The GobLab team (for more about GovLab, see our earlier post today) is currently working with the ICANN Strategy Panel on Multistakeholder Innovation to assist them in developing “recommendations for ICANN on how the organization can evolve the ways it engages with global stakeholders in coordinating the Internet’s unique identifier space.”

From the project website:

About the Project

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has managed the system of Internet domains for a decade and a half. Yet as the Internet continues to rapidly evolve and the volume and diversity of stakeholders connecting to the Internet grows, ICANN has recognized it must rethink how it operates as a platform for global collaborative decisionmaking – especially in light of new and increasingly sophisticated communications technologies. The GovLab is working with the ICANN Strategy Panel on Multistakeholder Innovation (MSI Panel), chaired by The GovLab director and co-founder Professor Beth Simone Noveck, to research and design technology-enabled experiments to help ICANN engage broader communities and bring their expertise and input into ICANN’s policy development processes.

Specifically, the Panel has been tasked by Fadi Chehadé, President and CEO of ICANN to:

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

Tasty! The project is currently in the second stage of a three-stage brainstorm:

Evolving the ICANN Multistakeholder Model

Image source:

They have already released a master blueprint (The Quest for a 21st Century ICANN, PDF) and are currently in the process of developing “16 concrete experiment proposals that ICANN could implement and test toward the end of becoming a more effective, legitimate and evolving institution”. These proposals cover a broad range of topics, many of which should be familiar to readers of this blog:

  • Expert Networking
  • Open Data & Open Contracting
  • Collaborative Drafting
  • Crowdsource Decisionmaking
  • Global Engagement
  • Rotating Term Limits
  • Innovative Voting
  • Public Forum Innovations
  • “Citizen” Juries
  • Crowdsource Oversight & Develop Metrics
  • Decentralize Accountability
  • Participatory Budgeting
  • Experiment
  • Generate New Insights
  • Embrace Evidence
  • Games

The second proposal was released last week: Proposal 2 for ICANN: Get Broad-Based Input by Crowdsourcing Each Stage of Decisionmaking

From the post:

From Principle to Practice

The legitimacy of a 21st century global institution operating in the public interest depends on whether those affected by the decisions the institution makes are included in the decisionmaking process. Especially in the case of the Internet and of ICANN, to be legitimate, anyone must have easy and equitable access to help shape the policies and standards of the Internet that ICANN helps facilitate.

Using a variety of web, SMS-based and in-person participation tools, ICANN should test a wide array of alternative mechanisms for getting broad-based input in identifying and framing issues, drafting solutions, gathering relevant information to translate solutions into implementable policies, as well as commenting after the fact and participating in oversight and assessment. ICANN should use some of these tools in conducting its Public Forum at ICANN meetings, in which people can “make comments and ask questions on the main topics at each meeting directly to the Board and in front of the rest of the community.”

The post brings up a number of interesting questions regarding the relationship between public participation, stakeholder engagement and crowdsourcing. Here’s the comment I left (you should read the full post first):

Nice conversation starter!

A couple of comments:

Crowdsourcing and stakeholder engagement are two fundamentally different things. As you rightly point out, crowdsourcing relies on an “undefined (and usually large) network of people”. In stakeholder engagement, on the other hand, very specific groups or individuals need to be involved. Which one is it? If the idea is to do both in parallel or in some other complementary fashion, I suggest to outline in more detail what that would entail.

Secondly, when it comes to public participation (involving the public in decisions that affect them), it is absolutely critical to know upfront how any of the input generated in the process will impact the decision at hand. In your example, the decision at hand is to define an agenda, presumably. The suggested approach is to support the “up-front issue framing” process by crowdsourcing the identification and ranking of issues. Would it matter who participates in this process and whether certain stakeholders are represented? How binding would the results be? Would the decision making body commit to implement what the crowd decides or merely take their input into consideration?

Jillian Raines, the post’s author, has already replied in the comments. Definitely an interesting and very timely conversation which I hope will continue and deepen as their project continues.

What is your take on the relationship between the various concepts? How do they contradict, how can they complement each other?