Virtual meetings

Because of the Covid-19 (Coronavirus) crisis none of our member organisations can hold their meetings and many have been seeking advice on how to switch to online meetings.

In response we are putting together some advice for community organisations, drawing. on Just Space member organisations and a wide network of people across Europe facing the same problems.  It’s in the form of a document which anyone can read, print or edit so please add your own experience where you think that can make it more helpful. In just 24 hours it’s already become worth publishing. It’s at
https://docs.google.com/document/d/1qDOcXzDdA0hw_PBKT9txvVSKLIk4FQCi-9FugnsNVqc/edit?usp=sharing

This is just the latest in a string of comments we received and have tried to incorporate in the advice. “One thing to consider is that if you choose something that gives the option of using a connection via a phone call as an alternative to online, this can be more inclusive and those that can go online can do so and those who cannot can contribute via a phone call.  I have been looking into this for HEAR and both Zoom and Go to Meeting give this option.” 

[added 4 April. The Mozilla Foundation is doing a comparative study of meeting software, starting with Zoom about which there are security/privacy concerns. Their first post is at https://foundation.mozilla.org/en/blog/tips-make-your-zoom-gatherings-more-private/?utm_source=email&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=2020advocacy-en&utm_content=zoomsuggestions&utm_term=5265361 ]

If you have other comments – not suitable as additions to the online document – do post them as comments at the bottom of this page.

We are also trying to find out what each Borough is doing about planning committees and other meetings: cancelling them or holding them online? If they are going online, what are they doing to enable public participation? If you can contribute please email.

Peter Eversden comments: The following is from NCVO & aimed at formally constituted bodies, especially charities. 

Holding remote board meetings

Now that the government has advised against the movement and gathering of people, it’s advisable to consider holding meetings differently. The Charity Commission’s charities and meetings CC48 guidance sets out the rules for remote meetings.

The guidance says that trustees may choose to conduct meetings by electronic means unless their governing document specifically prohibits it. However according to case law, trustees should be able to both ‘see and hear’ each other. You may want to try one of the following free or low cost internet video facilities such as Google Hangouts, Zoom or Skype

A well-organised remote meeting can be as effective as an in-person meeting. This article explores six useful tips for successful remote meetings including:

  1. Choose the right tools – carefully select the means by which you hold the meeting and make sure all participants have access to this.
  2. Preparing a meeting beforehand – consider the format and agenda.
  3.  Have a plan B – technology can fail so you should always have a backup.
  4.  Be organised during the meeting – chairing can be harder when you’re in different locations. It’s harder to pick up on body language etc.– set clear times and stick to the plan.
  5.  Behave appropriately – agree some ground rules for online meetings and stick to them. This is important for any meeting.
  6.  Don’t ignore the “post remote meeting” – it’s easy to shut your laptop or put down the phone and forget the meeting happened. Make a list of clear actions, record these and assign responsibility.

AGMs and general meetings

AGMs and general meetings are meetings of your charity members. For some charities this will involve a wider group of people. Due to this, physical general meetings will be something to postpone or hold remotely over the coming weeks and months. Similar rules apply to holding remote meetings and board meetings. You can read the guidance here.

It’s important to note that not all charities are required to hold AGMs and they’re not a legal requirement for companies. You should check your governing documents and make sure you’re clear on the requirements. Where your governing document requires you to hold an AGM at a specific time, or to reach what might be an unachievable quorum  – we recommend notifying the Charity Commission in advance. In notifying them you can explain that you intend to deviate from the rules in your governing document.

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