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Recap of January 2020 IETF LLC Board Retreat

14 Feb 2020

The IETF LLC Board met for a two-day face-to-face retreat on 29-30 January 2020 in Washington, D.C. I wanted to take this opportunity to give a quick update to the IETF community.

Most of the key legal, financial, policy and administration bootstrapping of the LLC is now complete and we have hired the IETF Executive Director. As a result, we have moved from bi-weekly board meetings to monthly meetings and have shifted our focus to longer-term and more strategic matters. This retreat was the point where we started that shift and aligned on the broad brush strokes of our approach for 2020 and beyond. 

Of note:

1. 2019 Retrospective

We conducted a retrospective exercise to discuss what worked well in 2019 and what could have worked better. One aspect that we discussed continuing to focus upon is transparency to and communications with the IETF community. To that end, we will (1) soon share a summary of the IETF Executive Director's 2020 goals, (2) develop and conduct a survey of the IETF community to ask for feedback about communications & engagement, (3) send more regular communications about what the IETF LLC is doing, (4) work to make the IETF LLC board more accessible during IETF meetings (e.g. via office hours or a coinciding board meeting). 

2. Strategic Planning

We continued the process of working on our strategic plans. We previously went through an exercise to explore strategic Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) as well as the Political, Economic, Socio-cultural and Technological (PEST) factors that affect or may affect the IETF. 

Our intent is to involve key stakeholders in this process to ensure that we have an aligned strategy, which started with having two IESG representatives participate in this initial discussion. That will broaden to include the IRTF and IAB, as well as the IETF community, as this effort proceeds. 

As a lead-in to our discussion, the IETF Secretariat team presented an overview of changes and trends in the hospitality industry that will affect IETF meetings (our primary cost center), which the Executive Director will share in a summarized form with the community.  

We also discussed the need for more data about engagement with the IETF, to better understand things like why a new participant might get involved here, why they may stay involved or get more involved and why some may stop - since involvement in meetings is a primary revenue stream for the IETF and engagement is the lifeblood of the organization.

We continued discussion of the potential environmental impacts of the IETF, particularly our meetings. In order to better understand and quantify any such impacts, we have asked the Executive Director to engage an expert to help us assess this, which can then inform future discussions with the community about facts we can establish, as well as potential mitigations.

In terms of fundraising, we started off by establishing agreement on the general range of what we thought our short and long-term costs might look like in the future. We identified a need to develop a better pitch to potential sponsors (e.g. the IETF's value proposition) and to better segment sponsorship types (e.g. meetings, programs, general support, endowment). It was also clear that we soon need to update our support agreement with the Internet Society, as contemplated in our initial LLC Agreement (Exhibit B, part 3, Funding Re-assessment) and we agreed on an approach to ensure both the short and long-term financial stability of the IETF. Since the meeting we have already started moving on the short-term part of this with the Internet Society. 

3. Policies and Compliance

We discussed any potential gaps in the recently adopted policies with counsel. We agreed that we will soon want to (1) put in place the necessary reporting tools for the whistleblower policy, (2) report on our policies and compliance program to the Internet Society per the LLC Agreement (Section 11.viii), (3) publish an annual compliance report and (4) conduct an annual policies and compliance review as a board.

We look forward to a productive year and will be updating the community as we continue to work on the items above!

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