]


An ODP follows the following process to investigate the feasibility and cost of implementing recommendations for a Policy Development Process or ICANN Review.

The ICANN Board receives recommendations from SOs and work teams regarding the adoption of new policy or the implementation of improvement to current policy or ICANN organizations. Often, the board will instruct ICANN staff to conduct an assessment of the feasibility, cost, and scope of the implementations or improvements. ICANN staff now terms that investigatory process the "operational design process," with the resulting staff report being called the "operational design assessment." At a GAC meeting at ICANN 71, Lars Hoffman, of ICANN's policy research team, described the scope of the ODP as follows:

A quick overview of the ODP scope...[it] generally can or may entail a formulation of cost estimates and fiscal impacts that may include design reviews by the Board for workflows, assessment of technical decisions and resourcing, might be questions or information regarding executions for request of information for potential service providers, obviously, the identification of the dependencies on existing work of ICANN org including other recommendation, advice, or policies, and possibly resolution to those dependencies or opportunities to streamline effect and then obviously any other information Board deems relevant to inform its discussion.[4][5]


Timing The ICANN Board may initiate the ODP in the final phase of a PDP or after the GNSO Council has approved a recommendation.
Concerns The Board

  1. feels the complexity of the implementation and the resources it will require necessitate their own assessment, or
  2. needs more information to decide whether the recommendation is in the ICANN community's best interest.

Scope Initiating an ODP will require the Board to specify its scope, which in most cases should be limited to operational design.
Structure The ICANN CEO forms a team led by a subject matter expert, encourages the GNSO Council to provide a liaison to the team, and :includes updates and reports on a webpage dedicated to ODPs.

Integration with the Existing Consensus Policy Implementation Framework

In 2015, ICANN organization and the GNSO's Policy and Implementation WG developed the Consensus Policy Implementation Framework (CPIF), which shapes how ICANN prepares materials for the Board's consideration of GNSO Council recommendations. The ODP will become part of the CPIF, and after two ODPs have been completed, ICANN will assess the mechanism.