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Minutes | Board Strategic Planning Committee (SPC) Meeting

SPC Attendees: Matthew Shears – Chair, Lito Ibarra, Danko Jevtović, Ihab Osman, Nigel Roberts, León Sánchez and Tripti Sinha

SPC Apologies: Becky Burr and Ron da Silva

Observer: Avri Doria

Other Board Attendees: Maarten Botterman (Chair, ICANN Board)

Executive and Staff Attendees: Xavier Calvez (SVP, Planning and Chief Financial Officer), Franco Carrasco (Board Operations Specialist), Sally Newell Cohen (SVP, Global Communications and Language Services), David Conrad (SVP, Chief Technology Officer), Samantha Eisner (Deputy General Counsel), Becky Nash (VP, Planning), Wendy Profit (Board Operations Senior Manager), Amy Stathos (Deputy General Counsel), Theresa Swinehart (SVP, Global Domains and Strategy) and Nathalie Vergnolle (Director, Planning)


The following is a summary of discussions, decisions, and actions identified:

The meeting was called to order at 14:30 UTC.

  1. Agenda – The Chair established the agenda for the meeting and gave an overview of items to be discussed.

  2. Board Strategic Planning Sessions -

    1. Proposed Board Strategic Planning Sessions Program:

      The Chair provided a brief overview of a proposed multi-year workplan for the SPC, which aims to enable the Board to engage in strategy on a more regular basis; and assess the progress that is being made against the goals of the strategic plan and the priority areas. The multi-year plan enables the Board to do deeper dives in the strategic priority areas and other areas to be identified; as well as account for the time and engagement needed to prepare for and deliver the next strategic plan (which requires mapping out a workplan for the SPC over the timeline of each strategic plan).

      ICANN org provided an overview of ICANN's 5-year planning workplan (calendar year 2020 through 2025) which illustrates:

      • The development of a new five-year plan takes approximately two and half years; work on next (FY26-FY30) ICANN plans to start in January 2023 at the latest;
      • Only four Board standalone workshops between now and then; and
      • A progress measurement framework for review of progress towards achieving the current strategic plan has not yet been defined (to be planned for, designed and implemented in FY22).

      The Chair emphasized that the goal is to institutionalize Board strategic planning sessions as a recurring topic, as an opportunity for the Board to review and discuss ICANN's strategic objectives and goals. The Board strategic planning sessions will better embed strategic planning within the Board, and enable the Board to stay apprised of ICANN's strategic plan by regularly reviewing ICANN strategic objectives and goals and assessing progress towards achieving them. Moreover, these sessions will enable the Board to share their perspectives on the evolution of the landscapes, external and internal factors and resulting shifts in trends and potential impacts; and identify opportunities and threats through risk assessment.

      The desired outcomes of this process are for the Board to have a better understanding of the strategic objectives and their evolution; and assessing performance towards achieving the strategic objectives; and evaluation of new strategic objectives or changes therein.

      The Chair enumerated the key principles of the proposed Board strategic planning sessions, including:

      • Institutionalized recurring sessions.
      • More casual/informal setting than regular Board sessions (e.g., smaller groups discussions, brainstorms, breakout sessions).
      • Utilizing the Board as a "think- tank" devoted to providing advice on specific questions.
      • Opportunity for deep dives into key areas, possibly including presentations by independent consultants for external insights, where applicable.
      • Opportunity to review what actions have been taken and results achieved to address and deliver on the strategic objectives.
      • Building upon already existing content (strategic plan, trends work, risk assessment, operating plan, progress measurements).

      The Chair further elaborated on the proposed session types (for the full Board):

      • Type 1: Mid-Cycle Evaluation of each of ICANN's five strategic objectives;
      • Type 2: Deep dives on specific topics (emerged from the Strategic Outlook trend work, or others);
      • Type 3: (Annual) Review of Strategic Plan (establishing a progress measurement framework is a prerequisite ); and
      • Type 4: (Annual) Strategic Outlook Trend-related work (already in place).

      ICANN Board Chair expressed his support for the proposal, as it enables the Board committees to focus on strategic-level decisions. The Board will be able to get involved in the strategic planning process and have a regular role in the whole process. Inevitably, some committees will be more heavily involved than others, depending on the strategic objectives.

      Some other considerations for the Board strategic planning sessions discussed by the SPC include:

      • Examples of techniques that can be used in the sessions;
      • Presentations by ICANN Org SMEs, Executives, Board members, community members and/or independent third party, small groups brainstorming and group discussions;
      • Practicality of what the current (virtual) setting versus what in-person sessions in the future can accomplish; and
      • There are only four standalone workshops of the Board between now and when work on next five-year plan begins.

      ICANN org provided a snapshot of a possible schedule that incorporates the elements of the proposal.

      The SPC also discussed ways to make the sessions as a combination of virtual and face-to-face sessions, to utilize time and resources efficiently.

      The SPC commented that part of the strategic plan review should also include a framework for ICANN to address unpredictable events in the future (e.g., COVID-19 pandemic). ICANN org indicated that ICANN has business continuity plans which enable ICANN to operate smoothly in a disruptive environment. The SPC also noted that the SPC should focus on ICANN's strategy and priority areas, instead of being consumed by operational issues; and to ensure that KPIs will be incorporated as part of the measurement framework. The SPC further suggested the possibility of having separate sessions dedicated to each one of the strategic objectives, and perhaps invite outside consultants/experts, if necessary.

      The SPC members are supportive of the proposal for the Board strategic planning sessions, and reiterated the importance of ensuring that the roles and responsibilities of the Board and other relevant groups are balanced and further refined to ensure that they are not overburdened with additional work and content.

      • Action Items:
        • The Chair will coordinate with ICANN org to ensure that the SPC's comments/proposed modifications are being incorporated into the final Board strategic planning sessions program.
        • The SPC also agreed that once the Board strategic planning sessions program is finalized, it would be beneficial to communicate and update the community of the progress of the proposal (e.g., via a blog).
    2. Proposal for September strategic planning session:

      In connection with the Board strategic planning sessions program discussed above, the Chair recommended, and the SPC members concurred, to conduct a "pilot" strategy session during the September Board Workshop, focusing on the mid-period evaluation of ICANN's strategic objective on Financials. It will entail a 90-minute session to review the strategic objective, goals, targeted outcomes and strategic risks, and a presentation of the key accomplishments and work underway in this area, as well as a group discussion. The pilot session will also demonstrate the interactions between the SPC with the Board Finance Committee and/or Board Risk Committee. The Chair is cognizant of the fact that a substantial amount of preparatory work is involved for the pilot session.

      The ICANN Board Chair suggested that once finalized, a Board information session on the Board strategic planning sessions program should be scheduled (prior to the pilot), to provide an overview of the proposal to the Board.

  3. Upcoming SPC Activities – The Chair provided a brief update on some of the upcoming SPC activities:

    1. Strategic Outlook:
      • Share Trend analysis report (as a pre-read to prep for next SPC meeting – by mid-August)
      • Next committee meeting (1st week of September):
        • Review of the trend analysis and impact assessment
      • Finalization of strategy recommendations (October)
    2. Board Strategy Sessions:
      • Board workshop (11-13 September): 1st session on Financials
      • Lessons learned from 1st session & future sessions planning (October)
    3. Community engagement:
      • FY23 Planning community webinar (15 September)
      • Webinar series "Getting to know the Board committees": SPC will be the last of the series, early 2022 (TBD)

The Chair called the meeting to a close.

Published on 26 October 2021

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